I cannot remember whether I have talked about my love for the simple ħobż biż-zejt before. I think I did, though very briefly. My search in this blog has failed to give me any useful results, but I will remedy this right now.
I can’t believe there is nothing here about it. Luckily I also have some good photos to show you. The Maltese are nuts about the stuff, and so am I!
Ħobż biż-żejt literally means bread with oil, however it is so much more. Although I am partial to a good sourdough piece of bread dipped in the most beautiful deep green olive oil and freshly ground pepper, you could add a few more ingredients to make yourself a proper meal.
Take your slices of bread (proper crusty bread please), use some good juicy tomatoes as a spread or else do as we do and use real kunserva (a Maltese tomato concentrate which is not the same as the ones you get anywhere else), then top with salt and pepper, freshly washed lettuce, some tuna, olives, pickled onions, plenty of extra virgin olive oil, make a sandwich and apply to face. You just cannot eat this elegantly, and we don’t want elegant here. At all. This is rustic friendly food. Full stop. And there’s lunch. This is the first thing I eat when I go for a visit and the first thing I eat when I get back. I just can’t help it!
- around 400g banana shallots, peeled
- around 300ml malt vinegar (amount depends on the size of the jar you’re using)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 large dried bay leaves
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- olive oil
To make the brine bring the vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, salt and sugar to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the brine simmer for a few minutes.
Put the shallots and whole garlic cloves into a clean and sterilized glass container or jar, and pour over them the hot brine. Close the jar and tap it down. Top the jar with a little more vinegar. Add olive oil to keep out any air. I also find this gives a better taste.
*What is not shown in the very first photo,
which should have been shown but that was the only good photo out of the twenty-something I took is the fact that I had to use a small stainless steel funnel at the top to keep the shallots from floating around too much in the jar. It was such a headache but J was quick to find a solution to this, instead of letting me fret too much about it.*
Store in a cool, dry place, and make sure to write down the date you made them on the lid. Leave them unopened for a couple of months. Once opened I like to store them in the fridge. Which is fantastic during the summer months, when served in salads or better still in ħobż biż-żejt, for which the Maltese are famous for! Remember: the more you leave them, the better their taste and texture will be, so be patient.