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FOOD & DRINK / A-Z of treats

X could be for Xmas cake, but that's too easy, so X is for Xkunvat (pronounced 'shkunvat'). It is a truly festive treat from Malta, pastry ribbons that are served on birthdays. A special flavour is provided by using Maltese honey, which has a distinct tang from the wild thyme on which the bees feed. I'm indebted to Michael Raffael, who tracked down this X- rated entry in a collection of Maltese recipes by Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia.


Serves 6 to 8

225g/8oz flour

30g/1oz butter

1 egg yolk

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

150ml/ 1/4 pint water

1 tbs orange flower water (or brandy)

thyme-flavoured honey

hundreds and thousands

oil for frying

Rub the butter into the flour and add the egg yolk. Mix the sugar with water, and add the orange flower water or brandy. Bind the pastry with this to make a pliable dough. Roll out thinly and cut into 1/2 in-wide strips with a pastry wheel or knife. Pick up the strips and drop them one at a time into deep hot oil. As you drop them, twist them once or twice to make loops. Fry till golden. Put the loops on a pretty dish, decorate with a thin stream of honey and with hundreds and thousands. Serve more honey at the table.