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Home made Maltese Bigilla
Maltese ‘Bigilla’ is a traditional Tic bean salad in paste form that is normally eaten on bread
spread with thick tomato paste (Maltese ‘KUNSERVA’). The following presentation is the
traditional home made method and recipe that our grandmother used to make with common
available ingredients, with no modern help like mixers, blenders or liquidizers. And it tastes
better than that one normally finds for sale at local grocery shops or ready made in containers
Tic Beans (Maltese Ful Ta’ Ġirba)
The main ingredient in making bigilla are Tic Beans, known in Maltese as ‘Ful ta’ Ġirba’.
Ġirba is the Maltese name for Djerba, also transliterated as Jerba or Jarbah, at 514 square
kilometres the largest island of North Africa, located in the Gulf of Gabes, off the coast of
Tunisia. In the past, Malta used to import quantities of Tic Beans from there since at that
time it was a staple food of low income families. And since, during the early years of the
Knights’ stay in Malta Vittoriosa was the main port facility where galleons berthed to unload
their cargo, and the port workers that unloaded the bean sacks were usually residents there,
Vittoriosa men were (and still are!) referred to as Ġirbin.
200g of Tic Beans (enough when ready to fill a ½ a Litre plastic tub)
A whole head of garlic
Lots of fresh parsley
A few fresh mint leafs
Salt, pepper and some fresh red hot chili
1. The beans must be left to soak overnight, preferably for 24 hours. After that time, it
will be noted that the beans would have soaked up most of the water and almost
doubled in size, characterized by the beans splitting their outer skin and becoming
rather soft to the touch.
2. Thoroughly wash and remove stalks from a bunch of fresh parsley. Even though the
stalks would be tender, try to avoid them since at the end the paste will not be as
smooth as when the stalks are used. A double handful of parsley is recommended
with the amount of beans used. Finely chop the parsley and lay aside to use later on.
3. Pick a large head of garlic, separate them, peel and finely chop, setting them aside
with the garlic for use later on.
4. Place the beans in a medium sized pot, cover with water, add two heaped teaspoons
of fine sea salt, cover and put on medium heat to bring to the boil. When the water
reaches boiling point, reduce the heat and leave to simmer until the beans are
cooked. They should be done in about one hour.
5. Put the drained beans in a glass bowl and mash them. They will be a little hard at
first since the outer skin of the beans will not be as soft as the inner beans
themselves, but eventually the beans will be mashed out of their skin and they will
then be ready for seasoning.
6. Add the chopped parsley and garlic on the mashed beans. Add a liberal amount of
vegetable oil and work in the seasoning with a fork.
7. Keep adding the oil until the mixture is soft and creamy in texture. Add salt and
pepper to taste; since the beans themselves are naturally a little sweet, salt should
be liberally used.
8. Add the freshly chopped mint and hot red chili to taste and work into the mixture.
9. When ready, transfer the mixture into a plastic container and even the surface. Add
some more oil on top, close the container with a lid and store into the refrigerator. It
should be noted that since the mashed beans (now transformed into ‘Bigilla’) will
keep absorbing oil when stored, as well as the tendency of the oil not to remain as
fluid in the cold of the refrigerator as when out at room temperature, keep moistening
the Bigilla with a sprinkle of fresh oil every time you take it out to take a portion;
otherwise it may spoil and mould will invade the mixture, leading to your having to
throw it away.