A Ġbejna or cheeselet refers to a small round cheese made in Malta from sheep milk, salt and rennet. Ġbejniet are prepared and served in a variety of forms: fresh (friski), sundried (bajda or t’Għawdex – from the sister island Gozo) or peppered (tal-bżar). The fresh variety have a smooth texture and a milky flavour and are kept in a way similar to mozzarella – hence they are also often called tal-Ilma (from the ‘water’). The sundried variety have a more definite, almost musky taste, and are fairly hard. The peppered variety are covered in crushed black pepper and cured, after which they may be stored in oil or pickled in vinegar. The milk’s origin for Ġbejniet is either sheep, cow or goats milk. Often added to pasta dishes, soup or on pizza as topping, these delicious little cheeselets are added to enhance the dishes flavour. I also love eating them with fresh soft Maltese bread, dripped with local olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.
Today, however, our Ġbejna will star served to a lovely vegetable cous cous, a simple but oh so yum dish.
- 1 medium sized tomato, deseeded and diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 shallot, peeled and diced
- 1/2 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic
- a couple of slices of aubergine, about 1cm thick- diced
- pepper, salt, dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, ras-el-hannout
- 1 Ġbejna friska
- 75gr couscous
- enough veggie stock to cover the couscous
- some olive oil
In a large pan, heat up some olive oil and add the shallot, bell pepper, aubergine and carrot and cook on a medium heat until softened. Then add on your garlic and herbs – these can be pepper & salt (of course!), thyme, rosemary, ras-el-hannout, and even cayenne or paprika powder if you like a good kick to it. Once softened, take off the heat and set aside.
In mean time, heat up the vegetable stock and add the couscous to a shallow bowl. Poor the now hot veggie stock over the couscous and cover it, so it can gently absorb the flavour of the stock as well as soften and swell.
To prepare for serving, mix the fluffed couscous with the veggie mix and heat slowly over a medium heat. Once hot, serve a good portion of the couscous in a deep bowl. Drain a cheeselet from its whey and serve on top of the hot couscous. To add extra flavour, drizzle over some olive oil and salt. Enjoy!