Not many of the old bakeries are left on the Maltese Islands but the ones that exist today can boast of still using ovens heated by firewood (tal-hatab). The oven outlet is made of cast iron. Firewood ovens give the pizza a particularly smoky, tasty, crispy crust.

So which are the ingredients that make up a Maltese Pizza?
As a base, like any other pizza, there are the tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and oregano. The other ingredients are: green peppers, onions, capers, black olives, caponata, Maltese sausages, bacon, eggs, goats cheeselets (gbejniet), bigilla (refried beans), sliced tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes. There are many variations of this pizza but what makes it essentially a Maltese pizza are the caponata, Maltese sausages, goats cheeselets and bigilla.

Capunata is a mixture made up of onions, green peppers, egg plants, tomatoes, curry powder, capers, black olives, oregano , salt and pepper which are then blended together and cooked. It is a Maltese speciality which originated from nearby Sicily. It is usually sold in cans or can be homemade.

Maltese sausages, as their name implies, are a local speciality. These can be made using 1 kg. thickly minced pork with fat, 100g salt, 40g black peppercorns, 5 cloves garlic, 5 tbs. chopped parsley and pork intestine skins. Mix all the ingredients (apart from the skins) together. Fill the skins with the mixture using a sausage filler and tie with string approximately 4 inches apart to form sausages. For drying, prick the sausages and allow to rest in a cool place for 2-4 days.

Goats’ cheeselets (gbejniet) are made from goats’ milk. These were traditionally made using sea water and are still prepared in little baskets used to set them in. Gbejniet can be fresh, sun dried, salt cured or peppered.

Bigilla (refried beans) is a traditional dip which used to be sold from carts on the streets around the villages. It is still being sold this way in some villages although the van has replaced the cart. Bigilla is a broad bean pate which is a favourite with the Maltese people. Bigilla is also eaten as a dip with the traditional Maltese biscuits – galletti.

All in all, the Maltese pizza reflects the typical life and food of the Maltese nation. Olives, goats, sea water; all these things conjure up a typically Mediterranean environment with local delicacies which have been handed down from one generation to the next.

{July 15, 2012}