A Menu of Mallorcan Food Memories

Sobrasada in the supermarket

The ubiquitous sobrasada

Before we moved to rural Mallorca in April 2004, we tended to eat in the hotels where we stayed for holidays here. The cuisine would have been international, rather than Mallorcan, and I didn’t eat like a local until the day we began our lives here as expats.

Our plane touched down in Palma de Mallorca around lunchtime the day that we arrived and we headed straight to Manacor, to try a restaurant recommended as “fantastic value” by a British couple we’d met. In this establishment we would eat a three-course lunch – with wine – for five euros. Five euros! We might have paid the equivalent for two packets of gourmet crisps in a gastro pub back in Oxfordshire. It did, indeed, sound like a bargain and this proved to be the eatery’s real appeal.

Sensory overload hit us as soon as we entered the restaurant. The large dining room was packed with people and the buzz of conversation made me think of worker bees in a hive. Waiters bearing plates aloft weaved between the tables and the customers zoning in on the dessert buffet table. Unfamiliar aromas wafted from the kitchen whenever the door swung open.

A flustered waitress showed us to one of the few vacant tables, where we studied the short menú del día and made our choices before settling back to take in our surroundings. The ambience was different from anywhere we’d eaten out in Oxfordshire, but we had little time to make comparisons: the starters we’d chosen arrived on our table only minutes after the order went through to the kitchen.

For our main course, we ate roast suckling pig – a traditional Mallorcan dish that features on numerous restaurant menus. When expertly cooked, the meat melts in the mouth – and the crackling…well, it crackles in a most satisfying manner.

The quality of any dish depends, of course, on the ingredients used and this is related to the price paid. Having paid very little for our three-course lunch, we were not too surprised by the standard of food we ate that day. Suffice to say that we never went back to this place – which closed its doors a few years later.

The Mediterranean Diet according to Mallorca

One of my first impressions of Mallorcan cuisine was that it was as far removed from the much-lauded Mediterranean diet as Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quatr’ Saisons in Oxfordshire was from the above-mentioned eatery.

I could see that olive oil, olives, and tomatoes were healthy local ingredients common to both the traditional Mediterranean and the Mallorcan diets. Combined with the local rustic bread, these ingredients become the popular snack dish pa amb oli (‘bread and oil’). As fast foods go, pa amb oli ticks a few boxes for healthy eating.

But the amount of pork and piggy-derived products in the local diet surprised me. Roast suckling pig is only one example. That ubiquitous Mallorcan coiled sweet pastry known as the ensaïmada? See it being made and you discover that lard is an important ingredient.

Freshly baked ensaimada – a Mallorcan sweet treat (although laced with lard)

Then there’s sobrasada – the cured paprika-flavoured pork sausage that is almost a staple of the Mallorcan diet (and sometimes even makes an appearance in an ensaïmada!). The most common way to eat sobrasada is to spread it thickly on a slice of rustic bread. It would be some months before I discovered that this emblematic Mallorcan product – which has protected geographic status – adds a delicious note when cooked and used in gourmet cuisine.

The role of the pig in the Mallorcan diet became even more evident when we found a good local butcher’s shop, where one counter displayed an array of embotits – cured meats and sausages – all originating from the porker from Mallorca. Pork, lamb, and chicken were pretty much the only options on the fresh meat counter and all had been reared on the island. A neighbour in our valley owned a pig farm and a wagon would pass our house almost daily, taking another batch of squealing piglets to their doom.

Pride in Mallorcan produce

I soon became aware of the importance of the fresh-produce market to Mallorcan shoppers. In Manacor, we often had to dodge the wayward wheels of Rolser shopping trolleys, as we strolled around the stalls admiring the colourful displays of seasonal produce.

Market stall fruit and veg

Seasonal Mallorcan produce on a market stall in November

Early experiences of fruit-and-veg buying at our local market taught me that Mallorcans are rightly proud of their island’s rich bounty of produce. It was a revelation to see shoppers asking stallholders where this fruit or that vegetable had come from before they bought. Not Mallorca? Then the shopper would be unlikely to add it to their straw basket or pull-along shopping trolley.

