Gozo’s Culinary Landscape
As any gastronome will tell you, the ability of Mediterranean Islanders to create incredible food with such limited resources is nothing short of miraculous.
In fact, the simplicity of this cuisine is imitated (often unsuccessfully) around the world. Unlike the cuisines of mainland Europe and America, Mediterranean fare is simple, straightforward, and shows an unequalled respect for the ingredient in as natural a state as possible. This is the Mediterranean culinary philosophy in one word: simplicity.
The cuisine of Gozo is no different. In fact, one might argue that the locals’ approach is the epitome of culinary minimalism. Dishes are often comprised of a very small amount of ingredients, treated with the utmost respect. You’ll find no fancy sauces or fussy garnishes on a Gozitan plate, but you will find the freshest produce, most likely picked only a few short hours before it landed on your fork, from a farm that’s walking distance away. The landscape is dominated by farms and fields with an abundance of produce.
Here are some dishes to look out for when the hunger pangs start calling:
- The Ftira - the word refers to a sourdough loaf baked in a wood-fired oven. However, for Gozitans, the ftira is more than that. It’s whole meal, stuffed with all manner of ingredients, but typically, one finds gozitan cheese, thinly sliced potatoes, and sausage, as well as fresh rosemary and thyme.
- Fenek (or rabbit) is a time-honoured tradition throughout the Maltese Islands. For the ultimate experience, look for a bar in one of Gozo’s many quaint villages. Often, the owners of the bar cook the food in their own domestic kitchens and the meal will inevitably be accompanied by the excellent hospitality the Islanders are known for. Gozo’s fresh rabbits are often served fried with copious amounts of garlic, accompanied by fried potatoes.
- Possibly Gozo’s most famous export, the Gbejna is a cheeselet made from fresh goat’s cheese. More like the French Fromage Blanc in texture than typical goat’s cheese, the Gbejna is a must when partaking the most popular lunch dish of fresh bread with accompaniments such as fresh tomatoes, capers, olives, onions, and mint.
- Gelat, or Gozitan ice-cream is less of a unique recipe and more of a statement of quality. On Gozo, you’ll find plenty of small scale ice-cream producers, churning out the most delicious frozen treats using only fresh ingredients. But don’t let the small scale fool you – these artisans experiment with some innovative flavours like local fig, orange and chocolate. Local restaurants will indicate the producers name with pride when reading their dessert list.
Gozitans are keen to capitalise on the bounty that their Island offers. In fact, there’s a thriving slow-food and artisanal food movement on the island, with producers selling upscale products in modern packaging. Gozitans produce an exquisite version of the famous Italian Limoncello. It’s made with freshly picked Gozitan lemons, known for their intensely tart taste – best served ice cold. Kunserva, or tomato puree, is another famous staple found in every Gozitan larder. The local version has an intense tomato aroma with a delicate sweetness. Use it to enrich soups, stews or sauces, or, like the locals, slathered on fresh bread liberally doused with good olive oil.