I’m fairly sure (certain, in fact) that one of the things you’re supposed to do in Lent is fast. So it’s perhaps a bit wrong that I look forward to this time of self-denial in order to make some of my favourite biscuits.
Traditionally, during Lent one doesn’t eat dairy products – hence the using up of the eggs and the milk on Shrove Tuesday. So at some point the Maltese (who rather like their sweet things) came up with a wonderful recipe for a soft, spicy biscuit that contains neither eggs nor butter. The biscuits are called ‘Kwarezimal’, which is from the word ‘Quadragesima’ which is Italian (I think! – or maybe Latin?) for Lent (it literally means ‘forty days’).
Kwarezimal are chewy and delicious, and they certainly don’t taste like you’re denying yourself anything. I usually make these with whole, skin-on almonds, which I roughly grind – but I no longer have a food processor, so this time I used 200g ground almonds and 100g chopped.
Kwarezimal – Maltese biscuits for Lent
300g roughly ground almonds
300g light brown sugar
zest and juice of an orange (or use orange flower water)
2-3 teaspoons mixed spice
water to bind
5 tablespoons honey
handful of flaked almonds
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix in the orange zest. Add in the freshly squeezed orange juice and mix. It will probably be a little too dry at this point. Add water one tablespoon at a time until it reaches the correct consistency – you are after a thick paste that is slightly sticky. Once the mix has reached this stage, leave it out, uncovered, to rest for at least an hour. This allows the almonds to absorb any excess liquid, and makes it more manageable.
2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper, and pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees. Once the mix has rested, use a teaspoon (and your hands) to dollop walnut-sized oblongs onto the tray, and press them down slightly. They do spread a little in the oven, so make sure they are well-spaced. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until they are just turning brown at the edges. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
3. While the biscuits cool, put the honey in a small saucepan and gently heat until it is runny. Brush the biscuits with the melted honey, then immediately sprinkle them with the flaked almonds.
Makes about 50 small biscuits, or 20 larger oval bars. They keep well in a tin.