Citizens! It is with great unhappiness that your beloved Leader – the usually hale and hearty TFD! – must sadly report that I am felled with a virus straight from the gaping maw of Satan himself that has left me bedridden and sodden with mucus!
Gross, I know – but also true.
Being sick has left me craving the spicy and easy-to-prepare victuals that can clear my head, excite my fatigued taste buds and not overtax my limited energies to make – and this recipe from the ancient island of Malta absolutely fits the bill.
As noted in this redacted article from telegraph.co.uk:
The Maltese love their food so eating where the locals eat is a good starting point, and try not to be in a hurry. Food in Malta is to be sat over and enjoyed.
Maltese cuisine is heavily influenced by Italy, particularly Sicily, but with a dash of Arab/North Africa and a hefty pinch of Malta’s own. Starters tend to be soups, pasta, risotto, antipasti or dips with bread or biscuits, while mains include pasta and potato bakes at home, but eating out it’s generally meat or fish.
There is plenty of fresh fish. Malta is, after all, a small archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean. In Marsaxlokk in particular, the harbour is full of traditional brightly painted fishing boats, their design still owing something to those great early seafarers, the Phoenicians. Fishermen mend their bright blue nets along the quay and the harbour-front is thick with restaurants serving the night’s catch.
Fish are often displayed whole: you choose your fish and how you would like it. Grilled with lemon perhaps? Baked in wine? Or with a typical piquant combination of fresh local tomato and capers, quite possibly picked from a wild caper bush metres from your table.
Lampuka (dorado or mahi-mahi) is the national fish, caught as it migrates past the islands each autumn using a system of palm-frond rafts little changed in over a millennium. The national meat is rabbit (fenek) which comes fried in garlic, stewed in red wine, or with one of Malta’s many (usually fresh) pastas.
Plenty of restaurants are now going beyond the traditional and giving the local food a modern, international twist as well as beautiful artistic presentation. As attractive as nouvelle cuisine, it is rarely as minimalist. The Maltese like their food not only tasty but plentiful. So work up a good appetite on the beach or out sightseeing then prepare to sit back and really enjoy your meal.
Arjoli is a POWERFULLY flavored variant of the French rouille bound not by mayonnaise but by bread crumbs (which attests to the antiquity of this version, mayonnaise has only been around for the last 500 years or so). Like both rouille and tapenade, it incorporates some fish in the recipe – both canned tuna and anchovy in this case.
Arjoli is usually served with ‘bebbux’ (snails) – however it is really a shame to use arjoli only with snails, especially considering many people are not fans of that ingredient (their loss).
Arjoli can also be served with hobz biz-zejt (crusty bread with oil), cut into small pieces as an appetizer or first course.
My version is resolutely traditional, Citizens – and totally delicious! It does call for one unusual ingredient – chili balsamic vinegar, which you can buy here. 😀 This recipe will be the first thing I whip up for myself – once I can get out of bed, that is…
Battle on – The Generalissimo
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