One of our many traditions is the celebration of St Joseph’s Day on the 19th March in recognition of Joseph, husband of Mother Mary. As like many days we celebrate, there’s also a culinary association with the Feast of San Gużepp.
One of the things we like to eat on this day, is what is known to us as żeppoli. This sweet consists of a choux pastry which is deep fried and then filled with sweetened ricotta. The żeppoli are then finally finished off with a drizzle of honey and nuts.
A savoury version where anchovies are mixed into the pastry and deep fried, are known to us as sfineġ – an alternative option if one is abstaining from sweets during Lent.
Usually, one of the ingredients used in the sweetened ricotta mixture is candied peel. I used marmalade instead in my mixture (which included candied peel) but you can substitute this for candied peel and caster sugar.
Maltese Żeppoli – (Makes about 14 -15 small żeppoli)
Image credit: Marlene, A Maltese Mouthful
For the choux pastry:
200ml cold water
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Pinch of salt
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 litres oil (sunflower or similar) for frying
250gr fresh ricotta
1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons marmalade (or candied citrus peel and 1 tablespoon caster sugar)
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind
1 tablespoon grated chocolate
2 pinches of cinnamon
Chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios)
#1. In a large saucepan add the water, sugar and butter. Melt these on medium heat.
#2. Turn the heat right up and then add your flour and salt. Immediately remove from the stove.
#3. Beat the mixture (by hand or electric beater) until the dough forms a ball. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
#4. While the pastry is cooling, prepare your filling by mixing all the filling ingredients. If you prefer your ricotta not as sweet, only use 1 tablespoon of marmalade to begin with and then adjust. You may also add some chopped nuts to the ricotta filling if you wish. Place your ricotta filling in the fridge.
#5. Once your pastry has cooled, using an electric beater, beat in the eggs a little at a time. Continue to do this until you have a mixture which is thick, smooth and glossy.
#6. Heat your oil in a deep pan or saucepan. Once the oil is nice and hot, place small tablespoons of your mixture into the hot oil. Fry until they brown, puff up and show signs of initial cracking.
#7. Place on a paper towel and allow to cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Slit and fill with your ricotta mixture.
#8. Drizzle with honey, scatter some nuts on top and icing sugar (optional).