Monday, December 14, 2009

The Seige of Malta

I was talking recently with a Maltese-Australian chef about his 7 month stint back in his motherland. He was telling me about the importance of fresh bread (Hobz) in Maltese culture. He said that in Malta if bread isn't still warm from the oven it is regarded as not worth eating. I asked him if they ever used bread in left-overs recipes and he said they may have stuffed the small Hobz loaves with tomato, fish, olive oil, and herbs. He said recipes like this would have been used during the early days of the Siege of Malta during WW2. I mentioned that I read of cat carcasses being offered as rabbit, he said that even to this day in Malta you always have to check your rabbit carcasses as cat is still offered as a substitute.
Malta was vital to the Allied war effort and came under the sort of sustained attack experienced during the Blitz in London. Malta was highly valued in the Allied war efforts in North Africa as a point of supply and as a strategic base for Allied forces in the Mediterranean. During roughly 2 1/2 years of constant siege the people of Malta suffered terribly as very few supply convoys made it to the island intact. It's probably the case that very little bread was baked after the start of the siege. Locals often lived in caves surviving on minimal rations and many fell victim to a polio epidemic.
Malta has a long history of siege being strategically placed between Italy and North Africa. The local cuisine is constituted of fish, vegetables, herbs, pasta, and bread. Hobz loaves are small with a delicate crust, contain a little shortening, and have a short baking and leavening time.

Good siege of Malta site

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