Soppa ta’ l-armla (widow’s soup) is a traditional Maltese vegetable soup.  It will take a couple of hours to make, however it is very filling and will keep for a few days (if there are any leftovers).   You will need:

1 large onion

half a dozen zucchini

2 large carrots

mushrooms

a handful of chopped parsley

1 can of beans

1 can tomato pulp

2 tablespoons tomato concentrate

sugar

You may also use other vegetables in season.   Typically this soup will also have cauliflower, turnip and celery –  however we left them out this time. As you will see it is very similar to minestra (vegetable soup) but with the addition of eggs and goat’s cheese or ricotta at the end – thus making it a well-rounded meal.

Start by chopping up all the vegetables. There is no need for them to be finely chopped.

Now fry the onions. You can add some stock, white wine or just plain water to keep them from drying out too much.   You can also add a tablespoon or two of curry powder.

Start adding the vegetables, starting with the ones that need the longest cooking time.   Add stock/water if the liquid in the pot starts to dry out.   Finally, add the tomato pulp, tomato concentrate and sugar.

Cover the pan and lower the heat. Stir occasionally and leave to simmer for about 2 hours.

Now for the best part: About 15 minutes before serving, place a Gbejna (fresh cheeselet made from goat’s milk) in the soup. Then make a hollow amongst the vegetables with the back of a spoon, and carefully break an egg into this. Make one egg and one cheeselet per person.   Cover the pot and leave to simmer. Do not stir the soup as this will break the egg.  Once the egg is cooked through, serve the portions of soup, egg and cheese.

If you have leftovers, leave them in the pot.  Warm up the soup and repeat the egg and cheese procedure again.  This really is one of those dishes that warms you through and puts a smile on your face, even if it’s a cold, gloomy, rainy day!


4 Comments

  1. Posted January 4, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Hmmmm this looks delicious, but i have a couple of issues. First of all mushrooms are most definitely not part of traditional Maltese cooking. And as far as i know (and i’m pretty sure about this) traditional soppa tal armla was made with white and green veggies only – i.e. no carrots, no tomatoes, and no beans (unless they were fresh broad beans i.e. green)… it was potatoes, celery, spinach, courgettes, gidra (kohl rabi), etc… but this looks totally delicious regardless!

    Anyway yeah, traditional stuff like this is made in compltely different ways and is still considered traditional, sometimes it even depends on what village your nanna/mum/whoever passed on the tradition came from! 🙂

    • Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      As you said in your last sentence – a lot of traditional foods will vary according to family variations and also according to taste. It even depends on the season because most people will prefer to use what is in season at that moment. In my research most recipes included celery and kohl rabi – or at least those 2 seemed like the common denominator. In my case I used the vegetables I prefer as well as what was in season at the time.

      The point of the soup is that it was made quite cheaply and it cooked slowly for a while. The ‘widow’ would provide it to sailors as a complete nutritious and warming meal. You’ll find most traditions will start at one point and then end up as a ‘notion’ rather than a strict recipe. In this case there are various things you could change – at the end of the day you just need to use what brings you the best result for your tastes. 🙂

  2. Posted May 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir or Madam,
    My name is Leticia Avierkiieva and I am a contributor at http://www.mycitycuisine.org, a wiki project. I am currently working on an article about Soppa ta’ l-Armla for the project, and am in need of a photo for the article.
    I wanted to inquire in regards to your photo:
    http://honeyandmustard.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/maltese-traditions-soppa-ta-l-armlawidows-soup/
    The photo would be perfect for the article. Would you be willing to give mycitycuisine.org permission to use your photo for the project?
    If you agree to let mycitycuisine.org to use the photo, please specify the terms of permission in your reply so I can upload this photo with the correct license terms.
    1.) I certify that I am the owner of this photo. I grant mycitycuisine.org and its owner to use this photo for any purpose with attribution to me as the photo owner.

    OR
    2.) I certify that I am the owner of this photo. I release all rights of this photo and place this photo in the public domain.
    I thank you in advance and look forward to hearing from you.
    Best regards,
    Leticia Avierkiieva (gourmand86@yahoo.com)
    PS: mycitycuisine.org is a wiki project so you are encouraged to contribute to it by sharing your knowledge of your local cuisine. Thank you.

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