Food & Drink

Mallorcas culinary

Although the first written records of the gastronomy of the Balearic Islands date from the 15th century, the first exhaustive description of the island's culinary habits was written by Archduke Louis Salvador of Habsburg-Tuscany in the second half of the 19th century, and is part of his work 'The Balearic Islands', which is still valid today.

Mallorcan cuisine is a prime example of Mediterranean cuisine and is based on the main products that are grown, fished or farmed in Mallorca, namely cereals, vegetables and pulses, fish and pork and mutton. Mallorcan cuisine has some similarities with Catalan and Valencian gastronomy, the best example being paella, but also its very distinctive characteristics, many of which are due to its island nature.
 

So what are the main local dishes?

Every visitor to Mallorca has eaten at least once a „Pa amb Oli“, the local version of a sandwich. Dark Mallorcan bread is spread with tomato and topped with anything your heart desires. Traditionally with raw ham or mahon cheese, but it can also be tuna, boquerones, sobrasada, etc. It is served with pickled sea fennel and olives.

The two best known vegetable dishes are „trampó“, a salad made with onions, tomatoes and green and red peppers and „tumbet“, a warm dish made with potatoes, aubergines and also green and red peppers. Not to forget the sopa mallorquina, which is made with dried bread, cauliflower, cabbage, artichokes, peas, tomatoes and garlic, and is more like a vegetable dish than a soup in its consistency. Although almost every restaurant in Mallorca offers a variety of different paellas and fideuás (a type of paella based on pasta), „arroz brut“ is the original Majorcan rice dish. Rice, vegetables and various pieces of meat are cooked with broth and eaten in soup form.

A very typical local dish is „frito mallorquin“, which is a dividing dish, either you love it or you hate it. Small diced potatoes, peppers, onions and fennel herb are fried with offal from sheep or pork. There is also a more modern and more digestible version of this traditional dish, which is prepared with fish and seafood instead of offal.

Specialities of Mallorca

The cultivation of olives in Mallorca dates back to pre-Roman times. For some years now, Mallorcan olives have also had a protected designation of Origin, "Oliva de Mallorca DO", which includes the three types of local olives: green, split green olives and black olives. They are exclusively from the endemic olive variety "Mallorquina" and must come from unirrigated olive trees that are at least 75 years old. Most of the olives are grown in the Sierra de Tramuntana on terraces enclosed by dry stone walls. They must be harvested manually, which contributes to their exclusivity.

The type of olive that best represents the local tradition and that is served in every Mallorcan restaurant is undoubtedly the split green olive. In this very unique preparation method, the olives are split with a hammer. They are then soaked in brine with lemon leaves, bay leaves and fennel herb and are edible after only four weeks due to the splitting. There is also a variety of olive oils on offer. With the designation of origin "DO Oli de Mallorca" two types of oil can be distinguished, depending on the time of harvest. The first type of oil, called "frutado", is obtained from green and healthy olives. Its aroma reflects this and its sensory profile has the attributes of bitter and spicy, and it is yellow-green in colour.

The second type of oil, called "sweet oil", is mainly obtained from olives that discolour. Its most outstanding characteristic is its sweetness or softness, with the attributes of bitterness and pungency practically non-existent. The colour of this type of oil ranges from straw yellow to golden yellow. The high standards of local olive oil are reflected in the elaborate design and labelling of the bottles; the bottles themselves are a clear sign of excellent quality.

There is a large number of producers of high quality olive oil:

  • One of the best is the oil "Son Moragues", which is presented in an exclusive bottle from the Gordiola glass-blowing workshop (www.sonmoragues.com).
  • "Treurer DodM" is the prestige oil of the Miralles family and is made from 100% Arbequina olives from their finca near Algaida (www.treurer.com).  
  • The Son Naava olive oil is also made from 100% Arbequina olives in the only biodynamic olive grove on Mallorca. (www.sonnaava.com).

The Romans already introduced wine growing to Mallorca. In fact, for centuries Mallorca has been a highly esteemed wine producer in the Mediterranean area and has also exported wine on a large scale. However, this came to an abrupt end in 1891, when phylloxera introduced by France destroyed almost all of the Mallorcan vines. As a result, a large part of the vineyards were replaced by almond or olive groves.

It was not until the 80s of the twentieth century that the cultivation of vines experienced a renaissance. Today there are more than 70 wineries on the island, more than 500 wine brands and two own denominations of origin: Binissalem and Pla i LLevant. The Binissalem Designation of Origin wine region was created in 1990 and is located in the centre of the island of Mallorca, with vineyards at an altitude of between 75 and 200 metres above sea level. The Pla i LLevant Denomination of Origin was created in 1999 and currently 13 wineries and 70 winegrowers with a total of 444 hectares of vineyards are registered.

In addition to the above mentioned denominations of origin, the wines of Mallorca are divided into three different geographical zones: Vino de la Tierra de Mallorca, Vino de la Tierra Serra de Tramuntana-Costa Nord and Vino de la Tierra Illes Balears. Many wine growers produce only a small amount of wine.

The big ones are are, among others:

  • The Macia Batle winery in Santa María, within the D.O. Binissalem, is a reference in Mallorca, its white and red wines are internationally renowned (www.maciabatle.com).
  • Bodegas Jose Luis Ferrer is probably one of the most traditional wineries in Binissalem. Their wines are a classic among Mallorcans and present in all restaurants, and they also produce wonderful sparkling and dessert wines (www.vinosferrer.com).
  • Bodegas Miquel Oliver stands for quality and good know-how, they produce one of the best Merlot in Spain, Aia, and they were pioneers with their Muscat ,and Ses Ferritges is one of the best wines with the best value for money on the national scene (www.miqueloliver.com).
  • There is also a winery in the southwest of the island, between Andratx and Es Capdellá. Bodegas Santa Catarina, now in Swedish hands.

