A meal whose origins can be traced to a time when sugar was more expensive than gold is being recreated at Verdala Palace to the sound of Malta's only male choir.

The dinner seeks to recreate dishes from the 16th century cookbook of Bartolomeo Scappi, chef to six Popes including Pius V.

The Renaissance chef is known for his monumental 1570 manuscript Opera dell'arte del Cucinare, which contains some 1,000 recipes.

The event will be an experience of 16th century tastes

The meal will be served on June 3 at the palace built during the reign of Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle, and the event is aptly called Cena Dal Gran Maestro (dinner at the Grand Master’s).

It is being organised by the Notarial Archives Resources Council headed by Joan Abela, and a team of historians, with all proceeds going towards the restoration of documents at the Notarial Archives in Valletta.

Chef Josef Baldacchino and food historian Noel Buttigieg.Chef Josef Baldacchino and food historian Noel Buttigieg.

Some of these same documents at the archives helped historians Noel Buttigieg and Liam Gauci understand what ingredients were available in Malta in the 16th century, so that they could choose the six dishes from Scappi’s cookbook that will be served on the night.

“The documents show that Malta’s residents were consuming products found in other European cities. These were interesting times, with the recent discovery of the Americas and the importation of new products such as the turkey, and the elaborate use of sugar and herbs. The event will be an experience of 16th century tastes,” Dr Buttigieg noted.

The two historians and chef Josef Baldacchino put their heads together to plan the meal and attention has also been paid to the table decorations.

The set-up will be recreated by another historian and artist Francesca Balzan, while period music will be performed by the all-male choir Cappella Sanctae Catharinae.

Although it is not believed that Scappi ever set foot in Malta, he was chef to at least two people linked to the island.

He was chef to Pope Pius V, who is known to have donated money for the building of the capital Valletta, founded exactly 450 years ago. Scappi was also chef to Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, who once hosted a banquet for Emperor Charles V, the man who handed over the island to the Knights of St John.

The manuscript was published at a time when banquets used to be consist of some 30 dishes, which were not served one after the other, as we are used to today.

There was no concept of a starter, a main and dessert. Instead, several dishes would be brought out and people served themselves with a spoon and a knife.

Stuffed eggplants

(Chef Josef Baldacchino’s method adapted from Scappi)

Ingredients Quantity 
Aubergine  1
Parsley 2 spoonfuls
Wallnuts 40g
Almonds 40g
Breadcrumbs 100g
Pepper 2g
Nutmeg 5g
Cinnamon  2g
Garlic 1 clove
Olive oil 60ml
White wine 50ml
Salt 0.02
Saffron 1g
Parmesan 2 spoons
Eggs 2


Cut the aubergine in half lengthwise. Remove the pulp without damaging the peel and chop the pulp.

Mix the chopped aubergine with the parsley, chopped walnuts and almonds, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, eggs and cheese. Divide the mixture between both sides of the aubergine.

Place in a dish and add the saffron, olive oil and some water. Bake in a pre-heated, moderately hot oven for approximately 20 min.

Serve either warm or cold.

* More information on cantilena.mjcl@gov.mt or Facebook page Notarial Archives Community.

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