Those vegan Maltese who miss the sweet and salty taste of a qassata tal-irkotta now will have the recipe to make a healthier version, thanks to Daniel Pisani.

Pisani, who forms part of Vincent’s Eco Estate, an organic farm in Mġarr, was one of 150 chefs from 110 countries who contributed to the first ever vegan cookbook, Plant Based Planet.

For the 27-year-old, it was a no-brainer that his recipe choice was the qassata tal-irkotta, inspired by his childhood memories.

“For me it was my favourite childhood treat and, every Wednesday, my grandmother would bring me one from her village pastizzeria,” Pisani told Times of Malta.

Qassatat, similar to pastizzi, are pastry pies which can be filled with a variety of ingredients, the most popular being ricotta cheese. Vegans do not consume meat, eggs or dairy products, or any substances that are derived from animals.

Pisani said that coming up with the recipe did not take him long, as he had previously experimented with healthier pastries and dairy free ricotta.

The ricotta in his vegan qassata is, in fact, made from almond milk with added parsley.

Unfortunately, his own grandmother, Mary, did not get to try his version of the qassata, as she passed away a week after he submitted the recipe.

“I was unable to visit her throughout the project due to her being in a home for the elderly. I would have loved her to try my version. I am sure she would have been proud of me, even though she didn’t quite understand my diet,” he said.

Pisani, who has been eating plant-based food for the past five years, said the project fuelled his deep passion to promote the Mediterranean diet.

 “As of today, the island has almost lost its touch with its culinary roots and adapted a more British and westernised diet.

“I find it heartbreaking that an island sandwiched between two of the great culinary influences (Middle Eastern and Italian) follows a diet heavily based on meat, full of processed food and little vegetables,” he said.

“The book explores food culture and heritage, and all proceedings will go towards a global NGO – ‘Food empowerment project’ – which focuses on creating a more sustainable world through the power of one’s food choices.”

Pisani said that he is now working on his own local vegan recipes.

“It is pure coincidence, but I have actually been working on a recipe book that is full of plant-based and locally inspired recipes,” he said.

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