Being Maltese, born and bred, when you move away from your home country, there’s many or be it at times few things that you miss. For me personally, mostly it is the food. Oh the food. Imqaret, Qaghaq ta’ l-Ghasel (Maltese honey rings), Pastizzi, Timpana, Fenek moqli (fried rabbit), Qassatat and the Maltese biscuits that I will be covering today, just to name a few.
The older I got, the more I missed the food, and so I started doing something about it, I decided to start making it. To me, it’s all about taste than presentation when it comes to food, and I do like to put in maybe my own little twist in there as well. I used to be a hound for these biscuits when I was a kid, dunking them away in my tea while colouring in some books at home.
Here is what you will need to make these wonderful biscuits.
⦁ 500g plain flour
⦁ 170g caster sugar
⦁ 3 teaspoons of baking powder
⦁ 2 teaspoons of ground aniseed (can also buy it as it is and just crush it using a pestle and mortar)
⦁ 2 teaspoons of ground cloves
⦁ 2 eggs
⦁ 180g of salted butter
⦁ 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
⦁ 4 tablespoons of water
⦁ 2 tablespoons of Orange blossom water (or Orange flower water)
⦁ Grated zest of 2 large oranges
⦁ Sesame seeds
Sometimes if you like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or even 2 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla (not to overpower it but just so there is a hint of it.)
I. Pre-heat the oven to Gas mark 4 (180°C/ 356°F.)
II. To start, we will be mixing all the dry ingredients together. The flour, sugar, aniseed, cloves and baking powder. Mix all these ingredients well.
III. Now add the butter with your dry mix (sometimes if the butter is too solid I heat it up for about 10 – 30 seconds just so it’s a bit easier to work with.) Blend the butter well with the dry ingredients until it has been fully integrated into the flour. It is messy, but I do find it easier to do it by hand using my fingertips, but you can also use a food processor. The mixture by the end should simulate bread crumbs.
IV. In a separate bowl, grab the eggs and beat them, then mix in the orange zest, water, orange blossom water and the vegetable oil. Once they are fully incorporated, add to the dry ingredients and mix well until you get a soft dough.
V. This amount will get you roughly around 20 Ottini’s, depending on how accurate you want to be. Roughly they should be around the size of golf balls, maybe a touch bigger. After you roll the ball into a thin long sausage shape, you’re looking for about 25 – 30 cms.
VI. Shape them into the number 8 and gently lift them up and place them onto a plate that is covered with sesame seeds. Make sure to cover both sides.
VII. Grab yourself a tray and line it with grease-proof paper. Place the Ottini into the oven for about 20 – 25 mins depending on the thickness of your Ottini. Once out the oven, let them cool down and then serve for yourself and guests to have with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
P.S. If you too find it to be a bit of a challenge to roll the Ottini into sesame seeds without them breaking, what I suggest is to place the Ottini onto the tray ready for the oven. Before you put the Ottini in the oven, place your hand on the sesame seeds and gently tap them onto the Ottini as they are lying on the tray.
Experiment with them, find new things you may enjoy, but you still get some of that homey feel to it.
Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!