Maltese Bigilla

I doubt there is a party or picnic in Malta that wouldn’t have a container of Bigilla present. It is a very traditional bean spread, made with dried brown broad beans or “Bigilla beans” as I call them, fresh garlic and chillies and fresh herbs. The quantity is large however I have been informed by my Maltese family it freezes really well in individual small containers to use as needed. The brown dried beans are considered the best type to use. In Malta, we eat this on round crackers called Galletti or chunks of bread. It is quite a heavy dip, and the fresh garlic gives it heat. My father-in-law grates his garlic as he says it takes that “bite” off it. You can also mash or very finely chop it as I did. I have put a picture so you can see how fine it is. I cooked my beans in a pressure cooker, however, it is also made using a pot, cooking until the beans are tender and the water evaporated. 400g gram of beans will need about 1-2 cups of water in addition to its soaking water. Some family members do not cook it in the soaking water, but others do. So I did on this occasion. The seasoning I did at the end to get the balance of flavour. To serve either top with chopped chillies, Tobasco or chopped herbs.

Ingredients:

  • 400g dried brown broad beans
  • Water for soaking beans – about 2 cups, you want them covered.
  • 1 bulb/head of garlic, crushed, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli – really finely chopped & seeds out if you don’t want too much heat.
  • 1 tbsp of fresh basil or marjoram
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus a little extra for mixing in case your beans a bit dry
  • salt and pepper to season at the end
  • 1-2 cups water for boiling beans

Method:

  • Rinse the beans before soaking them overnight in cold water. I had mine submerged with about an inch of water over them on top to allow for the beans to expand.
  • Put your beans along with the soaking water and an additional 1½ – 2 cups of water into your pressure cooker pot. Or saucepan if using your hob. (If you remove the soaking liquid then replace the amount with fresh water.) Always check the requirements for your pressure cooker in terms of cooking pulses or beans. Put the pressure cooker on high for 35 minutes.
  • While the beans are cooking, prepare your garlic, chilli and basil. leave to one side.
  • Once the beans are cooked, mash them until you have a smooth mixture. I use my Maggi- Mix on a pulse setting for this as you don’t want it to be a paste. Some texture is good.
  • Now mix in your chilli, garlic basil and olive oil. Have a taste and season as required. I use about a ¼ tsp of sea salt with a large pinch of pepper. However, I do think the strength of flavour from garlic plays a big part in how much you need.
  • Put into ramekins or bowls, drizzle with a little oil and top with either hers or chopped chilli to serve.
  • It will keep for easily a week in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • NOTE! If you find having been in the fridge the Bigilla becomes a bit hard, add a little olive oil and give it a stir before serving just to loosen it. If you are freezing it, I would line your container with wax paper and also place some on top of each portion before sealing it in an airtight container. When defrosting give it a good stir and check the taste. It might need a little addition of fresh chilli or garlic.

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