Imqaret are a traditional Maltese dessert that consist of a fried thin sweet pastry filled with a flavourful spiced date and citrusy paste.
Imqaret are a popular Maltese dessert that we inherited from the Arabs. In fact, a similar dessert exists in the Maghreb cuisine named ‘maqrout’. The name refers to the characteristic diamond shape. In Maltese we tend to refer to them in plural form ‘imqaret’, I guess because we never can stop to just one! Whereas the singular name is ‘maqrut’.
As one of the most popular desserts in Malta, imqaret can be found all round the island all year round. However, they take front scene during the Christmas celebrations and in other festive gatherings, such as during weddings or in the traditional Maltese festas! Usually they are bought fried from the specific small stalls that specialize in them. The imqaret you get from such stalls tend to be also bigger. For me it was a must that every time we went to Valletta I would get one or two fresh ones from these stalls before going through the main gates of the city.
Imqaret can also be found on most of the restaurants’ dessert menu. Typically served warm with a side of ice cream or ħelwa tat-tork (Maltese halva). Or else from several bakeries. Although the latter are usually baked and not fried!
The imqaret filling is mainly made of a thick date paste mixed with spices and citrus. For the best results it’s best to chop the pitted dates into small pieces and let soak for about 30 minutes before cooking. On low heat then cook the dates together with the orange blossom water, orange zest and spices. Gently add some water to help the dates dissolve and become a paste. Once ready, it’s important to let the paste cool completely as this will make it even thicker.
Fried or Baked
Traditionally, the imqaret are fried. As their thin crispy dough is one of their signature traits. However, they can easily be baked. Although, of course, they will be more like biscuits. Fried imqaret are more commonly eaten on their own or with ice cream. Whereas the baked ones can be dunked in tea! They are also great when served warm with a side of ice cream. Both options are delicious and below you can find both methods.
For the Dough
- 400 g flour
- 100 g cold butter cubed
- 1 tbsp orange flower water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 60 ml water
- 1 tsp aniseed liquor
For the Date filling
- 400 g dates pitted
- zest of an orange
- 1 tbsp orange flower water
- 125 ml water
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp aniseed
For the filling
- Chop the dates into small pieces and place in a bowl of water for about half an hour.
- Remove the dates from the water and place them in a pot on low heat. Reserve the water and set aside.
- Together with the dates add all the other ingredients and cook gently on low heat. While constantly mixing the mixture add the water. Keep cooking until the dates break down and a thick mixture is formed. Place the paste in the fridge for about an hour.
For the dough
- Add all the ingredients together, except the water, and combine everything well together. Start adding the water gently and knead the dough. Knead for a few minutes until you get a nice soft dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for about an hour.
- Divide the dough and the filling into four portions.
- On a floured surface, open each dough into a long rectangle about 50cm long and 10/15cm width.
- Layer the paste on the dough on one side, leaving a border. Grab the small border over the date paste and close with the dough side over. Press the dough down gently.
- Cut horizontally the diamond shaped imqaret. I make medium sized ones, as I cut the dough in 10 pieces. However, you can cut them as big as you'd like.
- Fill a large pot with vegetable oil. Heat the oil to about 170°C.
- Cook the imqaret in batches for about 1 minute on each side. Place the cooked imqaret on a plate with tissue paper so that it absorbs the excess oil.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on top. Place the imqaret on the tray and leave some space between them.
- Bake for 20 minutes until they are golden brown.
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