When my mother was first married she could barely boil an egg, or so she says. Now, whenever I visit her, the kitchen looks like an episode of MasterChef only without the chaos. Admittedly she's had close to fifty years of practise, my father on the sidelines readily adopting the role of taste tester. But despite the myriad dishes she is now mistress of my favourite is still and perhaps always will be, her Maltese pastizzi.
Being one of eight children my mother never spent much time in the kitchen with her mother; my nanna preferring to keep that one room to herself. In Malta there is a saying: "selling like pastizzi" which is the equivalent to the English saying "selling like hot-cakes", such is their popularity.
In 1948 my Grandfather travelled to Australia in search of a better life for his family. The idea was, he would find work and somewhere to live before sending word for my nanna to bring the children over. Nanna was never a very patient woman. She got tired of waiting and so she made new coats for all her children from scratch and booked passage on a ship to Sydney herself. There is a black-and-white photo on the wall of my parents home of my four-year-old mother and her siblings, dressed in their smart new outfits, ready to board the ship. Nanna is standing next to them, her face grim with coarse determination. I love looking at that photo and imagining all the things that needed to happen in order for her to meet my father and bring me to them. The pastizzi she makes are a variation on the original Maltese version, but it's really only the shape that differs, the taste is just as good.
300g fresh ricotta
2/3 cup coarsely grated mozzarella
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 sheets frozen puff pastry, partially thawed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 220C/200C fan-forced. Line two oven trays with baking paper.
Place the ricotta in a bowl. Using a fork, mash until almost smooth. Add mozzarella and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add half the beaten egg. Stir to combine.
Cut each puff pastry sheet into quarters. Spoon one tablespoon of mixture onto each square and spread slightly, leaving the edges clear. Fold one corner of pastry over to form a triangle and pinch to seal (Mum uses the prongs of a fork to seal the edges which makes a pleasing pattern at the same time but it makes no difference how you seal them as long as the edges hold firm).
Place on prepared trays. Brush with remaining beaten egg. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to stand for 4 minutes before serving (if you can wait that long). This recipe makes 16 pastizzi but they are best straight from the oven so I would recommend only making as many as you need, or want, in one sitting.
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