When you find yourself dreaming of the isle of Malta, images of pristine beaches and azure waters may spring to mind. And when it comes to food and drink, you may be dazzled with tales of fresh fish and ice cold cocktails. But, let us tempt you with a delicious afternoon tea - with a Maltese twist. We speak to executive head chef Stefan Hogan to find out what it is all about...
What exactly is a Maltese afternoon tea?
Our afternoon tea is essentially the full afternoon tea designed around an experience that is meant to showcase flavours that I picture in my mind when I am asked “What is Maltese Food?”.
How does a Maltese afternoon tea experience differ from a traditional English one?
The real difference is that by showcasing local, the menu has ingredients that are not immediately associated with an afternoon tea experience. The one that probably stands out the most is the rabbit confit tart with fig chutney.
For the savoury element, we have omitted finger sandwiches as they would not be in keeping with our rustic food culture. So we have an open sandwich, a savoury scone and a warm sheep cheese pie. The sweet and scone part of the experience are again staple Maltese flavours.
What’s the most important part – sweet or savoury?
They are equally important when one is thinking of a package however I personally think that everybody looks forward to the sweet element and here local fruit in season is made into a conserve and in place of clotted cream we serve sweetened whipped ricotta. We have two flavours, a scone made with dried figs and fennel seed and another one scented with cumin and orange blossom flavours, which is usually associated with a number of traditional Maltese biscuits.
What’s your favourite afternoon tea item?
I have a soft spot for the scones - I just love the taste of a warm scone covered in jam and cream.
Can you help us answer the age-old question?... When it comes to scones, do you put jam or cream on first?
I normally start with a spoonful of clotted cream and top it with equal quantities of jam. In my books this is the only way to eat a scone.
Are the ingredients all sourced in Malta? Tell us a little about them…
The main ingredients that can be sourced locally are of course local like the strawberries, ricotta, pumpkin, rabbit, figs, orange blossom and fennel seed.
What’s the key to baking the perfect scone?
Use a good quality butter and make sure all the ingredients are cold. And whatever you do, don’t over mix.
Which drink pairings work well with afternoon tea?Anything with bubbles, Champagne is such a luscious pairing, it just adds a sense of special occasion. At the Corinthia Palace it can be complemented with a glass of Cassar de Malte a “methode champenoise” sparkling wine made exclusively from chardonnay grapes harvested from the Wardija estate of Marsovin.
If you could invite three VIPs to afternoon tea, who would it be?
Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill and my grandmother Jessie.
What’s your favourite thing about Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa?
I love interacting with our guests, discussing their special events and making sure that we tailor the menus to suite their taste.
What does a ‘Corinthia moment’ mean to you?
For me it is a frame of mind where every action and interaction I have with our guests is an opportunity to create a lasting memory.
This year has taught us the importance of self-care, so now is the perfect time to experience our newly re-imagined Athenaeum Spa.