Food & drink
Discover the origins of traditional Maltese pumpkin pie (& the tastiest recipe to try!)
A Maltese beauty that needs to be rediscovered

Kristina Cassar Dowling

Much like all the traditional delicacies we have in our country’s cuisine, the traditional pumpkin pie is a mystery which we need to unveil. With the many rulers of our islands came different traditions in costume, language, practices and, of course, culinary additions.

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It’s thought that the traditional pumpkin pie - with rice, tuna, pumpkin and all the fixings - came about during the reign of the Knights of Malta, but there’s also an element of the Middle Eastern in the mix. Also, Cypriots claim to have a similar dish called kolokotes which are traditionally made with pumpkin too. A deep dive into this dish’s roots needs to be examined! But first, let’s dive into the recipe.

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  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1kg of orange pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 330g long grain rice, cooked for 10 minutes
  • 2 cups homemade vegetable stock
  • 3 small tins of tuna in olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 10 green local olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 4 tbsp kunserva
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • a handful of fresh basil, parsley and mint, roughly chopped
  • A tsp of fresh chill
  • a drizzle of local EVOO depending on consistency


  1. Add a drizzle of oil to a heated sauté pan, lightly brown the onion and garlic and add the fresh chilli to release the flavours - season with salt and pepper and add the pumpkin cubes, cook until they’re golden brown.
  2. Drain the tuna - save the oil - and mix it into the pumpkin pan with kunserva added too. Clear off an area on the pan and add your anchovies and capers - let their umami flavours dissolve and incorporate with the rest of the food.
  3. Add your cooked rice to the pan, mix in your herbs and season one last time - allow to cool.

For best results, always make your own pastry; this isn’t an impossible task. It takes some time but it’s a game changer. A basic shortcrust pastry simply requires 225g of sifted flour, 100g of cold butter and a pinch of salt. Remember to mix your flour and fat until you get a breadcrumb like consistency, add salt at this stage and then knead until a smooth dough is formed. Cover in wax wrapping and store in the fridge.

For gluten free recipes, simply replace with an all-purpose gluten free flour and add 2 tbsp xanthan gum, together with milk, if your dough seems too loose. For vegan recipes, olive oil makes for a great pastry fat, simply exchange the butter for 85ml EVOO and work the flour as normal. Resting time may vary. 

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Once your mixture cools and your crust settles, line your dish, with your preferred fat; roll out your dough; place it in the dish; then add your filling, and place another sheet of fresh dough over it, poking some air vents in the pastry and trimming the edges. Bake at 180/200°C for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Top tip: bake in a pyrex dish so you can keep your eye on the base. When you gain confidence in your baking skills, switch to enamel - the difference is impressive!

9th November 2019

Kristina Cassar Dowling
Written by
Kristina Cassar Dowling
A local writer in love with the Maltese islands, Kristina is a hunter for all things cultural both in Malta and outside its shores. A curious foodie, music fanatic, art lover and keen traveller with an open mind and a passion for writing.

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