We have always bought most of our fresh fruit and veg from a family-run greengrocer’s in Manacor’s market square. When we moved here, the shop’s operation was overseen by the elderly matriarch – a tiny but feisty lady in her eighties, with a wicked sense of humour. Her main role in life seemed to be keeping an eye on me to make sure I didn’t commit the sin of buying fruit and vegetables that weren’t cultivated on Mallorca; I needed whipping into Mallorcan-shopper shape. If my gaze lingered too long on plump peppers from the Peninsula, she would shake her head and wag her finger at me, before guiding me by the elbow to the peppers from her beloved island.

The Mallorcans’ loyalty also extends to eating traditional dishes. They may have frito mallorquín or sopes mallorquines at home, but these classics are also some of the most popular choices on traditional Mallorcan restaurant menus.

Variety may not be the spice of life

In our first few months here, Mallorcan neighbours invited us to their home for a buffet supper for a fiesta, adding that guests usually contributed an ensaïmada for the dessert table. Thinking that my fellow guests would appreciate a bit of variety, I made and took a tarte tatin. Though I say so myself, it looked irresistible – but not as irresistible to the locals as the seven Mallorcan ensaïmadas also on offer.

Whether eating out or shopping for food, doing it like a local gives an authentic taste of Mallorca.

This article originally appeared in the supplement Eat Majorca, published for last month’s World Travel Market in London, by the Majorca Daily Bulletin on behalf of the Council of Mallorca.

©Jan Edwards 2018

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Devastating floods in Mallorca

Post updated Thursday, October 11th

Our beloved adopted island of Mallorca is in mourning. Twelve people are now known to have died as a result of flooding in the east and northeast area of Mallorca, known as the Llevant. A five-year-old boy (whose mother died) is still missing. Amongst those who lost their lives – in what must have been terrifying circumstances – were two British tourists, who died in a taxi. Today they were named as Delia and Anthony Green, aged in their 70s, who were on their way to their hotel in Cala Bona.

October usually brings a few storms – often heavy – but Tuesday’s was something else. We had torrential rain, thunder, and scary sheet-and-fork lightning for several hours. Remembering a previous storm that disabled our solar electricity system inverter at great expense, The Boss switched off all related equipment and we sat by candlelight for a while, reading from our Kindles, and listening to the rain – thankful to be indoors.

A disaster in the making

At about six o’clock on Tuesday, October 9th, the banks of the Ses Planes torrente in the nearby town of Sant Llorenç (population just over 8,000) burst under the weight of water: 257 litres of rain per square metre fell on the town. Water and mud surged through Sant Llorenç, inundating some properties to the depth of an average adult’s shoulder height and sweeping away vehicles in the streets as though they were bath toys. The town also lost electricity and phone connections during the storm.

We didn’t realise what was going on outside our valley until we switched our power back on and were able to access the Internet again. The photos and video footage we saw from Sant Llorenç were shocking and, frankly, unbelievable. The storm has been described in the local and international media as ‘biblical’ – such is the devastation.

Many people sought shelter on the rooftops of their homes or in trees; once rescued, they were taken to shelter in the Miguel Angel Nadal sports centre in Manacor. Tennis star Rafa Nadal also provided accommodation at his famous Tennis Academy. It will be some time before many of the locals can return to their homes.

Other Mallorcan towns also affected

Sant Llorenç was by far the worst-affected part of the region, but Artà, Son Carrió, and the east-coast resort of S’Illot also suffered flooding and three of the deaths were in Artà and S’Illot. Cars were swept into the sea in Colonia de Sant Pere (one of our favourite coastal places in Mallorca).

Today, several major roads remain closed. Just outside Artà – on the highway towards Ca’n Picafort – part of the road has been washed away, leaving an enormous hole that makes the route impassable. The scale of this disaster is hard to take in; it’s the worst in Mallorca for 29 years and the third major flood in the Llevant area in the past 100 years.

The town and its environs are littered with wrecked cars and other debris – piled up in places. Although the floodwater has receded, it has left behind a thick layer of mud.

On Wednesday morning, 80 officers and seven vehicles from Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit (UME, Unidad Militar de Emergencias) arrived on the island to join local emergency services and the Civil Protection Unit to help search for missing people and collaborate with what will be a massive and complicated clear-up operation.

By yesterday lunchtime the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, had flown to Mallorca and was in Sant Llorenç to see the devastation for himself.

