Lamb, slowly roasted in an ancient stone oven until it falls off the bone and sobrasada, a spicy spreadable sausage, smeared over crusty bread and drizzled in honey are just two of the local dishes that you should look out for on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.
Traditional Mallorcan food is a hearty affair, mainly based on lamb, pork, game and fish and fresh fruits and vegetables with plenty of garlic, local herbs and olive oil. Rice dishes, such as paella, are also popular, in particular a scrumptious soup version known as arròs brut (dirty rice), a saffron flavoured rice broth made with chunks of pork, chicken, rabbit and vegetables or whatever comes to hand including sobrasada, wild mushrooms and even snails.
During my recent visit, food featured heavily on the agenda, as it did on the scales on my return, but I am far from complaining. This is all part of the warm Mallorcan hospitality and everything I was offered I enjoyed from the tapas served while wine tasting at C’an Vidalet to the fine dining at the lovely Hotel Illa d’Or or the picnic-style ‘second breakfast’ served on the vintage yacht the Isabel Maria. In fact, I’ve concluded that food is a Mallorcan obsession; as the English discuss the weather, Mallorcans live, breath and eat… food!
And here are some of the edible highlights from my trip.
Sobrasada, a versatile, spicy sausage
I came across sobrasada in many different guises – in chunks served as a tapas, as a stuffing mixed with pine nuts in mini-cones of pastry and even with baked eggs served with candied onion and honey, as well as thickly spread on chunks of bread sometimes drizzled in honey or sprinkled with sugar.
This tasty sausage is made simply from pork, a little salt and pepper and paprika, which gives it this vivid red colour. Raw pork meat is minced with the other ingredients and stuffed into natural pig guts. It is then cured by allowing it to slowly ferment giving the sobrasada its traditional taste and texture. And it’s so good!
Pan Con Tomate
This traditional Catalan dish, bread with tomato (Pa Amb Tomaquet in Catalan) is simply slices of crusty bread, lightly toasted, rubbed with fresh garlic and ripe tomato, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I came across variations of this a number of times. So simple and delicious.
Cafè Plaça in the main square of Pollensa is known for its pan con tomate or pamboli (bread with oil) and their signature dish, pictured above, is served with small tender squid, chopped parsley and garlic mayonnaise. Other options are pamboli with grilled vegetables, a variety of fish, chicken or, my favourite, melted camembert with herbs.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Unsurprisingly locally produced olive oil plays an important role in Mallorcan cuisine. The production of oil dates back to the 13th century and in the 19th century it accounted for around 80% of the islands exports. When tourism arrived on the island in the 20th century, production rates dropped but now people are seeing a resurgence of the industry. While I was in Mallorca, I visited the Solivellas family and their olive orchards of three and a half thousand trees, the most ancient of which is over 800 years old.
The family has been farming this land for many generations but it was just 16 years ago that they transplanted some ancient olive trees to their land and started producing olive oil, Sebastià Solivellas explained. They now grow 6 varieties of olives which are harvested each year, when they are still green, by laying sheets on the ground and tapping the branches with sticks so that the olives drop down. Harvesting the olives early means less oil is produced but the quality is better. The olives are crushed the same day, just a few hours after they have been picked, which also ensures top quality oil. Using a cold centrifuge system, the juice is extracted from the olives mechanically (without using any chemical agents as some producers do). Only oil produced in this way can be deemed to be extra virgin olive oil.
It takes 9 kilos of olives to make just 1 litre of oil and the family now produces over 40,000 litres of extra virgin olive oil a year – that’s a hell of a lot of olives!
The families attention to detail really is reflected in the taste of the Solivellas oil and I’m going to be very sorry when the bottle I brought home with me runs out, as I love it drizzled over salads.With special thanks to the Solivellas family, Cafè Plaça, Hotel Illa d’Or, Classic Collection Holidays and Enjoy Pollensa. As always, all thoughts expressed are my own, honest opinions.
More photos from my visit to Mallorca can be found on Flickr.