Imqaret with orange curd and honey mascarpone

So I have been studying a bunch of different Mediterranean desserts, mostly to help me broaden my range. Looking through Malta specifically, I came across a really curious dessert called imqaret(pronounced without the “q”). They’re basically these pastries stuffed with an orange blossom-date filling. Some use walnuts, others don’t. Most people fry them, but some recipes also said baking was an option too. They’re classified as a biscuit, which made me wonder if they were like a cannoli maybe? I was super curious to try making them, just because I never had them before, but they look delicious, almost like a date-flavored fig newton cookie, and I wanted to challenge myself to do something I had never done before. Initially, I tried to make a hybrid version of a borek(Albanian phyllo pie), stuffed with that date filling, as my own take on a baked version, but I felt like the date filling, upon being baked, was way too soft and just squished out of the sides of the pastry, so cutting it was a pain the ass. That and I got hell on Instagram from my Maltese followers(which I am actually surprised I had so many) for trying to bake them. So I opted for the fried version instead.

To still make these my own, I made my own dough using walnut flour, just as a nod to the versions of imqaret that have walnuts in their fillings. I also opted to serve mine with a side of orange blossom curd and honey mascarpone, just to tie into the flavors of the imqaret, but to also introduce a creamy texture, and some tartness to the dessert, since dates can be so heavy and sweet, and deep frying them doesn’t help in that regard. I also garnished mine with nasturtium flowers, since they are nice and peppery, so another contrast to the sweetness and the richness, but the color of their petals echoes back to the orange blossom and orange being used throughout the dessert. For the actual assembly and cooking of the imqarets themselves, it was an interesting experience. You basically are frying a piece of dough that has the sides and filling fully exposed. Normally, you don’t want that, since the filling will just leak out and burn in the oil. But with the date filling, it’s a mostly different experience. The dates just caramelize on the exterior and almost completely stay inside of the pastry. Traditionally, imqarets are supposed to be cut into square-ish shapes(since the name of the pastry refers to a diamond shape), and again, I got some shit from my Maltese followers for cutting mine into longer, more rectangular pieces, but it’s not like I’ve got any Maltese ancestors rolling over in their graves over how I cut mine, so I can only give as many fucks as I do Maltese ancestors on that. Well, that and it’s my first time attempting this, so I’ll just leave it as these are my take on them.

Makes about 20 imqarets, or 4 servings:
For the date filling:
1 cup diced dates
juice and zest from 3 oranges
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 tablespoons honey
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon orange liquor
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon anise seed

Combine ingredients and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer together until the dates are reduced into a paste, and almost all of the liquid has reduced out. Pour into a sheet tray or a shallow bowl and freeze until completely cold, but not frozen solid.

For the walnut dough:
1/2 cup walnut flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour + more for rolling
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
3 tablespoons water
a pinch of salt
canola oil
powdered sugar

Combine the flours, olive oil, baking powder, salt, water, and orange blossom water together into a dough. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8th inch thickness. Place the date filling into the center and fold the dough over, pressing together to form a sideways “p” shape. Slice the dough into strips, and score the flap of the dough with a fork by pressing it in. Heat up canola oil to 330 degrees F. Fry the biscuits until they float to the surface and turn golden brown on the dough side. Drain on a paper towel and dust with powdered sugar. Be warned that the date filling, while still warm, can get sticky and may ooze out of the dough if it wasn’t reduced down enough. If that happens, it’s still salvageable, but you’ll just have to be careful with either trimming any spilled out filling, or pressing it back into the pastry using an offset spatula.

For the orange blossom curd:
juice and zest from 2 oranges
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
a pinch of salt

Combine ingredients. Reduce on high heat while whisking until the mixture has thickened enough to cling to a whisk. Pass through a sieve. Cool down completely.

For the honey mascarpone:
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon honey
a pinch of salt

Fold together and transfer to a piping bag.

For garnish:
Nasturtium flowers

Plate the powdered imparts on first, then scatter your nasturtiums on them. In a small jar or jug, add in your curd, then top with the mascarpone and a nasturtium if desired.

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