I love big, clear soups packed with different textures and mopped up with a hunk of sourdough bread, thick with salted butter. Kusksu, a recipe from my roots, is a soup my Mum (and Nona) would make for us at lunchtime on a Saturday, served with goats’ cheese, black pepper and some olive oil, a big vat of this would sit on the side and we’d just help ourselves when we fancied it.
Maltese cuisine has strong Sicilian and English influences as well as influences of Spanish, North African and Provençal cuisines. And this Maltese Soup – Kusksu – is a very traditional dish soup made from broad beans and giant cous cous. It’s usually served with a dollop of Gbejniet, a peppered Maltese goats’ cheese and sometimes a poached egg. Gbejniet isn’t available in the UK so I’ve used a locally produce soft pasteurised goats’ cheese available here in Norfolk from Fielding Cottage but you can use any variety really, as long as it’s a good quality and soft (not the one with rind). To achieve the same effect as Gbejniet, just add lots of cracked black pepper to it.
It’s quite a clear broth so still feels lovely and light in the summer months. The Maltese eat it all year round and it’s a very cheap dish to make.
My local health food store sells giant cous cous but I’ve also seen it in Waitrose (Merchant Gourmet is the brand). It’s really important to use the giant cous cous which tastes more like small pasta beads when cooked and unlike the finer grains of standard cous cous, otherwise you’ll end up with a very soggy soup. That’s not the look we’re going for here.
I’ve also included a secret ingredient to this recipe. The Maltese love to add a touch of curry powder to stews, tomato pasta ragu and soups. They only add a little – enough to give the flavor some depth and edge but not enough so you can actually detect the flavor of curry.
Leftovers: I prefer the soup the next day when the flavours have really come through and the cous cous has expanded a little. Add a little water and stock if there’s not enough liquid.
You’ll need a medium to large sized saucepan and a medium to low hob heat.
~ MALTESE KUSKSU ~
3 handfuls of par-boiled broad beans (skin peeled)
2 small handfuls of dried giant cous cous
1 onion finely chopped
1 carrot chopped medium chunks
1 large potato in chunks (size of a 2p)
2 – 3 tbsp. tomato puree
2-3 teaspoon of vegetarian stock (or 1 ½ cubes)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 large pinches of curry powder
Soft goats’ cheese and sour dough or a crusty bread to serve
Black pepper and sea salt
- Fry the onion and carrot in a generous amount of olive oil, when softened add the potato and garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes
- Fill the pan with boiling water and add: the tomato puree, stock cubes or powder, curry powder, bay leaves, sea salt and pepper. Simmer for around 10 minutes or until the potato has softened
- Add the giant cous cous and par-boiled, peeled broad beans – (If you like to keep the skins on your beans, which a lot of Maltese like to do and you’re using fresh broad beans, add the beans half way through stage 2. If they’re frozen with the skins on, add them at the end of this stage. Or par-boil them and peel them like me and add them now). Then, cook for a further 6 minutes until cous cous is cooked
- Try the soup to make sure the seasoning is to your taste and the cous cous is soft. When ready, serve with a tablespoon or more of goats’ cheese in the middle of the soup (lots of black pepper) and a drizzle of olive oil. And perhaps a poached egg which you can either cook in the broth or if you don’t want to risk it, in a separate pan of boiling water.
Traditional Maltese bread is like sourdough so find something similar as the crusty heaviness is perfect for dipping into the clear broth with melting goats’ cheese.
Norfolk dwellers – there’s a stall on Norwich Market called Norwich Providore who also do a great crusty baguette that goes brilliantly with this #BuyLocal