Pork is the predominant type of meat in Mallorca and the traditional slaughter days have been part of the Mallorcan culture for ever. Sobrasada was born out of necessity, as the high humidity makes the production of cured hams, such as the mainland Spanish staples of Serrano or Jabugo ham, almost impossible because the hams go mouldy. Sobrassada is a spreadable raw sausage, which consists mainly of pork fat, to which up to 60% pork meat is added, as well as large quantities of paprika powder, which preserves the sausage.

There are two types of sobrassada: sobrassada de Mallorca and sobrassada de Cerdo Negro, made from the meat of the autochthonous black Mallorcan pig, which is different from the normal domestic pig both genetically and in its diet. Sobrasada is usually eaten as a spread on dark Mallorcan bread (pan moreno). However, it can also be used for cooking, for example to enhance stews or sauces, or even in desserts. It is often served with honey (www.sobrasada.es). 

Another product that is very popular on the island is the camaiot, a sausage made from selected pork, cut into pieces and spiced up with pepper, paprika and other spices. The result is a heat-treated product with a typical and very aromatic flavour. From its appearance, consistency and a little bit also from its taste the Camaiot reminds of coarse liver sausage. But there is no liver in it. In the traditional slaughtering of pigs in Mallorca the whole pig is used. What is not suitable for sobrasada and camaiot, such as the lungs, the head meat or the cheeks of the pig goes into the botifarró, a sausage similar to blood sausage. The pig is therefore entirely used.

The most famous and traditional pastry of Mallorca is without any doubt the ensaimada. First records mention it as early as the 17th century. It got its name from the lard used, the "saïm". The name "Ensaïmada de Mallorca" was protected as a designation of origin in 1996 and in April 2003 the Government of the Balearics adopted the current ensaïmada regulation, which contains the requirements for the product in order to be eligible to use the protected designation of origin. The ensaïmada was in dire need of this seal of quality, as all sorts of similar baked goods had previously been marketed under its commercial name.

This delicacy is turned clockwise into a double or multiple-row spiral, which shimmers golden brown and has a firm and crunchy texture. Traditionally, ensaimada is eaten only sprinkled with icing sugar. But it is also available filled with vanilla cream, chocolate, or "Cabello de Angel", which is candied pumpkin flesh. Ensaimadas come in all possible sizes. They range from small individual ensaimadas to wheel-sized pastries, which are often bought for parties.

Although ensaimadas are the most famous Mallorcan pastry, they are by far not the only one. Mallorca has a long baking tradition and especially at Easter the pastry shops are full of delicacies. Robiols are dumplings whose dough is also made with lard and which are offered with a wide variety of fillings: fresh cheese, vanilla cream, apricot jam, chocolate, etc. Crespells are biscuits which are prepared from similar dough but eaten unfilled. You can find these biscuits in all bakeries such as La Consigna in Andratx and Puerto Andratx (www.laconsigna.es). Furthermore there is a large number of different cocas, as cakes are called here, every family or bakery has its secret recipe.

The tradition of growing fruit and vegetables in the Balearic Islands is old. However, it was the Moors who really gave an impulse to the local agriculture by bringing their already highly developed irrigation systems to the islands. This enabled them to cultivate even during the long dry seasons and achieve several harvests a year.

In addition to cereals and numerous types of vegetables, almost all types of fruit which are also native to Central Europe are grown here as well. In addition, the Mallorcans grow grapefruits, oranges and lemons, pomegranates and fruit varieties that are rather unknown in Northern Europe, such as medlars, prickly pears or persimmons.

Very well known are the oranges from Mallorca, especially from the valley of Soller. Unfortunately, however, it is also the case that the production of oranges has declined sharply in recent years, as the Majorcan orange growers cannot compete with the large producers in Valencia or even South Africa in terms of price. In 2017, an area of 1010 ha of citrus fruit was still being cultivated, 456 ha of oranges, 389 ha of lemons and 105 ha of mandarins.

In 2006, however, Soller made a virtue of necessity. In order to be able to exploit the overcapacity of oranges, the liqueur Angel d'Or was "invented". The result is a sweet liqueur with 27 degrees alcohol, which is distilled from the peel of the oranges (www.fetasoller.com).

Almonds were already very popular at the time of the ancient Romans. It was probably them who brought this plant to the Balearic Islands. In the 19th century, a phylloxera plague gave a new boost to almond growing, as the majority of dead vines were replaced by almond trees. Almonds are available raw or roasted, with skin or peeled and also ground. They are generally used in pastry-making, but they can also be eaten raw as an aperitif or even coated in sugar.

The importance of almond growing in Mallorca is evident from the fact that 49.7% of the surface dedicated to fruit trees is planted with almond trees.

The Mallorcan almond has specific characteristics that distinguish it from almonds of other origins, such as that it is sweeter and oilier. As a pillar of the Mediterranean diet, their consumption also helps to combat very common health problems such as osteoporosis, cholesterol or diabetes and they are an important source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, etc..

Almonds are widely used in Mallorcan cuisine, the best known example being gató, a delicious almond cake made only with ground almonds, eggs and sugar, often served as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream, either vanilla or almond.