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Recipes - Riċetti

Recipe of the Week


St Martin’s feast which is commemorated on the 11th of November comes at a time when walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and dried figs are plentiful in Malta. 
There are many traditional recipes which bear the name of St Martin and include these ingredients amongst which we find, Il-Kejk ta’ San Martin, St Martin’s Cake and also It-Torta ta’ San Martin, St Martin’s Tart. Both recipes include a mixture of figs, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and oranges.
St Martin who is very popular particularly in Maltese and European folklore, was from Tours and he was a Roman Soldier. He was converted to Christianity when he was an adult, and thus he was baptized and became a monk. He was a very quite man and led a simple life. St Martin is well-known for the famous legend of the cloak. 
One winter day, young Martin was riding towards the town, when near the gates he became aware of  a beggar shivering with cold and nearly naked.   Martin noticed that no one stopped to help the poor man. He had nothing with him except the clothes he was wearing. However, he stopped to help this miserable fellow from dying of the cold. He draw his sword from its scabbard, cut in half his great woolen cloak, gave one piece to the beggar and kept the other for himself. The story continues the following night when Martin saw Jesus in his sleep, surrounded by angels and wearing the half of the cloak that Martin had given away to the poor man. Martin then heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier, who is not baptized; he has clothed me.” (Sulpicius, ch 2)    The Saint’s friend and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, says that this vision effected Martin so much that he “flew to be baptized.”
Traditions and Celebrations
The feast of St Martin is celebrated in many countries around the world and each country has its own tradition related to this feast. In Malta, the feast of St Martin is celebrated the nearest Sunday to the 11th November. On this day, children are given what is called Il-Borża ta’ San Martin The bag of St Martin. This bag consists of assorted nuts (still in their shells) such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, dried figs,  fruits like oranges, tangerines, pomegranates, bananas, apples and some other sweets.
In fact, we have a Maltese rhyme associated with this feast:
Ġewż, lewż, qastan, tin
Kemm inħobbu lil San Martin.
Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Figs
How much I love St Martin.
Older persons remember many games which they used to play with these nuts. One of them was Żewġ jew Fard which means “Even or Odd”. This was a sort of betting game and the awards were nuts. So many children used to go back home with a fuller bag of nuts while those unfortunate ones, who are losers, used to go home unhappy as they would hardly have any nuts left to eat.
On St Martin’s day, we expect very fine weather. In fact it is known as Is-Sajf ta’ San Martin, St Martin’s Summer.   In former times in Europe, ‘Indian summer’ was called ‘St Martin’s Summer’. In British English ‘St Martin’s Summer’ was the most widely used term until the American phrase ‘Indian Summer’ became better known in the 20th century. By this time of the year, the weather in Malta is rather cloudy and cooler, but somehow on St Martin’s day, the sun always shines in Malta and the sky is clear blue.
The feast of St Martin in Malta is celebrated in Baħrija, a very small village on the outskirts of Rabat with a population of around 3000 inhabitants. Baħrija is surrounded by countryside. An animal fair is organized during this feast. A Procession with the statue of St Martin is also held.
200g walnuts
200g hazelnuts
1 pkt dried figs
10 tablespoons self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
10 tablespoons castor sugar
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Rind of 1 orange grated
25g almonds
Some whisky
Chop, the walnuts, hazelnuts and figs and mix together.
Sieve flour and baking powder.
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Add sugar, yolks, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ground cloves, and orange rind on low speed for a few minutes.
Fold in flour and nuts mixture.
Grease a tin and pour mixture in. (You can also place a rice paper on base and sides of tin.)
Place some the almonds on top and bake in moderate oven for 45 minutes.
When cool sprinkle top with whisky.
If you like prefer you can decorate tart with icing sugar.
NB For this recipe I used two 9 inch springform tins. The baking took around 25 minutes.
Information and Recipe contributed by the ThinkSite.eu Team
9th November 2009

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