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Maltese Bruschetta (Hobs Biz-Zejt)


This month we welcome a duo of very special Tasty Tuesday contributors: Annie Portelli and her mum Carmen. Annie is our Art Director, working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to bring you beautifully presented content and branding. She’s also an exceptional cook and avid foodie (we eagerly await tales of her culinary adventures each Monday!).

Anyone who has been a visitor to the Portelli household will know that their kitchen is always buzzing! Each Sunday when Annie visits her parents, FOOD is the central theme. Like so many households, cooking and eating together is what brings the family together.

Over the next four weeks, Annie will share a selection of delicious dishes, cooked in her amazing North Melbourne kitchen (she made the terrazzo benchtop herself!) with the help of her Mum, and inspired by their Maltese roots. Today, enjoy their Hobs Biz-Zejt – aka ‘Maltese Bruschetta’.

6th June, 2017

Hobs Biz-Zejt

Maltese Bruschetta, or as it’s known among the Portelli’s, ‘Hobs Biz-Zejt’. Handmade ceramic plate by Sophie Harle, small dish (with olives) by Bridget Bodenham, timber saucer from Muji, and handmade terrazzo-style kitchen bench by Annie Portelli! Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Kitchen Goals

Annie and Carmen in Annie’s beautiful kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Carmen's Preserves

Carmen preserves her own tuna in olive oil with a peppercorn and bayleaf as well as the pickled onion, which is simply sliced red onion in vinegar and oil. The olives used in this recipe are from Peter Portelli’s 2009 batch of green olives. Small speckled dish is Annie’s from Japan, fork by Cutipol from Francalia, and oval-shaped side plate by Bridget Bodenham,  Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.


Serving for one. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Maltese Masterchefs

Annie and Carmen Portelli’s Hobs Biz-Zejt. Glazed side plate by Bridget Bodenham, smaller speckled dish is Annie’s from Japan. Knife from Country Road. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Annie and Carmen Portelli
Tuesday 6th June 2017

Translated to ‘bread with oil’ Hobs Biz-Zejt is a Maltese staple, second only to pastizzi. In the Portelli household, this meal is typically thrown together for an impromptu Sunday gathering with friends or extended family. The best thing about Hobs Biz-Zejt is that the toppings change depending on the season, or which pickled goods are ready to eat! The base of the recipe always remains the same – good quality ciabatta crusty bread sliced thick with tomato paste and good quality olive oil.

Many of the elements that make up our Hobs Biz-Zejt are homemade. Mum preserves her own tuna in olive oil with a peppercorn and bayleaf, as well as the pickled onion, which is simply sliced red onion in vinegar and oil. The olives used in this recipe are from my dad Peter’s 2009 batch of green olives.

Every family does Hobs Biz-Zejt differently but to be honest, it’s hard to get it wrong! Simply pop the lids off your ripened and pickled goods, and start stacking! Cutlery not necessary.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 loaf of pane di casa vienna
  • 3 Tbsp of good quality olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste (from the can is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp salted capers
  • Pickled onion (or red onion), sliced
  • chunky tuna in olive oil (homemade if possible or canned)
  • olives (black or green)
  • fresh herbs (seasonal)
  • Maltese cheese (gbejniet) or pepper cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


Slice your fresh Pana Di Casa bread into thick chunks and drizzle with olive oil. Pop them in the grill until golden brown and set aside. (It’s not completely traditional to toast your bread, in Malta the bread is so fresh and delicious it’s almost a shame to toast it! But we’ve found that by toasting it, you’re able to stack more on it without it all falling apart which is always a win!).

The base is always the same for this recipe, no matter what region of Malta you’re from. After the olive oil, spread your tomato paste onto your bread. Just like Vegemite, everyone has their own preference of the ‘perfect spread’ of tomato paste!

From this point, start stacking your tuna, onion, capers and olives and other gems, which you may have tucked away in the corners of your pantry or in the door of your fridge. In a Maltese household, you’re encouraged to have several slices in one sitting – each with a completely different topping. Just when you think you’ve created the ultimate topping combination, you’ll out-do yourself with the next stack. It’s a dangerous, but delicious game.

This meal is very much about sharing ingredients! Put everything you’ve got on the table and know that it’s hard to stop at one. In true European style, over cater and assume everyone will eat double the expected amount! Allow at least three to five slices per person.

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