Friday, March 18, 2011


I nervously exited the car to stand on a dusty dirt road that lead to a court of limestone townhouses, sunset-coloured flowers cascading over wrought iron balconies with large wooden doors beneath. We had arrived at Malta airport not long before, and after a quick change of clothes, a spritz of perfume and a lashing of lip-gloss we were on our way to visit my husband's relatives, the first stop on our list was his Grandmother's home.

We had been together for four years, and were officially on our honeymoon. When planning our itinerary we included a short stopover in Malta so that I could finally meet my husband's entire family for the first time, therefore you can imagine the state of my nerves as I stood in that court, about to begin the introductions. As my husband raised his hand and knocked three times on her door I could feel my stomach somersault as if it were auditioning for the circus. The moment that door swung open however, I barely had a second to utter a 'hello' before being pulled into two overjoyed arms. There was a flurry of hugs, kisses, face holding and tear-stained smiles before we were led straight to the kitchen to be fed, afterall, we 'looked very thin and in need of a good meal'.

It was in this kitchen, a million miles from home, filled with the loving faces of my husband's cheerful relatives that I was first introduced to the Maltese sandwich known as Ftira. Back then I still consumed fish so Nana Lela had made it especially for me and watched eagerly as I took my first bite. Needless to say that was the first of many as I consumed enough portions to satisfyingly feed all three of my partner's uncles who were standing nearby. Despite feeling like a glutton afterwards, Nana Lela told me to keep eating so I could put more meat on my bones. I just smiled, reminded of my own Grandmother back home. No matter what country you come from, there is always a Grandmother trying to fatten you up.

serves 2

2 Turkish bread rolls
2x small tins of tuna in olive oil
1/4 red onion, chopped
2tbs tomato paste, or to taste
2tbs olive pate, or chopped kalamata olives
dried mint, to taste

Slice loaves in half. Spread 1/2tbs tomato paste on each half of the loaves. Then add half a tin of tuna, 1tbs olive paste, onion and dried mint to one half of each loaf. Top with remaining halves and enjoy.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 8mins.
total: 8mins.

taste: 4/5. One helluva Maltese sandwich.

My single food memory of Malta consists of this sandwich, in fact, as soon as I arrived home I tried to recreate it immediately. It's nowhere near as good as Nana Lela's, but it's still pretty darn tasty :).

The tangy tomato, acidic onions, briny olives and sweet, cool mint combine beautifully with the oil bathed tuna.

would I make it again: Yes, it's a weekly lunch regular.


  1. What a lovely sandwich! Yummy.



  2. So happy when i see Malta on food blogs!!!!!! I am from Malta but live in the US! I also try to re-create the maltese hobz biz-zejt but its still not the same....i just need the maltese kunserva!!!! Great blog :)

  3. I need the Maltese kunserva too! Our tomato paste just isn't the same...

  4. What a lovely story :) I felt like I was right there with you. This sandwich looks absolutely delicious, I cannot wait to try it. My first Maltese recipe too!
    Heidi xo

  5. What a lovely memory and sandwich. I still eat fish but switched to the water-packed kind long ago. I'll have to find a good imported oil-packed variety to give this amazing dish a try.

  6. tuna turns my stomach a little bit, even just thinking about it, yet that picture is pristine and lovely--well done!

  7. I enjoy your posts as much as I love your recipes. The sandwich looks delicious!

  8. I'm not familiar with this sandwich..but it sure looks good. Unusual to see tomato paste.

  9. Hey, I found this post through foodgawker and, being from Malta, I can safely tell you that it's quite hard to replicate a Ftira because the bread itself is quite irreplaceable :) Try adding some olive oil to the bread after spreading it with the tomato paste (I do this even the tuna is packed in oil, since I've been taught to drain the can) and sprinkle some salt and freshly-ground pepper directly onto the bread after. Heaven =)