A British crew from ITV arrived yesterday to film in Sant Llorenç, so UK readers of this blog may see the latest horrendous footage for themselves. Because Mallorca is a popular holiday destination with Brits, this story has been well covered in the UK media and we had calls, messages, and emails throughout the day from friends and family in the UK checking that we are OK. I have also done UK radio phone interviews about the flooding on LBC, BBC WM, and BBC Berkshire, and one on a Tenerife radio station.

Tomorrow, Friday – the start of the holiday known as Puente de Pilar – King Felipe VI and Doña Letizia are visiting the town of Sant Llorenç to meet those affected.

If you believe in God, please say a prayer for all those whose lives have been affected by this terrible flooding. Mallorca is in mourning – and will never forget October 9th, 2018.

ENDS

©JanEdwards 2018

One funeral and a wedding

Butterfly in Mallorca

A summer sight at our finca

Followers of this blog will have noticed a lack of posts recently, but that’s been down to time pressures. I started producing and presenting a new weekly radio show in Mallorca back in April and am also in the middle of an online novel-writing course. Then there’s other family and finca stuff…

Ten years after I had the idea for my first novel, I am finally making some progress in writing the story.  You could have guessed correctly that the Work In Progress is set mostly in Mallorca – this island we love and call home.

My hope is that having made this endeavour public, I’ll be spurred on to keep writing until I can type ‘The End’. Meanwhile, The Boss and I are also trying to stay cool in the heat of the Mallorcan summer, amidst everything going on.

Goodbye Miquel

We had a visit from one of the local farmers the Sunday before last. Hairy-handed José (to distinguish him from any other José we know) came to tell us that a friend and neighbour from the valley had passed away on Friday and his funeral would be on Monday – the next day. Funerals happen very soon  after someone dies here and I am amazed that the arrangements can be made and people informed in such a short space of time.

We wanted to pay our respects to the late Miquel, who had been a kind neighbour – particularly in our early years of living in the finca. Occasionally he would bring oranges in the back of his old white van from an orchard he owned somewhere. Most went to his sheep in the valley but he occasionally brought us some of the best-looking oranges, hooting his van horn outside our gate to alert us to his arrival.

On one occasion Miquel invited us to his apartment in Porto Cristo (just one of his homes) for a paella lunch with him and his wife. We felt honoured to be invited – particularly as some people had told us that mallorquíns don’t usually invite foreigners into their homes. That hasn’t been our experience, by the way, and we have enjoyed warm hospitality from several of our mallorquín neighbours.

When we arrived at their immaculate apartment for lunch, we were a little surprised not to smell anything cooking. Miquel’s wife was relaxing in an armchair and we all sat having a drink and a pleasant chat for a while. Then, suddenly, Miquel leapt up and said he had to go. We had no idea where to, but he returned shortly afterwards carrying a large paella pan covered with foil. He had ordered and collected a paella from….wait for it….the local Chinese restaurant! And it was delicious. That’s one of our favourite memories of Miquel.

What to wear?

We hadn’t been to a funeral in Mallorca before and had no idea what to expect. Our good friends and neighbours Maureen and Peter had known Miquel a lot longer than we had, so we arranged to go to the church together. But what to wear? Obviously something of a sober hue.

I remember reading guide book advice about visiting churches in a Catholic country: no shorts; shoulders – and perhaps upper arms too – should be covered. We also had to bear the heat in mind. Having discounted everything from my summer wardrobe, I resorted to black trousers and a dark-blue long-sleeved blouse from Jan’s Autumn/Winter-Every-Year collection. (I must buy some more clothes).

The Boss wore dark suit trousers, white shirt, black tie, and shoes – but decided that the suit jacket would be just too hot. It wouldn’t do to collapse, overheated, at such an occasion. Maureen looked suitably respectful in a long black dress and cardigan; Peter – whom we never see in anything but  shorts during the summer – wore smart trousers, shirt, and shoes. The Boss loaned him a darker tie from a hoard that rarely sees daylight here. We were all appropriately attired.

When we arrived at the church, it was standing room only at the back – which gave us a good view of the congregation. What a surprise: there were lots of women of all ages in shorts and strappy tops or dresses, men in t-shirts and shorts, and comparatively few wearing dark clothes. Things have obviously changed since my days of travelling with a local guide book!

The short service was in mallorquín, which we didn’t understand, and was unlike any funeral we’d been to in the UK. We left the church rather bemused, but at least we had paid our respects to a man who, during his eighty-plus years, had clearly been well known and respected in a wide community. DEP (Descanso En Paz – Rest In Peace) Miquel.

Never too old…

Happier (and surprising) news reached us yesterday: our farming neighbour Pedro – allegedly 91 years old – has just remarried. He had been a widower since 2015. We have seen him occasionally in recent months on his tractor, but doubt that the new Señora Pedro will be riding ‘pillion’ on the ancient agricultural vehicle, as the late Margarita used to.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Motorsport rally comes to our valley

Rally sign

Unless you’re in a rally car, of course…

One of the reasons we wanted to live in rural Mallorca was the expectation of peace and quiet. I worked for quite a lot of years in radio and TV – environments where you’re subjected to sounds all day. My ears needed a rest.

We were quite surprised one morning during our first spring here to find that our back field had become a parking lot. Who were all these people who had taken advantage of a large gap in our old stone wall to park their cars on our property?

The answer came very soon: the annual Manacor motorsport rally was driving through our valley and the owners of the parked cars had arrived early to spectate. Finding nowhere to park in our narrow lane, they took the only obvious option. Mystery solved.

Revved and ready

Several years have passed since the last Manacor rally came through our area. Further down the valley, some of the water course walls had been repaired and we assumed the local council didn’t want skidding rally cars knocking them down!

Today, the engines were revving again. We had two weeks’ notice – via a large signboard – that our lane would be closed to all traffic except Rallye Llevant competitors between 8am and 3pm. We could either go out early and stay out until mid-afternoon, or stay put. We opted for the latter.

It’s quite exciting when something like a rally or other sporting event comes through our valley. Yes, it can be a little inconvenient for those of us who live here, but it provides some free entertainment and, when it’s all over, we get to appreciate rural tranquillity all over again.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

What do cats’ thoughts turn to in the Mallorcan spring?

Spring weather has finally arrived in Mallorca. The dust-generating woodburning stove (which I do love, despite the extra dusting) is now off duty until late autumn and there have been mutterings of safaris to the depths of the wardrobe for short-sleeved shirts. It pays not to be too hasty though. In England, we remember the old saying “Ne’er cast a clout ’til May be out”. Here in Spain they have something similar: “Hasta el cuaranta de mayo no te quites el sayo.”  The 40th of May takes us into June and, for sure, I won’t be wearing an overcoat in Mallorca then; we can safely assume it wasn’t an islander who came up with that pearl of wisdom.

It’s true that Mallorca’s spring didn’t get off to a promising start but, on the plus side, all the rain has resulted in an abundance of wildflowers and fields of emerald-green crops. The two main reservoirs in the Tramuntana mountains – Gorg Blau and Cúber – are also full, which is positive news ahead of the busy tourist season.

Captured on camera

For a good few days now we’ve had plenty of sunshine and some pleasant temperatures. Yesterday we even spent some post-paella time relaxing on the beach at Muro with Mallorcan friends. I brought out my inner child by paddling in the sea with their sweet three-year-old daughter Julia and was surprised to find the water was quite a pleasant temperature.

The Boss and I ended our enjoyable Sunday by sitting on our back terrace with a glass of wine…and almost all our cats. Our furry felines seem to enjoy being with us when we’re outside during warm evenings. As most of them were born feral, we’re always touched that they stick around – even after they have had their dinner! Once darkness falls and we come indoors, we imagined that the cats reverted to their full feral status and went off on their individual ways hunting.

A lovely Polish couple has recently become our neighbours, although their finca is on the other side of a steep valley from us. They installed a security camera at their finca and sent us a still image captured from the first-night’s footage, which they thought we’d be interested to see. Recognizable by their markings, three of our black-and-white cats were visible, chilling out around the finca‘s swimming pool. At least they weren’t sipping cocktails. So much for feral behaviour!

For fellow cat fans, here are a few pictures I took last evening.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

 

 

No country for old rubbish

Discarded in the countryside

Dumped white goods make me see red!

