Extract taken from May's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Mario Schembri's catering experience started early in his teens whilst training with ex-navy chefs at Riviera Martinique. After his studies at the Institute of Tourism Studies, his passion for food led him to a career with various established restaurants whilst also attending several courses in London. From his time with Corinthia Caterers as chef manager abroad, Schembris exposure afforded him valuable butchering and bakery experiences as well. However Mario decided to return to his Maltese roots leading him to find his place as Executive Chef at Ta’ Marija for the past 23 years.
Firm and slightly chewy taking on the flavours it is cooked in, bebbux is one of the dishes within Maltese cusine to be an acquired taste as one either loves it or doesn’t. But for those that savour the opportunity to pick out the simmerd snail from its shell, bebbux is heaven on earth.
Ingredients for Bebbux
2 large onions coarsely chopped
4 garlic heads
A bunch of wild thyme, oregano,
basil, marjoram and coriander
2 fresh chilli peppers
1 can of (stout) beer
1 tbsp rock salt (optional)
1 can tomatoes (polpa)
250ml white wine
Ingredients for Arjoli
6 anchovy fillets
400g tomato paste (kunserva)
1 large chopped onion
4 garlic heads
100gr pitted green olives
150g bread crumbs
150gr crushed Maltese biscuits (galletti)
2 chilli peppers
250ml good olive oil
It is very important that you rinse the snails well either under running water or if possible in sea water. Place in a large pot and top up with double the amount of snails in water. Add all the other ingredients and bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove some of the excessive liquid and add a can of polpa and 250ml white wine. Allow to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Mix everything into a bowl and put into a blender. In the olden days our grandmothers used to blend all these ingredients into a Mortar (Mehriez) and work it into a paste with the Pestle (Lida). Add the olive oil while blending, until you arrive to the desired consistency. With regards to the chilli peppers this depends entirely up to your taste buds as to how much you like your food hot.
You may present the snails in a large serving bowl in the middle of the table and everyone helps themselves to as many snails as they desire and have the Arjoli in a separate recipient. This is the typical Maltese “Bebbuxata”. Alternatively you may serve the snails in separate bowls with Arjoli served separately for each person.
Your favourite wine will go well with this Festa of Bebbux.