David Darmanin - photo by Tomoko Goto

David Darmanin – photo by Tomoko Goto

As part of this year’s Notte Bianca events, Valletta 2018 will be hosting L-Ikla t-Tajba – the first street food celebration of its kind in Malta. Guided by an international Maltese chef – David Darmanin – and his foreign team – twenty freshly trained cooks from different backgrounds and of varying ages will be dishing out eight of their signature recipes using the finest and freshest local ingredients under one giant pop-up kitchen at Castille Place.

The dishes served are the re-creation of popular local recipes that have been given a new character, with each celebrating our unique culture and rich history.

Now I’ve known David Darmanin for a while and have tasted some of his culinary creations in the past – I can only imagine how fantastic they are by now! I got to speak to him about this project that has been brewing (see what I did there? :)) over the Summer…

This is what David had to say:

I mainly work as a consulting chef and food planner, but my small brigade and I are sometimes asked to cook for specific events. I live in Italy and get to work in London very often – where there’s a real lot going on with food. The UK has really turned into a cool food destination, which is funny, seeing that up until 10 years ago nobody would have associated Brits with good food. You will find that the quality and variety of street food is generally outstanding in London, as is the number of pop-up kitchens sprouting for a short period of time and moving on to other destinations – a bit like circuses.

 When it comes to street food and pop-up setups I work with a lean but very strong team of chefs hailing a bit from everywhere. Every now and again we get to organise or cook for events in Malta, where I try as much as possible to tie in this street food theme – seeing that it goes down really well with us Maltese. Last year for instance, we were asked to cater for a wedding in Malta where everything was street food themed. We set up stalls as you would find at a ‘festa’ or some mass meeting, and dished out theme-specific street food to guests from there. Obviously, we’re not talking about hot dogs and burgers – which may be tasty but with hardly any novelty factor.

 Now, with Valletta 2018’s support and infinite patience, we’re working on setting up the largest pop-up kitchen ever built for a public event in Malta. The idea is to set up an equipped tent from where a group of 20 amateur cooks we specifically trained will be dishing out their own street food recipes to passers-by at Notte Bianca. We’re looking to serve 3,000-4,000 customers. That’s a very large amount of trade, even for experienced professionals. Luckily, it’s all under control since four of the chefs I closely work with have accepted (against a rate which is a fraction of their normal fee!) to come over and help me guide the participants during preparation service so that everything flows smoothly.

 The team consists of a very diverse set of people aged from 13 to 55 coming from all walks of life – some privileged, others less. Over the summer, they have attended an intensive course in professional cuisine where we placed a lot of focus on creativity, sustainability and respect for local ingredients. One of their end-of-course assignments was to come up with their very own street food recipes using prized local ingredients. Once the recipes were shortlisted to eight good ones, they were tested and re-tested, improving them a little each time after we got in everyone’s feedback.

 The idea for L-Ikla t-Tajba started when Valletta 2018 had organised a series of brainstorming events to gather ideas to compile the bid-book which got Malta accepted. Thanks to the input of all parties involved, the idea has developed into where we are today, and we hope to be able to develop it further once this phase of it is over.

David kindly agreed to share the recipe that most intrigued me – to get a taste of this and the other recipes, visit the L-Ikla t-Tajba! stand on Saturday 4th October. Bon Apetit Malta 🙂


Ġbejna moqlija bil-ġell tar-rummien – Fried cheeselet with pomegranate gel
(Josue Galea)
Inspired by French cuisine, deep fried breaded fresh ġbejna is probably one of Malta’s most modern traditional dishes. We’ve made it a tad more contemporary. With pomegranate being in season, we thought of a nice modernist gel to go with the cheese. Josue is probably the first Maltese teenager using agar agar in a kitchen. Kudos. For a crunchier finish, the breading is being made with crushed galletti. This is so worth a try.


4 fresh Gozitan sheep’s cheeselets
2 large eggs
200g flour
200g breadcrumbs
300g galletti, powdered

For the pomegranate sauce:

Seeds of 1 pomegranate
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
200ml water
300mg agar-agar


1. Place the cheeselets on perforated gastro dishes, cover under a lid and chill
2. Blend the pomegranate with water, lemon and salt
3. Strain liquid and bring to a boil
4. Dissolve the agar-agar and remove from heat
5. Chill and allow to set
6. Blend and transfer in squeezy bottles
7. 3 hours before service, bread the cheeselets in flour first, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs, in egg again and in crushed galletti
8. Deep fry at 180°C and serve with pomegranate gel

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Ah! the joy of pie!

For the filling, you will need:

250g ricotta

3-4 eggs

bunch of fresh coriander or parsley, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1 medium- large courgette, finely grated

salt and pepper to taste

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I bought ready made pastry dough from my pastizzar (if you’re not from Malta or not familiar with the concept, this is a person who prepares savoury pastries) which was conveniently ready-to-use and delicious. I asked for the one they use to make qassatat (little traditional pie generally filled with ricotta or pea mixture; other varieties exist such as the ones with spinach and anchovies) as I prefer that to the more oily one used for pastizzi (cheese or pea cakes made with a flaky puff pastry of sorts). Brief lesson in Maltese street food over 🙂

Incidentally, I will be sampling some of Marilu’s (new) delicious creations soon. In the meantime, you can have a look at her products here.

Anyway if you’re going to make this pastry yourself here is a useful link for such shortcrust pastry, as well as some tips on making pastry in general.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix all the ingredients for your filling together, starting with the eggs to make sure they’re ok before adding everything (also just in case you need to remove any bits of shell!).

Lightly butter/oil your baking dish, then roll out the pastry to fit. I chose not to cover my pie filling, so used pastry only on the bottom, but you may form a lid too if you wish. Trim off any excess pastry with a sharp knife and then use a fork to prick a couple of holes in the bottom of it.

Place baking beans in your dish and bake for about 10 minutes until the pastry starts to cook.

Add the filling and return to the oven for a further 45 minutes or until firm and starting to brown. Oh, I almost forgot this part. As you can see in the photo above, I placed a few slices on gammon before adding the filling. It’s something my mum does and it gives the pie that special something. I’m not sure if that part is traditional 🙂

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