This simple dish of comfort food, Baked Rice, is a favourite from the island of Malta. Tomato sauce, ground meat, rice, cheese and eggs are all stirred together in the same pan, then baked until the flavours meld into deliciousness, with more melted cheese on top. A simple, nourishing, and satisfying dish to feed a family.
For our monthly Eat the World recipe challenge we're headed off on another island adventure, this time in the Mediterranean. Malta is a small archipelago consisting of 3 inhabited islands (Malta, Gozo, Comino) and 2 tiny uninhabited islands which are situated less than 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the island of Sicily. Malta is part of the European Union and is considered part of Southern Europe. It contains just over a half a million people and is the 10th smallest country in the world. Due to its time spent as a British colony in the past, Maltese islanders generally speak fluent English as well as Maltese. This island nation boasts a spectacular Mediterranean climate with scenery to match.
The cuisine of Malta has strong Sicilian, Italian and North African/Arabic influences, as well as shades of English, Spanish, and Provençal cooking due to historical colonization by these regions. This results in a rich and varied gastronomy, quintessentially Mediterranean, with a wide variety of flavours. Fresh seafood, island-raised meats, olives, capers, tomatoes, potatoes. In my research I came across numerous versions of comfort food dishes made of baked pasta or rice, rich with tomato sauce, olive oil, a bit of meat, maybe cheese, and the interesting North African addition of curry powder. This simple but absolutely satisfying dish of Maltese Baked Rice (Ross il-Forn/ 'rice in the oven') has hit the mark. It is definitely a new favourite that will appear more regularly on our own table from now on.
Bake This Rice in a Few Easy Steps
It takes just a few minutes to make the sauce - brown ground meat with onion and spices. Add a can of tomatoes and cook it all for a few minutes to make a simplified bolognese sauce. The difference in the spicing here is the hint of curry powder - that's what makes this baked rice dish Maltese (the North African influence). Then, in a magic minute, you just plonk the rice, meat sauce, and a handful of cheese right in the baking pan (no need to grease the pan or rinse the rice). Whisk up the eggs and the water and pour them on top.
Then stir everything together and it's ready to go into the oven.
15 minutes before it's done, add a handful of shredded cheese on the top if you want, and there's your dinner in a pan. Add a green salad or some steamed veggies and you've got a delicious Maltese meal on the table with minimum fuss.
When this baked rice dish comes out of the oven you'll smell that heavenly aroma - savoury and just tantalizing your taste buds - that melting cheese on top and a beautiful moist rice and meat layer underneat. It's part lasagna, part Spanish rice, part cheesy casserole, and all deliciousness. The meat and rice form the bulk of the dish, the slightly curried tomato sauce and cheese round it all out with rich umami flavour, the water helps cook the rice and the egg binds it all together. I love how it can be scooped with a spoon, or cut into loose squares if you want to.
This is the kind of dish you'll want to keep in mind for when the busyness of the fall school year starts up again, or when you're just looking for an easy, fantastic-tasting dish to feed your family.
Thank you, Malta, for a mouthwatering, belly-warming taste of your island comfort food.
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Check out all the wonderful Maltese dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
Sneha’s Recipe: Laham Fuq il-Fwar - Maltese Steamed Beef
Pandemonium Noshery: Soppa tal Armla (Widows Stew)
Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Stuffat Tal-Qarnita (Octopus Stew)
Palatable Pastime: Slow-Cooker Maltese Rabbit Stew (Stuffat Tal-Fenek)
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Fenkata
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Brodu Tat-Tigiega (Maltese Chicken Soup)
Kitchen Frau: Baked Rice
Cultureatz: Maltese Pastizzi Pastry
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Maltese Baked Rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb. (454gms) lean ground beef
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon curry powder or 1½ teaspoons if you'd like a more pronounced curry flavour.
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large can (28 oz/800gms) San Marzano whole tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
- 2 cups (400gms) white rice
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups (360ml) water
- 2 cups (200gms) grated cheese, any kind, divided
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or medium dutch oven. Cook the onion and garlic for 2 – 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
- Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the chunks with a spatula, until it is browned and all of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the salt, pepper, curry powder and oregano, and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes to release the flavours in the spices.
- Add the tomatoes. If using whole canned tomatoes, crush each one in your fist (holding it over the pot) to mush it up before adding it to the pot, then add the juices from the can (or purée the tomatoes before adding, using an immersion blender.)
- Cook the tomato sauce over medium heat, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Put the rice into a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) pan.
- Pour the hot tomato/meat sauce over the rice.
- Beat the eggs and mix them with the water. Pour them into the pan with the rice and sauce. Add 1 cup of the grated cheese.
- Stir everything together, mixing it very well right in the baking dish.
- Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered. Then open the oven and sprinkle the remaining cup of grated cheese over the casserole. Bake for another 15 minutes.
- Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Scoop out portions to serve. Serve with a green salad and steamed vegetables (broccoli or carrots are nice).
- Serves 6 to 8.
