What’s a quick din­ner you can make to cel­e­brate the pub­lish­ing of your book?

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

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

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