Elliott Richmond aptly named “PapaGee” by his youngest son, (the G referring to the once Ginger hair) had a very Mediterranean upbringing in Malta. This little island is not only steeped in history but has a fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s here that Elliott attributes his love for simple Mediterranean cuisine including pasta, pizza and breadmaking!
Elliott’s earliest memories of living in Malta were the long hot days wasting time on rocky coast with his eldest brother, watching the fish swimming in the shallows in Balluta and Spinola bay, whilst the fishermen would either bring fresh fish in from the Mediterranean sea or be mending their boats. If they weren’t doing that they would be swimming and snorkelling around Neptunes, a seawater pool built right into the bay.
Another fond memory was being sent to the bakery early in the morning by his mother, to get fresh Hobz. Maltese Hobz is a traditional bread uniquely made in a region of Malta called Quormi, where several bakeryies use an age-old starter that probably dates back to Roman times! Hobz is a crusty sourdough usually cooked in wood fires ovens and tastes absolutely delicious. If you can get warm freshly baked from the oven it’s even better, if you can get there early enough that is without having to wait in the queues of old Maltese ladies chit-chatting about how hot it had been and how much work they had to do that day!
The day before a bakery’s dough balls would be prepared in large trays. As they were proven overnight the dough balls would puff up and slightly merge together when they were proved. The trays would be shovelled into industrial-sized wood-burning ovens where the dough would puff up one final time under the searingly fierce heat of the ovens. After they had fully baked the trays of Hobz were drawn out of the ovens revealing evenly baked, slightly charred regimented rows of freshly baked domed bread tops, all neatly lined up together in a large grid of Hobz.
As the bread domes were broken apart into their own individual loaves, they would reveal the soft white dough where they’d previously melded together during proving and were protected from the heat of the oven as they baked.
These little white fluffy dough windows were perfect for little hands to pinch out chunks of soft white bread to chomp on whilst walking back home from the bakery, in fact it would be very rare that mother would get a full loaf delivered, it usually resembled a hollowed-out Hobz by the time Elliott got home!