Restaurants on the Edge by Netflix
When strolling along the coasts of Malta and Gozo, one stumbles upon the gorgeous salt pans. One of those salt pans is located in Xwejni Bay, Gozo. Recently featured in Netflix series ‘Restaurants on the Edge’, family business Xwejni Salt Pans is spreading the word about the tradition and history behind the production of salt.
To breathe new life into seafood restaurant Haber 16, celebrated chef Dennis Prescott searches all over Malta to find the highest quality ingredients for delicious dishes. He makes his way to Xwejni Bay on the North coast of Gozo, where the Cini family has been harvesting salt for five generations. The salt pans are stretched along the coast, where sea water, wind and the sun combined turn the bay into the perfect place to gather salt from the Mediterranean sea.
The tradition of salt harvesting has been running in the family since 1860, and the Cinis continue to work hard and silently, with humility. People use salt on a daily basis as a common household ingredient, yet most do not see the labour intensive work behind a single flake of salt. Today, salt is easily one of the most important ingredients in the world, as it brings out flavour in food. But in fact, back in the days the ancient Romans used salt as a currency to pay soldiers.
The family behind Xwejni Salt Pans harvests salt in the most natural and traditional way possible, ensuring that it is the purest and highest quality salt. The key of the process is simplicity: all it needs is sea water, sun, wind and a lot of time.
As the salt crevices fill up with sea water, the sun shines down on them and evaporates the water. Slowly but surely the salt pans turn shiny, and after three days the salt starts showing. Also called ‘summer snow’, the sparkling salt covers the whole area. After eight days, it is ready to be extracted. That is when the Cinis grab their brooms and start collecting heaps of natural sea salt.
As Josephine Xuereb says herself in the Netflix episode, the most simple and genuine things are the most extraordinary in life – just like their salt. Salt work brings the Gozitans back in touch with where sea salt comes from.
Photo taken from: https://www.facebook.com/dennistheprescott/photos/a.708451665918974/2827290910701695
And that is what you taste in good food. The passion and hard work that goes into ingredients is one of the most important things. Using salt from the Xwejni Salt Pans, chef Dennis prepared an incredible salt-crusted fish, caught in the local waters. Seasoning makes the meal and besides the naturally harvested salt, Dennis uses lemon, fennel and rosemary to add the final touch.
Dennis emphasizes the essence of the meal: it is an experience at the table, meant for a family and a communal style. The history and tradition of the salt can be tasted all the way from the Xwejni Salt Pans to the taste buds.
Article written by: Belle de Jong