Autumn sings pumpkins, and as soon as the leaves start to fall and turn into golds, yellow, reds and browns, I know it’s time to make my favourite Maltese dish – torta tal-qargħa ħamra.
Come pumpkin season in Australia, this would be the first thing we’d bake. In addition to pumpkins, we’d also add salted tuna, which we’d cure ourselves after our father would make a catch. I remember this ritual so well, and my father would love overseeing the whole process. Leeks are another ingredient I use in this dish, and they’re a must, as my mother always insisted.
I usually use a big large blue skinned pumpkin, which I think is the best type of pumpkin for this pie.
Photo: A Maltese Mouthful
2 packets of ready rolled puff pastry
Egg yolk for brushing
For the filling:
3 small leeks (550 gr) sliced, medium thickness
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Small bunches of mint, parsley, oregano, dried marjoram, thyme and basil, chopped
1.6 Kg large diced red pumpkin (about 2cm x 1cm)
20 pitted black kalamata olives (or Maltese olives if you can get them)
2 tablespoons capers
115gr fresh salted tuna, chopped (or 1 medium can tuna in oil and a small tin anchovies, chopped)
300gr rice par boiled for 8 minutes
A few handfuls of raisins or sultanas
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Step #1 – Line a large dish with one sheet of pastry. Make sure that there’s enough pastry to also cover the sides of the dish. Pierce the base with a fork several times.
Step #2 -Fry the onion, leek and garlic for about five to ten minutes on medium heat until soft and tender. While this is happening, par boil the rice for 8 minutes.
Step #3 – In the pan with the onion and other ingredients, add in the herbs and pumpkin. Fry for fifteen minutes.
Step #4 – Now, add in the olives, capers, salted tuna and anchovies, and raisins. Cook for a further five minutes.
Step #5 – Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Step #6 – Turn the heat off from the frying pan and add in the rice and mix into the mixture. Season with pepper. Only season with salt, if you haven’t used cured tuna!
Step #7 – Add all the mixture into the pastry lined dish. If you feel it needs a little more oil, then add a few tablespoons of oil on top.
Step #8 – Cover with the remaining pastry. Pierce the top of the pie several times with a fork.
Step #9 – Place in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. If the top of the pie hasn’t become golden, then turn the heat up to 200°C and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes.