A traditional Maltese hearty comforting soup made with fresh vegetables. In the soppa tal-armla it is customary to add eggs and the popular Maltese cheese ġbejna at the end.
During winter, this soup is a staple which every household makes as it’s considered part of the Maltese comfort foods. Today I will be sharing with you this recipe but keep in mind that this is the version my mother makes. There are plenty of other versions out there and every one puts in it what they prefer. Consequently, I will be putting below a section for substitutions or additions that also go magnificently in this soup. Essentially all you need are some vegetables together with local cheese and eggs to make it more hearty. This is the reason why this soup is named Soppa tal-armla, which translates to widow’s soup, since it uses basic – hence, cheap – ingredients, where one could feed a whole family with few money.
I have to admit that when I was young, cooked vegetables weren’t my favourite. I could eat them raw but once these were given to me cooked, I would put all the ugly faces. However, this soup was an exception! Whenever my mother gave me this soup or the brodu (Maltese traditional broth), I always ate them gladly. I believe that I used to eat this widow’s soup willingly since it came with a huge piece of fresh Maltese cheese ġbejna and a poached egg! Two ingredients that I love! They kind of distracted me from the fact that I was eating a plate full of vegetables.
Fun fact: The most famous name for this recipe is Widow’s soup or in Maltese, soppa tal-armla. However, in many Maltese families, including mine, it is also known as ‘it-Toqlija’.
Substitutions or Additions
This soup has a huge list of ingredients, which you can further expand! The basic ingredients which one shouldn’t miss, so as to keep it traditional as possible, and as these are available throughout all the year around the world, are: cauliflower, potatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste and carrots. In my family’s recipe another ingredient which is always present, is a diced marrow (from the courgette family). Other additions which I’ve seen people include that work well are kohlrabi, courgette and celery.
Another ingredient which is widely loved and enjoyed in Malta, and hence also usually included in this soup, are the broad beans. However, if you cannot find these delicious green fresh broad beans you can easily substitute them with fresh or frozen peas. If you really wish to deeply enjoy this soppa tal-armla, you shouldn’t skimp on the eggs and fresh cheese! However I know that the Maltese cheese (ġbejna) isn’t available worldwide, hence if you aren’t able to get your hands on it, simply substitute it with fresh ricotta or goat cheese.
Soppa tal-armla (Widow’s Soup)
- 1 white onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 500 g cauliflower chopped into florets
- 150 g carrots chopped
- 300 g potatoes chopped
- 1 marrow chopped
- 100 g broad beans or peas
- 750 ml water
- 1 vegetable cube
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 eggs
- 4 ġbejniet
- In a large pot on medium heat, add some olive oil and fry the onion until softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots and marrow and fry further until they soften.
- Add the cauliflower, potatoes and broad beans to the pot and mix well. Let everything cook for about 5 minutes. (If you are going to use peas instead of broad beans only add them towards the end of the cooking and not at this stage.)
- Once all the vegetables have been cooking gently, add the tomato paste and the vegetable cube and mix well. Add the water. The water has to cover all the vegetables completely.
- Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Once it's boiling, lower the temperature and let it simmer while covering the pot with a lid for about 30 minutes. Half way through the cooking, I like to gently mash some of the vegetables. However, this depends on how you like your soup.
- In the last ten minutes of the cooking, crack and add the eggs to the soup, cover the pot and let them cook.
- Once cooked, scoop them out and set them aside. Add the ġbejniet one by one, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the cooked eggs back in and let it rest for about 5 minutes. For each person, serve the soup with an egg and a ġbejna topped on top, or else serve the latter two on the side in a plate.
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
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