These very popular sweet snacks are eaten hot from street stalls around the island of Malta. I first had them at the city gate in Valetta, where the vendor was in a shiny stainless-steel trailer similar to one selling hot dogs. You could see him frying large batches of the imqaret in cauldrons of boiling oil. These pastries stem from ancient recipes tracing back to Malta’s Arabic past. The sweet date filling is infused with an anise flavor. These are great with coffee or tea, or with ice cream or a creambased dessert such as crème brûlée or panna cotta.
– For the pastry.
– 4 cups all-purpose flour.
– pinch of salt.
– ⅓ cup sugar.
– 4 tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces.
– 5 tbsp dry red wine.
– ¼ cup orange juice.
– For the filling.
– 1lb (450g) pitted dates.
– juice and grated zest of 1 orange.
– juice and grated zest of 1 lemon.
– ⅔ cup dry red wine.
– pinch of ground cloves.
– 1 bay leaf.
– 4 star anise.
– vegetable oil for frying.
Step 2: Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a heavy saucepan. Simmer gently over medium heat for 20 minutes until the dates are soft and the wine has reduced. Discard the star anise and the bay leaf. Transfer the filling to a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Let cool completely.
Step 3: Cut the pastry into 4 equal pieces. Working one piece at a time on a floured work surface, roll it out as thinly as possible, into a strip about 4in (10cm) wide. Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges with a little water, and spoon some of the filling down the center of the pastry. Fold the pastry in half lengthwise, covering the filling. Flatten slightly, and press the edges together to seal. You will end up with a long roll. Cut diagonally across the pastry with a sharp knife, making diamond-shaped pieces that are about 2in (5cm) long. Repeat with the remaining pastry and date filling.
Step 4: In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, heat about ¾in (2cm) of oil until hot. Break off a small piece of pastry and add to the oil—it should sizzle slightly, but not brown too fast. When ready, shallow-fry the pastries in small batches for 4–5 minutes or until golden brown all over. Serve at once.