One of the best things about travelling is the opportunity to taste new food, and this recipe for Bigilla is just one that I 'collected' on my many travels. Bigilla is a Maltese speciality – a dip that is made out of dried 'fava' beans (broad beans). It has just the right amount of chilli peppers added to give it a spicy kick, whilst the mint cools things down a bit, and adds to the special flavour of this deliciously rustic dip and spread.
In Malta, they use the local beans called tic beans, known as Ful ta' Ġirba (Djerba beans) – these beans are similar to broad beans but are smaller, and are darker in colour, as opposed to the pale green of broad beans. Bigilla is served as an appetiser or snack, and is nearly always spread on bread, which makes for a tasty prelude to any Maltese feast that is to follow.
The recipe that I am sharing is an authentic recipe that a Maltese friend gave to me; it’s her mother’s recipe, but she does point out that like any beloved national 'signature dish', the recipe will vary from household to household, with each person closely guarding their own special family recipe with pride. I love the spiciness of this recipe, as well as the subtle herbal tang that you also get.
If you can source tic beans, then do try to make this recipe with them. If not, then dried fava beans will give you a wonderful result and I always add some fresh broad beans in my dip, as well as on the top, to give it a more elegant and light finish. Serve the dip with crusty or toasted bread, as well as sandwich spread.