Food & drink
Why we love 'em: Here's the 411 on Malta's favourite cheeselet, the gbejna!
Dried, peppered or fresh and jiggly!

Kristina Cassar Dowling

Gbejniet - local cheeselets - are divine. Fullstop. Ending this write up here is good enough for the casual gbejna eater but for those whose life is gbejna, for those who’ve got gbejna blood in their veins, ahh, the story is far longer.

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There are so many variations of gbejna, you’ve really got to know your stuff when dealing with a true connoisseur. It all starts with the milk of choice - sheep's or goat's and, now, even cow's milk. If you’re hunting down your gbejniet from a local street vendor or green grocer you’re probably dealing with goat or sheep cheeselets. Cow’s milk cheeselets are larger in size and are produced by Malta’s milk bearing company - Benna.

Making gbejniet is quite an easy task: once you’ve chosen your milk, measure out four litres, full fat works best, and add one teaspoon of rennet once your milky pot gets lukewarm. You’ll notice your milk will start to coagulate and eventually form a solid gloopy solution. This is the good stuff - scoop it up and place it into traditional cheese draining baskets; ask your nanna for hers or order your own off the net. Let these suckers drain for a good hour or until the cheeselet forms - draining the water from the baskets may be necessary every now and then.

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If you’re not too fussed on making your own, grab a dozen from your fav vendor and pick a couple of the recipes below to try them out.

Soppa tal-Armla

A super packed soup featuring typical staples such as potatoes, carrots, onion, assorted veg and of course the coveted gbejna friska - a fresh, creamy ingredient that gives Maltese food a unique flavour.

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Pastizzi tal-gbejniet

Who needs ricotta when you’ve got gbejna? Keep the cheeselets fresh, add some egg white to fluff it up, some salt and pepper, and filo that pastry up. (Did you catch the pastry joke there?). Bake them till fluffy and crispy, pour yourself a hot, milky tea and enjoy as a pair.

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Hobz biz-zejt plus gbejna

We can add a gbejna to everything in our kitchen but a peppered or cured gbejna (or a fresh one too) works really well with a typical Maltese ftira or hobza made using first press extra virgin olive oil, freshly picked beef tomatoes and a chiffonade of basil. Trust.

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Grated over…everything

Why settle for parmigiano (never thought you’d hear that one huh?) when you can grate cured or dried gbejna over your favourite cheese-needing dishes. Plate of pasta? Gbejna. Ross il-Forn? Gbejna. Pea Soup? Gbejna. Seasonal salad? Gbejna. I think you get the picture.

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Gbejniet started off through milk preservation techniques which gave daily life a little more flavour and zing. Our ancestors sure knew what they were doing, so we best keep the tradition alive and add some more gbejniet to our home dishes.

13th May 2019


Kristina Cassar Dowling
Written by
Kristina Cassar Dowling
A local writer in love with the Maltese islands, Kristina is a hunter for all things cultural both in Malta and outside its shores. A curious foodie, music fanatic, art lover and keen traveller with an open mind and a passion for writing.

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