Bigilla – Broad Bean Paste

28 Mar

Coat of arms of Malta.

You might remember me being reminiscent recently of my childhood and Maltese heritage? I mentioned a desire to reclaim some of the lost cultural cuisine. Well, I’ve been a busy girl on that front! Lately I have been scouring the internet for some delicious Traditional Maltese recipes that I remember. I also thought some people might like a little history lesson about Malta.

Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, 80 km south of Sicily. It is made up of a group of islands, although only 3 are inhabited. It has a land mass of  just 316km² making it both one of the smallest and most densely populated countries in the world. It has two nationally languages; Maltese and English. Historically, just about every ancient super power has had a crack of owning this expensive little piece of real estate; PhoeniciansGreeksRomansArabsNormansAragoneseHabsburg SpainKnights of St JohnFrench and the British to name a few. After a long associate with England, Malta gained independence from the mother country in 1964 and became a republic 10 years later.

Malta is capable of producing only 20% of its agricultural needs. The rest is imported from neighbouring countries, accounting for the expense of much of the produce available. As such, Maltese cuisine has several recurring staples; rabbit, tinned corned beef, broad beans, soft cheeses (particularly ricotta) and pasta.

Today I am making Bigilla. This recipe was originally posted on Silvia’s Corner. It is a paste that is served hot with fresh crusty bread. I remember eating this as a kid, and the smell of it just takes me right back. Enjoy!


[  SERVES: 2 – 4  |  TIME: 2 days + 60 MIN  |  COST: <$3  ]
[  Joes’ Rating: 3.5 / 5  |  My Rating  4 / 5 ]


250 grams dried broad beans
handful flat leaf parsley
1 – 2 tablespoons minced garlic
drizzle of olive oil
pinch bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper to taste


  1. The dried beans should be washed under running water before being placed in a container with ample water and a pinch of bicarb soda. Check the water after several hours, and top up if needed. Change the water every 24 hours. See photo below.
  2. After two days, the beans will have doubled (or tripled!) in size. Rinse the beans under running water. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the beans. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes, or until soft and cooked. Drain and allow to cool slightly – until comfortable to handle.
  3. Press the beans between your fingers to burst the skins open. Place the bean pulp into a blender bowl, discarding the harder casings.
  4. Add the parsley and garlic to the bowl and a drizzle of olive oil. Blend until smooth, adding more oil if needed.
  5. Season well, and serve warm with hot crusty bread.


  • Joe and I just devoured a whole bowl full of this spread with a sour-dough baguette for lunch! I sliced the baguette into thick slices on the diagonal and popped them into the oven for 10 minutes until crispy.
  • I remember when I was a little girl and Nana would dip the bread into olive oil before putting on the spread. I am not sure how traditional that is, but I would say its pretty solid in tradition. We omitted the extra oil today.
  • I was intensely satisfied with this dish. Joe said it lacked a distinct flavour, and was just “warm, mellowy goodness”, but I could definitely taste the beans. Either way, it would make a great finger food for intimate friends.
  • Diabetic Note: I am pretty sure all that sour dough is going to be bad for me somehow…….. Lets just hope my dietitian doesn’t read this post! (Hi Richard, if you are stalking!) To make this more diabetic friendly, go a little easier than I did on the hot, delicious, crusty brea……………… *drool*
  • Ethical Note: I was really thrilled to find out the beans were a product of Australia! I just got them form a health food store. In larger cities with continental grocers, you may even get them fresh.

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3 responses to “Bigilla – Broad Bean Paste

  1. narf77

    March 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Sometimes “Warm mellow goodness” is heaven itself. Simplicity in a beany bowl. I LOVE broad beans (I also love Brussels sprouts which puts me into the “weird” catagory) and this dip is going to get a trial on the Narf7 use for beans. I have been trying to incorporate more beans in my diet because as a vego, I tend not to eat much protein and so beans are a good source that needs to be explored. Lentils are Satan’s food so that leaves beans (apart from Red Kidney beans which are also Satan’s food…) and I have been cooking up stacks of them whenever we have the wood fired stove lit for the day. I have a freezer stocked with Cannellini beans, chick peas, borlotti beans and cranberry beans and keep finding places to put them. Steve bought me some dried broad beans a little while back but I just remembered them in the store cupboard and I KNOW what I am going to make with them. Thank you heaps for this delicious looking recipe. I am going to try it as it is listed here, and then I am going to (as the Yanks say) kick it up a bit with some chilli, a bit of tahini, plenty of fresh ground black pepper and slather it all over my fingers (as I am off bread at the moment) and savour it slowly 🙂

    • mizrhi

      March 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      You definitely want pepper with it! Chilli may work, but it may be out of character for this. The parsley definitely adds its own flavour, and if you want, you could bring in some fresh coriander (we don’t like coriander so we don’t add it. Its not traditional, but it could work). Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

  2. offmotorway

    March 29, 2012 at 4:23 am

    I love broad beans too – great recipe. And i know what you mean about the bread – that stuff looks hard to resist!


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