What’s a quick dinner you can make to celebrate the publishing of your book?
marked on the kind of rubbish that goes into some of our sweets as well as bread – ‘all in the interests of saving on good ingredients and making more profit.’ Can you comment on what is happening to the traditional Maltese ‘]ob\a’?
Before the two world wars and even as late as the 1960s Maltese bread was made by the true sourdough method – which means that the dough was raised purely by a lactic acid fermentation of flour and water and the wild yeasts which are everywhere around us. The addition of brewers’ yeast followed late, so that a different kind of bread appeared which is what we in Malta have been accustomed to eating for years. Every day a piece of the previous day’s dough (Maltese “tinsila” – Italian “biga”) would be added together with a very small amount of fresh yeast – so that a delicious sour flavour is present but is not the same as the classic sourdough mentioned above.
Now our ħobża is changing and deteriorating; you might care to ask your forn whether they still use the traditional method. Only a few of them are. Sadly, while in the rest of Europe and the UK people are re-discovering good unadulterated bread, in Malta until recently (the home of some of the best bread in the world ) we have regressed and adopted the disastrous British Chorleywood method which adds ascorbic acid and other dubious additives to the dough. Not only is this method used in supermarket sliced bread (which can be avoided) but it is also used in our Ħobż Malti. Your ħobża might look like the traditional time-honoured loaf but a difference can be detected if you look at the underneath of the loaf and in the texture when you cut it and come to eat it – cotton wool or polystyrene is how most people describe it.
The reason for the addition of these substances is, as ever, economic – the process is much less labour intensive because the ascorbic acid enables the dough to rise quickly (against the timehonoured slow-rise used by traditional bakers) and the other additives increase its keeping quality. It is a sad reflection of our society that we seem hellbent on destroying the good things which we had good reason to be proud of, be it our traditional buildings as well as our famous bread. Of course where bread is concerned it all comes down to profits but I believe most of us would be prepared to pay more for real unadulterated bread rather than the one which is masquerading as a true ħobża. It seems unjust that bread which hitherto has been the same for rich and poor alike has evolved so that good, genuine, unadulterated bread is available only for those who are prepared to pay for it.
The Bread chapter in the book introduces readers to the joys of bread making – starting with a simple loaf and proceeding to our ħobża – though I stress that baking in an ordinary gas or electric oven will not produce anything like the loaf you buy from a good Maltese or Gozitan forn.
I would make either ross filforn or true ħobż biż-żejt for supper (no tuna), with fresh ġbejniet and galletti, and some champagne.
Fish too, is part of the healthy Mediterranean diet