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Malta Lenten Sweets - Kwarezimal by Mona Farrugia

Mona Farrugia rewrites the recipe for kwarezimal, the lenten sweet so good it's absolutely sinful.

Malta Lenten Sweets - Kwarezimal by Mona Farrugia
Malta Lenten Sweets - Kwarezimal by Mona Farrugia
Malta Lenten Sweets - Kwarezimal by Mona Farrugia


Main Ingredient Almond
Preparation Time Up to 15 mins: Quick
Cooking Time 20 mins
Course Biscuit
Recipe Serves 12
Recipe Type Traditional: MalteseLow-carb
I always find it terribly ironic that during the period of time when Catholics in Malta are supposed to be 'fasting' they eat all the best stuff. Stuffed artichokes, replete with parsley, olives and capers, carob sweets wrapped in wax paper and bought off the street vendors (yes, you can still find those), and the brilliant lushness of the kwarezimal.

Kwarezimal are, I realised while testing many combinations to come up with this recipe, nothing but a big cookie. A Maltese cookie, no doubt with Middle-Eastern influences from the nuts and honey, but a cookie nonetheless. This is exactly like the burger: we had burgers in the form of pulpetti from many years ago but never realised the concept and format was one and the same.

I am over the moon about this recipe. Some weeks ago I had a piece at a friend's house and I was about to choke on it: the cook who had made it, normally very able, had put so much flour in the mix that the result was dry, hard and frankly tasted of nothing at all.

This got me thinking: how useful is the flour in this recipe? Flour is a filler, a binder and the source of many modern human ailments. In our house we don't even bother stocking it. So I got down to experimenting and you know what? I didn't even need to use spelt. So this is a brilliant, chewy, fabulously moreish recipe for kwarezimal, quite literally, Lent redefined.
Use unwaxed lemons, oranges and tangerines. Those shiny things at the supermarket are waxed. Literally. Do not grate harshly as you will end up with pith (the white part between the skin and the segments). This is bitter and will unbalance the sweetness of the cookies.

Preheat a fan oven to 190C

Prepare two baking trays. I line mine in silicone sheets but you can use normal oven paper. You can even use karti tal-ostja and this will help keep the cookies whole and not break.


You need:

200 grams blanched almonds, toasted lightly in the oven and ground coarsely (whizz them in a food processor)
200 grams ground almonds

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

The zest of two lemons, two oranges and two tangerines

1 cup of agave syrup [or, if you're fine with sugar, 200 grams sugar]

2 tablespoons ilma zaghar (orange flower water)

Runny Maltese honey

Chopped pistachios to decorate


In a large bowl mix - with your hands, go on! - the toasted, pulsed bits of almond, the ground almonds, the cinnamon and the bicarbonate of soda. Mix in the grated zest so that you have an even distribution of all dry ingredients.  Add the agave syrup and orange flower water and mix until you have a sticky 'dough'.

I like to leave this to rest for a few minutes, covered, so that the bicarb can get to work its chemical magic.

Then, using a normal tablespoon, pile a heap of mix on to this until it is quite heaped. Roll this in your hands so that you have a small, thick sausage. Place the sausage on the lined tray and using the pads of your index and second finger press down lightly until you have a flat oval shape which is about  ¾ cm high. Continue until you have used all the mix - that should be around 12 of them.

Pop into the oven and cook for around 15 minutes. When you see that the edges are browning take the tray out and switch it the other way as you will notice that the browning is happening unevenly. This is normal in a fan oven. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Now for the really important bit: the kwarezimal, when you take them out of the oven, must have a a hard, baked edge and a soft inside. When you touch them with your fingers there must be a lot of give. Real cookies only 'harden' slightly when they are cooled. If they are hard already in the oven they will break your teeth when they cool.

When still a little warm, that is after about 10 minutes (depending on the weather), drizzle runny honey over the top. Then chop some freshly-shelled pistachios and flick over the honey. They should stick.

Eat, eat, eat.

Shopping Tips
Agave syrup is available in large bottles from Casa Natura in High Street Sliema and Naturali at Smart Supermarket B'Kara, amongst others.


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Helga Borg
February 24, 2012
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You've made my day!! was really sulking cause I was going to skip have a kwarezimal this year since I've recently discovered I'm gluten intolerant. Thanks so much!

Olivia Vassallo
March 26, 2011
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Had my first-try attempt of doing kwarezimal today! I followed your recipe and they came superb - soft, almondy and with a light texture. However, I also added 2 tblsp of good quality cocoa and I used sugar instead of the Agave syrup therefore I had to add some water to amalgamate the ingredients. Wonderful recipe! Will keep it handy.

charlotte schembri
March 25, 2011
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I'm only concerned coz I read that Agave Syrup is primarily fructose. Can it be subsituted by any other low-carb sweetener?

Mona's reply

Yes there are a lot of 'rumours' going around and the net is rife with them. Agave syrup has a very low GI and I have been experimenting with it for weeks now and my blood sugar is stable. It also gives intense (rather than fake) sweetness and lends a moistness to cakes which artificial sweeteners just take away. Not to mention the chemical elements in the latter...

charlotte schembri
March 25, 2011
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Recipe looks great. Cant' wait to try it out:)
Dear Mona, can I be a pain? for people who are counting carbs, how many grams would 1 piece/1serving have, approximately?

Mona's reply

My darling the people who do low carb never have to count. Low-carb food is very filling. So just eat them :)

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