Kwareżimal — Malta’s popular Lenten sweet

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Kwareżimal, a humble recipe originally made during Lent is quick and easy to make. It is a popular Lenten sweet — a chewy almond biscuit in an oblong shape, often brown due to cacao powder.


It’s not often that you come across Malta on the map. Being the small island that we are (516km squared), we’re known for our big hearts, big bellies, and beautiful bays.

We’re also known for our bravery. In the 1500s, Malta valiantly fought the Ottoman Empire when it was at its strongest, whilst under the stronghold of the Knights of St John (Christian Crusaders). Malta, a then impoverished nation, was still able to prevent the powerful Ottoman Empire to secure its grasp on the Mediterranean gem, leading to the Ottoman Empire’s decline. Malta was also the first country to be awarded the George Cross from the UK during WWII, in recognition of our heroic struggle as the country bombed the most per capita.

As a result of our colourful history, Malta has been influenced by many, and the Maltese cuisine is nothing short of these influences. For example, even the traditional Maltese bread or Hobz Malti may have been influenced by the Romans that once occupied Malta.

One of my favourite times of the year for Maltese food is Easter. This is because many traditional Maltese sweets, and pastries are only available at this time of the year, bound to the Catholic liturgical calendar. One such pastry is called kwareżimal.

What is kwareżimal?

Kwarezimal baked for lent.
Yummy Kwarezimal

Kwareżimal is a popular Lenten sweet — a chewy almond biscuit in an oblong shape, often brown due to cacao powder. The word Kwarezimal refers to the Latin word quarezima, the forty days of Lent, and is said to have been introduced by the Christian crusaders in the 1500s.

What ingredients do you require to make Kwareżimal?

Kwareżimal is a humble recipe originally made without eggs or butter, because during Lent, eating animal products or animal meat was considered a penance (sugar was not taboo because it was considered a spice and therefore savory.) Therefore, Kwareżimal’s basic ingredients are flour, sugar, orange rind, and ground almonds but the evolved recipe calls for additional ingredients to make these lovely biscuits even more fragrant.

How to Make kwareżimal?

Making kwarizeml is straightforward.

  1. You first need to make a dough by combining all the ingredients, add a little water one bit at a time to get a workable dough.
  2. You then need to mould the dough by hand into an oblong shape.
  3. Following that, you need to place each biscuit dough on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.
  4. Lastly add the thyme honey, the crushed nuts, and grated orange zest which are used to decorate the biscuits.
Kwarezimal on parchment paper.
Place the Kwarezimal on parchment paper
A hand sprinkling Kwarezimal with grated almonds.
Sprinkle the Kwarezimal with grated nuts
Kwarezimal stacked one top of the other in a white plate with a red rim.
Kwarezimal ready to be served

Cooking Tips & Tricks for Maltese Kwareżimal

  • I didn’t add cacao to this recipe, but you can add about 1 tbsp to give it a hint of chocolate.
  • If you don’t come across orange blossom, substitute with 1 tsp grated orange zest.

FAQ’s About Kwareżimal

What is Cacao Powder? Can I use Cocoa powder instead?

Cacao powder is the unprocessed or minimally processed form of the cacao bean, it does not have added sugars whereas cocoa powder is a highly processed form of the cacao bean that has additives or sugar. Yes, you could replace cacao powder with cocoa powder if it is not available to you.

Mandarins are not easily available in my locality, what can I use?

You can use oranges, but add in a bit more sugar as mandarins tends to be sweeter.

Can I make Kwareżimal without sugar?

Not traditionally. But yes, you can try lessening the amount of sugar or add honey or jaggery instead of sugar in the dough.

Author: Claire Tonna, The Offbeat Appetite — a blog focused on seasonal food and sustainable living

Claire and a guy standing in front of a house covered with snow.

The Offbeat Appetite is a passion project by Claire and Marco who, until recently were chasing palm trees in South East Asia and are now basking in the Mediterranean sun, somewhere between Malta and Italy. Crazy about food and travel, Marco and Claire have developed recipes inspired by their travels, whilst calling 9 countries and 4 continents their home.

Whilst, the Offbeat Appetite is largely a blog about food, it also brings to the fore a pertinent topic that is impacting each one of us. Marco and Claire’s travels have exposed them to, not just the importance but the necessity of sustainable living, as the choices we continue to make will increasingly impact vulnerable communities across the globe. In the end, The Offbeat Appetite should not only inspire in the kitchen but also inspire others to get better at making sustainable choices, in the hope of striving to become better citizens every day, one offbeat step at a time. Claire blogs at Offbeat Appetite and you can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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Kwarezimal stacked one top of the other in a white plate with a red rim.

Kwareżimal – Malta’s Traditional Lenten Sweet Recipe

Visiting GemsVisiting Gems
Kwareżimal, a Maltese recipe originally made during Lent is quick and easy to make. It is a popular a chewy almond biscuit in an oblong shape, often brown due to cacao powder.
5 out of 5 Stars by 2 readers!

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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Maltese
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 200 g Almonds Ground
  • 200 g Plain Flour sifted
  • 150 g Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon Ground
  • 1 tsp Orange Blossom Water (ilma żahar)
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Zest (approx. 1 lemon)
  • 2 tbsp Orange Zest (approx. 1 orange)
  • 2 tbsp Mandarin Zest (approx. 1 mandarin)
  • Water As Required

Optional

  • 1 tbsp Cacao Powder

To Decorate

  • 1 tbsp Honey To drizzle – I like thyme honey
  • 2 tbsp Pistachios Crushed
  • 2 tbsp Almonds Roasted and Crushed
  • 1 tbsp Orange Zest 

Instructions
 

  • Combine all the ingredients and add just enough water to make a tough dough.
  • Knead lightly into a bite-sized oval shape.
  • Place on a baking dish and bake at 180°C for 10 minutes.
  • While they are still warm, coat with honey and sprinkle crushed pistachios and almonds and grated zest.

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Notes

  • If you wish to add a hint of chocolate, add about 1 tbsp of cacao powder. 
  • If you don’t have orange blossom, substitute this with 1 tsp grated orange zest.
Pinterest image of Kwarezimal one top of the other in a plate.
Pinterest image of Kwarezimal on a baking tray with parchment paper.

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