Qagħaq tal-għasel are sweet pastry rings filled with a treacle mixture. Literally translated they are ‘honey rings’; but there is absolutely no honey in the recipe. The main ingredient in the filling is treacle. In Maltese treacle is known as għasel iswed; so probably that is why they are known as honey rings. Years ago village people used qastanija, and not treacle, for their qagħaq tal-għasel. This was made by melting down honey-combs after the honey had been extracted from them. In all probability qastanija is a corruption of the Italian castagna, which means chestnut. It might be that it was so called because the mixture was the colour of chestnuts. But there are absolutely no chestnuts in the mixture. Through the years qastanija was substituted by black treacle. For those who have a very sweet tooth, sugar is added to the filling mixture.
For the Pastry
500g plain flour
3 egg yolks
water or anisette liqueur
For the filling:
400g of black treacle or golden syrup or a combination of the two
100g of sugar
the grated rind of a tangerine, lemon and orange
one tablespoonful of aniseeds
one tablespoonful of mixed spice
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons orange flower water
- The pastry is made in the same way as the sweet shortcrust pastry.
- Whilst the pastry is resting, prepare the filling.
- In a large saucepan put all the ingredients, except for the semolina and slowly bring to the boil. You have to stir all the time.
- When the mixture boils add the semolina VERY SLOWLY, stirring all the time.
- Bring again to the boil. Cook for a further 5 minutes. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you stir all the time; otherwise the semolina will stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Remove from heat and put in a large bowl. When the mixture has cooled cover the bowl with stretch and seal and leave overnight in the fridge.
- The next day, cut the pastry into eight pieces. Roll out each piece and give it a rectangular shape.
- Preheat the oven 1800C, Gas Mark 4.
- Lightly dust a table top with semolina. Take spoonfuls of the filling and curve them into S shapes that resemble snakes. The shapes have to fit the rectangles.
- If you find that the filling is rather sticky, just add more semolina on the table top.
- Place one of the S shapes on each rectangle of pastry. Roll it like a small Swiss roll. Place it cut side down and lightly moisten the ends with water. Bring the ends together to form a ring. Pinch ends together to seal. With a sharp knife, make a series of decorative slashes on the top.
- Put pastry rings on a baking tray that has previously been well dusted with semolina.
- Bake about 15-20 minutes, or till the pastry is a very light beige colour. In the case of these pastry rings, the pastry should never turn a golden brown.