Mazzola l-Mazza – a winning recipe

When children learn to prepare and enjoy local fish, they develop a connection to their cultural and regional heritage.

The essence of the educational system is to guide students towards achieving their future aspirations. This principle is exemplified by the experience of twelve-year-old Jake Spiteri, whose recipe made it to the top in the second edition of the ‘Fishing for Recipes’ competition.

This competition, a joint initiative between the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation and the Parliamentary Secretariat for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Animal Rights, was meant to encourage culinary creativity and inspire young students to use local fish.

Jake, a student at the Rabat Middle School in San Nicola College, shares a passion for football with his peers but loves cooking, a trait he shares with his mother. When the competition was announced, encouraged by his home economics teacher, Ms Rossella Cachia, Jake seized the opportunity to showcase his skills by submitting an application.

The competition, open to students aged 9 to 15, challenged participants to create a dish featuring locally sourced fish, aiming to reward innovative recipes that use local seafood. Jake chose to prepare a dish using mazzola (amberjack), combining it with a variety of local ingredients to create his winning recipe, ‘Mazzola l-Mazza’.

The judges were impressed with Jake’s entry, awarding him nine points for recipe preparation, which, combined with other scores for presentation and taste, totalled 24 points, securing his victory. “Winning this competition means a lot to me because I worked hard and prepared extensively for it,” Jake shared with The Journal. “I did everything I could to achieve a good result, so it was very satisfying. My plan for the future is to continue learning in this field and, perhaps one day, you never know, I might own my restaurant!”

Winning the competition was a reward in itself, but he was also awarded a Go-Pro camera. Other talented contestants, like Owen Polidano, who creatively blended Maltese produce with exotic ingredients in his ‘European Barracuda wrapped in banana leaves and papaya fruit salad,” inspired by Thailand, earned second place and he received a tablet.

Raniero Sabatini and Katrina Cini, with their dishes featuring Saddled Bream (kaħli) and Salema (xilpa), secured the third and fourth places respectively and were awarded books.

In reality, all participants were winners, demonstrating both exceptional skill and bravery as they cooked their recipes live at Malta’s AgriFair. This challenging environment highlighted their talents and their ability to perform under relative pressure, making each participant a winner in their own right.

Learning how to cook and appreciate local fish is vital for children for several reasons. Firstly, it encourages important life skills such as cooking, which is essential for personal independence and healthy living. Additionally, using local fish encourages an understanding and appreciation of local ecosystems and the benefits of eating sustainably.

This knowledge can lead to more environmentally conscious decisions in the future. Moreover, when children learn to prepare and enjoy local fish, they develop a connection to their cultural and regional heritage, fostering a sense of community and pride.

Overall, these experiences not only educate them about nutrition and environmental stewardship, but also help cultivate more informed, responsible eating habits.

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