Recipe: Make our Maltese 'pizza'

Charlotte's Maltese 'pizza' - ftira bread with kunserva and homemade sausage

Charlotte's Maltese 'pizza' - ftira bread with kunserva and homemade sausage - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Malta’s food is seriously underrated. There are so many gems. Fresh fish. Bottle green olive oil. The warm fig pastries sold by vendors on the side of the road by the ancient gated entrance to the city of Valletta. 

But this recipe combines what I (and many others) consider the most-prized culinary assets of the country, and it’s based on something I ate there a while ago, at a little family-run café, with a jug of honey-sweetened iced tea...street cats pawing at my feet. 

There’s ftira – Malta's toothsome, humble, delicious national bread. An easy take on kunserva – the best tomato paste you will ever eat (go there and try it). And Maltese sausage, spiced with loads of pepper, coriander and garlic. 

I highly recommend doubling the kunserva recipe if you have a glut of tomatoes. It stores very well in sterilised jars and is far superior to jarred passatas you’ll find in this country. 

You’ll need to start this recipe the day before you want to eat. 

Ftira pizza

(Serves 4)

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Ingredients 

For the ftira starter 

50g wholemeal bread flour 

½ sachet dried yeast 

50ml warm water 

For the ftira 

400g strong white bread flour 

100g rye flour (the version I’ve eaten is nutty and included some brown flour but you could use all-white) 

1 sachet dried yeast 

1tsp fine sea salt 

350ml warm water 

The starter 

For the kunserva 

2 tins tomatoes 

1tbsp caster sugar 

1/2tsp sea salt 

For the sausage 

450g fatty pork mince 

2-2.5tsps fine sea salt (depending how salty you like it) 

1.5tbsps coarse ground black pepper 

5 cloves garlic, grated 

Handful parsley, finely chopped 

1tbsp ground coriander or 1.5tbsps coriander seeds, lightly crushed 

To finish 

A jar of roasted peppers 

2 balls mozzarella, drained 

Method 

Combine the ingredients for the ftira starter. Cover and leave somewhere warm overnight. 

The next day, in a large bowl combine the flours for the ftira, the yeast and the sea salt. Make a well in the centre and add the warm water and starter. Knead to combine, then pop in another large, greased bowl and cover with a damp teatowel. In an hour’s time, knead the dough in the bowl by turning it over a few times and pressing and pulling it. Cover again. Repeat the process three times. 

Put a small (about 10-15cm) ceramic bowl on a lined baking sheet. On a floured surface form the dough into a ball, then press it over the bowl so you have an even round formed around it. Like a wreath.

Cover with a teatowel for 30 minutes. In the meantime heat the oven to 230C and place a tray of water in the bottom. 

Pop the bread in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 190C and cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and once cool, wrap well. 

For the kunserva blitz the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Place in a ceramic baking dish (about 25 x 10 to 15cm). Sprinkle over the sugar and salt. Cook at 130C for two hours. Allow to cool, and pop in jars. 

For the sausage mix, combine all the ingredients, and pop in a sealed container in the fridge until needed. Cook within three days. 

To assemble, cut the bread in half lengthways so you have two ‘wheels’. Smother each one in kunserva (they don’t hold back in Malta), rip over the cheese and peppers, and dot over a few pieces of the raw sausage mix. 

Heat the oven to 210C. Bake for 15 minutes. Then finish under the grill to get the cheese bubbling.