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Christmas rings of gold

Photos by Alan Carville for STYLE on Sunday

These ‘honey rings’ are traditionally made and given for Christmas. They are actually sold in shops all the year round, but it is at Christmas time that the citrus fruits you need are in season as are the spices. Although you can buy them easily, the homemade ones are far superior so why not try this recipe for Christmas this year and delight your family and friends. The following recipe is from my friend Anna’s family cookery book.

Qaghaq tal-ghasel

Makes approx. 12 side-plate-sized honey rings


· 150g blanched almonds, roasted and roughly ground

· 150g granulated sugar

· 800g semolina

· 2¼ tins black treacle

· 1 orange, zest only

· 1 lemon, zest only

· 3 tangerines, zest only

· 400g candid peel, finely chopped

· 1 tumbler water

· 12 whole cloves

· 1 cinnamon stick

· 1½ tablespoons cacao, optional

The pastry

· 750g plain flour

· 30g butter

· 2 egg yolks

· 2 tots anisette

· 1 tsp vanilla

· 1 cup water, with a little evaporated milk


1. Bring the tumbler of water to the boil and add the whole cloves and cinnamon stick.

2. Take off the fire and allow to infuse then strain water and discard cloves and cinnamon stick. Set the water aside.

3. Put treacle on low fire with sugar and infused water.

4. When sugar is melted, mix in all other ingredients except the semolina.

5. Stir well and then add the semolina gradually stirring all the time (take about 10 minutes to do this).

6. Remove from heat and allow to set in a cool place for 48 hours before using.

7. To make the pastry (this can also be made 48 hours in advance), sift flour into a large mixing bowl preferably of an electric blender.

8. Chop up the butter and add to flour, blend till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

9. Add the egg yolks, anisette and vanilla and then, mixing all the time, add the water and evaporated milk, mixing until a dough is formed. The dough should be firm but still pliable.

10. Allow to rest in the fridge for a day or two.

11. When ready to make rings, roll out some pastry on a work surface sprinkled with lots of flour, to measure a rectangle approx. 30cm long by 10 cm wide.

12. Take a generous dessertspoon of your filling and shape into a long sausage on a surface sprinkled with semolina and lay this in the middle of the pastry rectangle leaving about 2 cm at each end empty.

13. Dampen the edges and fold the pastry over to encase the filling.

14. Carefully ease the sausage to form a ring and putting one end inside the other, seal the whole ring.

15. With a sharp knife, slash the top of the pasty ring in 6 places lifting these opening so that the filling shows through.

16. Put the prepared rings on an oven tray sprinkled with semolina or lined with a silicone sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven at 190°C for 25 mins or until the pastry is barely coloured. Repeat this process until all the pastry and filling have been used up.

17. Once cooked, allow honey rings to cool and then store in airtight containers until ready to eat.

Enjoy these by the fire with a glass of mulled wine for a perfect Christmas evening!

This recipe is in Pippa Mattei’s first cookbook 25 Years in a Maltese Kitchen which has also been translated into Maltese.

More Christmas recipes are available in Pippa’s Gourmand award-winning book, Pippa’s Festa, being sold at a reduced price from €35 to €25 this Christmas.

Get any of these three books from leading book shops or buy online at Free delivery is available to addresses in Malta and Gozo.

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