Exercise is good and, in the absence of a desire to don Lycra and join a gym, The Boss and I have recently set ourselves the challenge of a daily walk. As a writer, I spend a lot of time perched on my bottom – not good for its shape or my general health; this new regime is designed to make both of us a bit fitter (although it may be too late for my derrière). But, despite the benefits of repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other for upwards of 30 minutes, one of our latest walks has made our blood pressures soar.

The cause of our anger was finding two locations in our picturesque valley where people have dumped rubbish. First, we spotted an old fridge that had been pushed down a slope into a field, where it was almost concealed by the hedgerow. Then, further along that day’s walking route, we saw this lot dumped in the entrance to a field. The nature of the rubbish suggests it came from a restaurant or cafe; we have neither of these anywhere in the vicinity, which probably means that whoever left it went out of their way to get rid of what they didn’t want. Shame on them.

 

Discarded rubbish in Mallorcan countryside

Who dumped this lot in the entrance to a field in our valley?

When I first visited the Spanish peninsula in my late teens, on a touring holiday, I was shocked by the rubbish I saw discarded in the countryside. Stained mattresses, disgusting cookers, saggy sofas, and more were dumped here and there in rural areas.

That was quite a few years ago and I believed that people would be more enlightened by now. There is no excuse for fly-tipping in quiet rural areas or anywhere else: Mallorca (and most likely the peninsula too now) has plenty of official facilities (parcs verds) where people can take unwanted items.

Tourists wouldn’t have dumped this unwanted stuff in Mallorca’s glorious countryside, which means it must have been people who live on the island. People whom you’d imagine would want to preserve and protect the natural beauty of Mallorca.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

Learn about the legal changes in holiday property rentals Mallorca

Palma cathedral

Palma’s beautiful cathedral – a magnet for tourists staying in Mallorca’s capital

I don’t usually publish posts from outside sources on this blog, but I’ve been contacted by Spain-Holiday.com about a free webinar they are offering on Thursday, March 22nd, at 12 noon CET. It sounds likely to be informative and of interest to holiday rental owners and agents, Airbnb hosts, and property investors – affected by the latest legal changes relating to holiday rental properties in the Balearic Islands.

If you visited Mallorca last summer, you were probably aware that – like the rest of Spain – the island had record-breaking numbers of visitors. Whilst that sounds positive for a country that relies on tourism, the huge number of tourists and growth in demand for self-catering accommodation caused problems for local residents – particularly those looking for long-term property rentals in Mallorca’s capital, Palma.

The word from Spain-Holiday.com

As a result, the local government has introduced and implemented several new laws to limit tourism and resolve the problem of “over tourism” on the Balearic Islands, with further proposed measures. These changes impact both the hotel industry as well as self-catering accommodation, which represent 84.2% and 15.4% of tourism to the islands, respectively.

Spain-Holiday.com is hosting a FREE webinar on the Legal Changes Affecting Holiday Rentals in the Balearic Islands.

The 30-minute presentation, followed by a 15-minute Q&A session, is aimed at holiday rental property owners, holiday rental agents, Airbnb hosts and property investors in the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera.

Topics to be covered include:

• Current legal requirements for holiday rental properties
• Tourist rezoning areas
• Tax and insurance obligations
• Looking ahead: Proposed measures for a sustainable future in tourism

How to take part in the webinar

Taking part in the series of webinars hosted by Spain-Holiday.com is simple.

Follow the link below to register for the webinar on Legal Changes Affecting Holiday Rentals in the Balearic Islands

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/53198060207512579

Once you have filled out the form, you will receive an email confirming your webinar attendance with a link to access the webinar.

On the day of the webinar, at the arranged time, click on the link in the email which will open the webinar website and automatically log you in where the moderator will be waiting online.

The only equipment required is your computer, internet connection, and speakers or headphones. A microphone or webcam is not required. Furthermore, all the webinars are completely free of charge to attend.

If you are unable to attend the webinar, or wish to watch it again after the event, you will find all the videos of the webinars on Spain-Holiday.com’s industry blog, Rental Buzz, where you will also find information about future webinars and the latest holiday rental industry news.

 

I have not accepted payment to publish this information and share it in the hope that it may be helpful to those readers of this blog who may be affected by the changes.  

©Jan Edwards 2018