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History of... Pastizzi

What are pastizzi?


Essentially, one could say that pastizzi are a fusion of flaky Arabic pastry with the essence of Italian filling. Diamond in shape and traditionally filled with either ricotta or mashed peas.



 

Although there is no exact dating for when pastizzi were invented, historians speculate that the invention of the pastizz is to be dated from between 1200 B.C. to even around 870 A.C. This is due to us not knowing if they were brought about by the arrival of Muslims in Malta or if they already existed beforehand. What is probable is that some version of the pastizz already existed but then was modified with the arrival of Muslims to something which matches modernity.

 



One could compare this period as being the Maltese equivalent for the renaissance for food culture in Malta. Many tried to find of how to diversify their dishes, which brought about the present-day pastizz. The people of then wished for something which was more filling while also being affordable and portable.


This was their attempt at making a form of pie which could be taken with them to work with a lot less hassle.

For a pastizz to reach its typical flakiness, their pastry needs to be stretched, folded with layers of fat in between and rolled, several times over, much like Greek phyllo pastry. While now butter or margarine are used, pure fat in the form lard would have been used in the past.


 

The folding is particular to the type of filling

consisting in it to make them easily identifiable.

 

Cheesecake

Peacake

Traditional: Folded in the middle

Traditional: Folded at the side

Tax-Xema': Round in format

Tax-Xema': Half-moon format


 

Many variations exist which are similar to the pastizz and could be attributed to the making and form of the modern day pastizz:


  • Sephardi Jewish Bourekas

    • Adopted bourekas to be kosher

    • Soft/wet cheese filling


  • Bulgarian Banitsa

    • Layering whisked eggs, natural yoghourt and pieces of white brined cheese


  • Trigona Panoramatos from Greece

    • Crispy, golden, buttery Phyllo triangles soaked in syrup with rich creamy custard.


 


Ok, so now that all the fun stuff is out of the way, the second half of this article is going to focus on the nutritional value and me trying to make it sound as interesting as it is to me to you.


You’ve definitely heard that pastizzi aren’t good for you. The reason for that is because of the large amounts of butter/margarine and salt that are added. These both add to increasing:

  • Trans Fatty Acids which are manufactured fats created during a process called hydrogenation, which is aimed at stabilising polyunsaturated oils to prevent them from becoming rancid and to keep them solid at room temperature.

  • Saturated Fats which are fats naturally found in food or sometimes added to act as a preservative in the food.

  • High Sodium Content due to the large amount of salt added to preserve food and acts to give flavour to the food

  • Carbohydrates, many of which are simple sugars. The easiest sugars the body can break down and digest.


The problem with having all of these in high volumes is that the fats will aid in plaque build up around the main arteries of the heart thus in turn narrowing them while the high sodium content and simple sugars then increase blood pressure. The problem with this of course is that it’ll end up stressing out the heart which may lead to Coronary Artery Disease, Type-2 Diabetes or Heart Arrhythmia.


When taken in moderate amount, one could try to find the positive of ingesting pastizzi as being that they might contain HBV protein (high biological value) which are foods which contain all the needed amino acids, which the body doesn’t produce, from the ricotta. It also may have a good level of calcium or iron respectively from the two common types of pastizzi filling and some level of soluble and insoluble Fibre which both together work to prevent constipation and promote healthy gut work.



 

Some common places which sell pastizzi are:

-> Is-Serkin (also known as the Crystal Palace)

-> Sphinx

-> Mr. Maxims

-> Jeffs



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