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Malta by Simon Bajada

Posted by Nigella on the 20th July 2023
Image of Simon Bajada's Tuna Tomato Dip
Photo by Simon Bajada

I feel as if I’ve spent the last week vacationing gloriously in Malta, and it’s been such a joy. I haven’t, I should tell you, actually left my own home, but rather been immersed in Simon Bajada’s beautiful book, Malta: Mediterranean Recipes from the Islands. Of Maltese heritage, Bajada actually grew up in Australia, and this love letter of a book is the best introduction imaginable. The food in its pages is both familiar (the historic influences, Arab-Sicilian, Italian, French and English, are stamped indelibly onto its cuisine) and yet feels invigoratingly new at the same time. Just reading the book made me happy: cooking from it has ensured bliss all round.

So where do I start in making my selection from its pages? I think it has to be with the Anchovy Fritters (Sfineg Tal-Inćova), which are rather like little oval-shaped savoury deep-fried salty doughnuts. And then, I think, the Maltese Scrambled Egg (Barbuljata), with its mixture of onion, tomato, cumin and mint; the Baked Eggplant/Aubergine and Onion with Basil; that wonderful crusty ring of Maltese Bread (Hobz u Ftira); Galletti, the essential water biscuits/crackers of Malta (and which we’ll come to again in a mo); Ftira Ghawdxija, Pizza Bread from Gozo, topped with cheese and potato; Froga Tat-Tarja, a Vermicelli and Parmesan Pie not dissimilar to an Italian frittata; Imquarrun il-Forn, a Baked Macaroni that is meaty, tomatoey and richly savoury; Spaghetti with Bottarga and Breadcrumbs (Spagetti Bottarga u Frak Tal-Hobz); Whitebait Fritters (Pulpetti Tal-Makku); Clams with Saffron and Fennel (Gandoffli, Zaghfran, Buzbiez); Sautéed Greens with Anchovies and Lemon; the fennel-seed-flecked and garlicky Maltese potatoes (Patata Fil-Forn), which are thinly sliced and roasted with oil and chicken stock so that they’re both soft and crisp-edged; and a very traditional Rabbit Stew (Stuffat Tal-Fenek). I actually couldn’t love this book more! And I haven’t even told you about the sweet side of things yet, so let me give a quick shout out to the Bread Pudding (Pudina Tal-Hobz), dark with cocoa and dates; the engagingly named Sinizza (think Swiss-roll de luxe, covered in puff pastry!); and the Maltese Blood Orange Tart.

The recipe I’m bringing you today with joy in my heart is Arjoli, a Tuna Tomato Dip that I had for lunch yesterday and today, and will be making forever. I call it the TTT (Tuna Tomato Triumph)! I didn’t have the Maltese Crackers, Galletti, to hand that are used both in the dip and to eat with it, but I can tell you that it works very well with your basic cream crackers! I love this spread thickly on toast or, I must tell you, daubed generously onto a new potato or five. Your summer needs this.

Malta by Simon Bajada (Hardie Grant, £26).
Photography © Simon Bajada.

Try this recipe from the book

Image of Simon Bajada's Tuna Tomato Dip
Photo by Simon Bajada
Tuna Tomato Dip
By Simon Bajada
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