Sfineġ tal-ġbejniet are savoury fluffy fritters filled with peppered cheese. Serve them with a sweet fig chutney to balance out the strong savoury flavour of these fritters.
In Malta we love sfineġ. We love these fritters mostly during the lent period, although you can enjoy them whenever you want. Traditionally, we fill them with either cod or anchovies. However, they can easily be filled with lots of other ingredients. For this recipe, I have filled them with the popular Maltese cheese, ġbejna, which is dried cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Here, I have used peppered ones, however even plain ones will work. This cheese works so well in these sfineġ as they give such a strong distinctive flavour that makes these fritters so addictive and delicious!
Making the Sfineġ tal-ġbejniet
The first step to make this recipe is by preparing the batter in advance. Ideally, the batter gets to rest for about 2 hours before cooking. Start by activating the yeast in lukewarm water with sugar. Once this is all nice and bubbly add in the flour and mix well. The batter should be sticky and stringy. As soon as all the flour is incorporated, season with salt and pepper. Cover the batter, and let it rest in a warm place for at least 2 hours. The batter should double in size. In the meantime, chop the cheese into small pieces.
Once it’s time to start making the fritters, heat up a small saucepan with oil. The oil should be 170°C. Using two table spoons, grab some batter on the spoon and put some pieces of the ġbejna in the middle. With the other spoon, from the sides grab the dripping batter and place it on top of the cheese so that you cover it. Gently drop in the oil the batter with the ġbejna. You will know if the oil is hot enough, as when you drop the batter it should rise to the top and starts puffing immediately. The cooking time should be about 3 minutes on each side of the fritter or until they achieve a nice golden colour. Once ready, I like to sprinkle them with flaky salt. Serve immediately warm with some fig chutney as a side.
What makes it a chutney?
If you are familiar with jams, you almost know what a chutney is. Like a jam, a chutney is slow cooked fruits or vegetables in sugar, however in chutney there is an addition of an acidic ingredient and most of the time it’s vinegar. Chutney can be served as a condiment or as a side to a dish.
How to make this fig chutney
Start by chopping up your figs. Here I used dried figs, although you can make this with fresh figs. For dried figs you will need to chop them into small bits, whereas if you use fresh figs you can leave them bigger. Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and over medium heat let it boil slightly. Once it starts bubbling, lower the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. You might need to add some extra water, especially if using dried figs. Once you have a jammy texture, it’s done. You can either leave it as is, or else pulse it in a food processor for a smoother chutney.
What cheese can I use in these fritters?
If you do not have access to these ġbejniet, you can substitute with most hard cheeses. Ideally, the cheese you use is low moisture as this reduces the melting process and creates less issues with frying these fritters. Cheese which would work wonderfully in these fritters are pecorino, provolone, scamorza, kefalotiri, halloumi, gouda, comté or asiago.
How to use this fig chutney?
Fig chutney is a sweet chutney that I like to pair with particular salty foods, such as these fritters. This chutney goes well in a cheese platter, or even as a topping to your sandwich. If you like to make further use of this chutney, it will work phenomenal with some olive oil as a marinade for pork or chicken. The possibilities are endless.
How to store the sfineġ?
Sfineġ are made to be eaten immediately, as they will get soggy and oily if you let them stand. Therefore, I only recommend that you make them when you are going to eat them.
Sfineġ tal-Ġbejniet with Fig Chutney
- 250 g plain flour
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 100 g peppered ġbejna chopped
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 250 g dried figs chopped
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 cup water more if needed
- zest and juice of an orange
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a slight boil. Reduce to low heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and take out the cinnamon stick.
- If you like a chunky chutney leave it as is, or else, pulse it in a food processor until you reach your favourite consistency.
- Place in sterilised airtight jars and seal tight.
- In a large bowl, start by activating the yeast in lukewarm water together with the sugar. Let them activate for about 5 minutes.
- Add the flour to the yeast mixture and mix well. It has to be really loose without any clumps. It should look like a stretchy batter. If your consistency is more dough-like add more water.
- Once you achieve the desired consistency, add the salt and pepper, and mix well.
- Cover the bowl and let it rest for about 2 hours in a warm place. The batter should be all bubbly and double in size.
- Fill a large pot with vegetable oil, pour enough oil so that the sfineġ have enough space to cook in, about 7 cm. Heat the oil to about 170°C.
- Prepare the ġbejniet in small pieces and set aside.
- Using two table spoons, grab some batter on the spoon and put some pieces of the ġbejna in the middle. With the other spoon grab from the sides the dripping batter and place it on top of the cheese so that you cover it. Gently drop the batter with the ġbejna in the oil. You will know if the oil is hot enough, as when you drop the batter it should rise to the top and starts puffing immediately. The cooking time should take about 3 minutes on each side of the fritter or until they achieve a nice golden colour.
- Repeat and continue to fry until all the batter is used. It’s important to leave plenty of space between each fritter so that they don’t stick together.
- Drain the sfineġ from excess oil on some paper towels and sprinkle with flaky salt. Serve immediately with a side of fig chutney. Enjoy!
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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