You could eat to your heart's content in Kirkop over the weekend, provided you like irkotta.

Kirkop local council, in collaboration with Maltese dairy producers, put on Irkottafest over the weekend.

The main aim behind the two-day festival was to raise awareness on a dying tradition. Kirkop inhabitants, until a couple of decades ago, primarily used to earn their living producing the fluffy, white cheese.

A miniature-sized farm, complete with goat and cow pens, was set up in one of the village's squares to show how irkotta was traditionally produced and in-keeping with the festival's theme - From The Stable To The Table.

Down the road, gastronomists, teachers and students from the Institute of Tourism Studies were cooking up an irkotta-filled storm with all manner of culinary treats on offer, such as fresh irkotta ravioli, to the delight of visitors.

Stands were set up to inform visitors of the health benefits of irkotta consumption and to sell produce made from the cheese, of course. Visitors could even buy some home-made apple or orange wine and filigree jewellery if they wished.

If they were curious to see how irkotta is produced in the present day, they could head off on an hourly tour to a state-of-the-art farm in nearby Għaxaq, free of charge.

One common misconception about Maltese irkotta is that it is the same as ricotta, when in fact it is not. Ricotta is made from re-cooking the by-product that results from cheese production, whey, meaning it is not technically a cheese. Maltese irkotta is made from whole milk heated in the presence of seawater, which is why it is slightly salty.

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