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Check out my past ‘Eat the World’ Recipe Challenge posts:
(in alphabetical order)
- Argentina: Red Chimichurri Sauce
- Australia: Anzac Biscuits (Crispy Oatmeal Cookies)
- Bangladesh: Chingri Masala (Shrimp Curry)
- Bulgaria: Patatnik (Savoury Potato and Cheese Pie)
- Cambodia: Noum Kong (Cambodian Rice Flour Doughnuts)
- China: Kung Pao Chicken
- Colombia: Pan de Yuca (Warm Cheese Buns)
- Dominican Republic: Empanaditas de Yuca (Cassava Empanadas)
- Ecuador: Pescado Encocado (Fish in Coconut Sauce)
- Egypt: Fava Beans and Feta
- England: Gluten Free Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas
- Ethiopia: Four Ethiopian Recipes for a Fantastic Feast
- Fiji: Spiced Sweet Potato and Banana Salad
- Finland: Lohikeitto (Creamy Salmon, Potato, and Dill Soup)
- France: Axoa d’Espelette (A Simple Stew from the Basque Country)
- Georgia: Charkhlis Chogi (Beets with Sour Cherry Sauce)
- Greece: Moussaka
- Guyana: Fried Tilapia in Oil & Vinegar Sauce (fish dish)
- Hungary: Túrós Csusza (Pasta Scraps with Cottage Cheese)
- India: Kerala Upma (Fluffy, Kerala Style Breakfast Upma Recipe)
- Iraq: Tepsi Baytinijan (Eggplant & Meatball Casserole)
- Ireland: Dublin Coddle (A tasty Sausage and Potato Stew)
- Israel: Cucumber, Feta, and Watermelon Salad
- Jamaica: Rice and Peas (Coconut Rice and Red Beans)
- Japan: Chawanmushi (Steamed Savoury Egg Custard)
- Kenya: Maharagwe with Ugali (Red Beans with Cornmeal Slice)
- Laos: Ping Gai (Lao Grilled Chicken Wings)
- Lesotho: Chakalaka & Pap (Veggie & Bean Stew with Cornmeal Polenta)
- Libya: Kufta bil Batinjal (Eggplant & Meat Rolls in Tomato Sauce)
- Luxembourg: Stäerzelen (Buckwheat Dumplings)
- Mexico: Cochinita Pibil Tacos (Pit Barbecued Pig to Make in Your Oven)
- Netherlands: Boerenkool Stamppot (Kale-Potato Mash with Sausages & Pears)
- New Zealand: Classic Pavlova
- Poland: Polish Honey Cake
- Portugal: Tuna and Sardine Pâtés
- Puerto Rico: Piña Colada Cocktail
- Scotland: Cranachan (Raspberry, Whisky & Oat Cream Parfaits)
- Senegal: Mafé (Beef and Peanut Stew)
- Slovakia: Bryndzové Halušky (Potato Dumplings with Cheese & Bacon)
- Sudan: Peanut Butter Creamed Spinach & Peanut Meringue Cookies
- Sweden: Swedish Meatballs with Cream Gravy
- Switzerland (Christmas): Basler Leckerli Cookies
- Thailand: Shrimp Laksa (Khung)
- Trinidad & Tobago: Peanut Butter Prunes
- Turkey: Çilbir (Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Yogurt)
- Ukraine: Buckwheat Kasha with Beef
- United States (Soul Food): Smothered Pork Chops
- Uruguay: Torta de Fiambre (Baked Ham & Cheese Sandwiches)
- Vietnam: Caramelized Pork Rice Bowls
Besides the Spanish influence, I can see a bit of Middle Eastern pulao influence there too. Malta really is a crossroads out in the sea.
You're right. It was such fun to explore this fascinating cuisine! I loved learning the history.
Camilla M Mann
Oh, this looks delicious! I can't wait to try it. A pan full of rice-y deliciousness. Yum.
I know, right? There's something so comforting about a dish of rice. Thanks so much 🙂
Talk about comfort food. I am tagging this recipe to make as soon as the weather cools down a bit.
Yes, we'd better enjoy the rest of the short summer - I can see cooler weather ahead! Hope you enjoy the dish once you make it. I know it'll be on our rotation for sure this fall. Wishing you fun in the kitchen!
This could easily become my next comfort dish!
For sure! There's something so homey and satisfying about a big dish of flavourful rice (and cheese!). We love the leftovers heated up, too.
This smelled amazing in the oven and looked very similar to what my nanna used to make, but after 45 mins it was bone dry. I’ll try again with a shorter cooking time or more water next time!
Oh, that is really too bad. There are so many different variables that can affect it (oven heat, age of rice, size of pan, liquid in tomatoes, etc). Hopefully with your adjustments, it will work better for you next time. Thanks very much for the feedback! I'll make a note in the recipe in case other people have the same problem. 🙂
Is the rice put in boiled or raw?
It's put in raw, and it cooks in the liquid in the pan. 🙂