childhood

The shoemaker – beautifully crafted shoes made by my late grandfather

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My grandpa Joseph Scerri working in his roof garden…I love the 60s-style orange shoes which is lying on the floor..

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One of my fondest memories from my childhood is the time I used to spend with my grandpa in his workshop. I couldn’t wait to leave my mum`s house to escape her obsession of playing Barbara Streisand’s songs all day long, and go to my grandparents, especially during the holidays. Between the smell of my grandma`s baking and the scent of wood, glue, leather and clay, this was a perfect playground, compared to my mum`s boring routine. I used to spend hours  trying to make small furniture for my doll house with the help of my grandpa, and sculpting small statues with his clay casts. I learned so much from him and I am sure that my love for practical work and maybe also drawing evolved from these playful experiences. He used to let me paint his workshop door in all sorts of colours; can you image leaving a paint job to a seven year old, given their colourful taste? Sometimes pink, sometimes orange and maybe with some flowers and suns on it as decoration :).  As long as I was enjoying myself and learning something he did not complain. I used to come up with something new every day; sometimes I wanted a bed for my doll, a handmade present for a friend or a wooden frame for one of my drawings. I used to drive him crazy, but he was so patient. He used to ask me “What`s new today Ruti? What are you going to come up with today?” all with a suspicious sweet smile.

Losing him when I was nine years old was one of the most painful experiences in my life, however all the experiences and discoveries continued to grow with me. He did not leave just beautiful memories behind him but he also left a lot of beautiful shoes 🙂

My grandfather was a shoemaker. He used to make and fix all kinds of shoes. He was one of the few shoemakers left in the Cottonera / The Three Cities. Actually there was a time when he was the only shoemaker in Birgu. Although he made some shoes for me as well, I was not lucky enough to have him alive when I was growing up, you can imagine how many shoes I would ask him to make for me. My mum on the other hand was an extremely lucky girl. He used to make her a pair of shoes for every new outfit, including that of her wedding. I am sure that this is a dream come true for most women. Now I am the new owner of all these shoes and I also wear them for special occasions. Apart from shoes, he used to make leather belts, jackets, bags and other accessories. It is a pity that trades like this are becoming very rare. I am very grateful that my grandpa had shared all this talent with us. He was a person who was gifted but  humble at the same time, given that his trade, although requiring skill, patience and creativity, was just a common job that was already dying at the time.

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An interesting detail of one of the shoes…I still wear this one..it is one of my favourites

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Some of my grandpa`s Sketches and scribblings

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My mum`s wedding shoes also made by my grandpa

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last moodboard

Different photos of my mum during the 70s wearing my grandpa`s shoes..she looks so proud:)

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A beautiful leather camera bag made by him in the early 70s

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I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered these. One of my greatest treasures..my first shoes made by my own grandpa. Super cute.

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my grandpa when he was 20 years old

Figolli Easter traditional sweets

Today we are sharing a well-known traditional Maltese sweet, perhaps a new discovery for our followers from oversees. One of my fondest memories when it comes to Easter is “helping” my grandma Bice making the Easter Figolli. I will never forget the table covered in flour amongst other ingredients. I used to love that mess and the smell of almonds and dough baking in the oven. Heaven:)

Later she used to place on the table an impressive number of these almond cakes in a variety of forms and shapes (most of the time symbolic shapes) and cover them in chocolate or royal icing. Obviously being a chocoholic  I used to have mine in chocolate:) As a finishing touch she would decorate the Figolli with tiny edible silver balls and an Easter egg in the middle.

This year I have tried to go back in time by making the Figolli with my mum and my sister in law Maria. I couldn’t resist trying a piece with a cup of coffee and it tastes delicious, maybe not the same as my grandma`s but it’s close enough. This time we experimented a little bit with the decoration, but we have tried to keep it traditional as much as we can. Up to a few years ago in Malta, children (including me) used to take their Figolla with them to the procession of the resurrection Christ on Easter Sunday and when the statue was passing by, they would start shouting with the Figolla held up in their hands, “Bless it for me!”. Sadly this sort of enthusiasm for simple rituals such as this is a rarity nowadays, however it is still a sweet and fond memory of mine.

We hope that you will enjoy and try our recipe so you can share it with your families and loved ones, and you have a peaceful and happy Easter.

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EASTER FIGOLLI RECIPE

Pastry

800g plain flour

400g butter, cut into pieces

350g  sugar

4 eggs

1 lemon/orange (grated zest)

dark, milk or white chocolate  (you can decorate your Figolli in the traditional way, with Royal Icing)

Filling 

600g pure ground almonds

2 drops of almond essence and vanilla essence

600g icing sugar (sifted)

Grated zest of one lemon

4 egg whites

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips.

Add the Sugar and the lemon/orange rind and mix.

Mix in the egg yolk and gather the ingredients into a dough.

Knead the pastry and cover the pastry in cling film and leave it in a coll place for 30 to 40 minutes.

In the meantime mix together the ground almonds, essence, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl. Add the egg whites and mix well.

Roll out the pastry over a floured surface and cut  the pastry into shapes (using figolli cutters)

You will need to pastry shapes for each figolla. Place  3/4 tablespoons of almond mixture on 1 pastry shape . Moisten the edges of the pastry with a little water water and then top with another pastry shape.

Press down to seal the edges together well.bake in a moderate and to slightly hot oven for 35 minutes (until the figolli are golden)

Brush the melted chocolate over the cooled figolli (2 coatings) Decorate with easter eggs, sweets, vermicelli, etc…

Have fun and and be creative when you decorate your Figolli:)

Other related recipes:

http://www.raycalleja.com/gprec06/gp06mar26.html

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