Eating up the Balearics

October 18th, 2012

The food of Spain varies considerably as you travel its mainland and Islands. Eating out is a crucial part of your holiday in Spain, so you must know what to expect in the different regions.

So, in a series of features, I am leaving my lunchbox at home and taking you by the hand to different parts of the country. And, what’s more, lunch is on me.

So let’s go to the Balearic Islands.

For many people this may simply mean Majorca or Ibiza. But there is much more to the Balearics than a couple of long term popular tourist destinations.

And when in Spain, do as the Spanish do. Eat lunch when they do. Try to stay awake long enough to sample a Spanish dinner when they do. Sit back outside a local restaurant and enjoy a leisurely lunch.

You may spot some of the rich and famous who own homes here. Or actors and rock stars who have sailed to the Islands for a holiday in the hope they will not be recognised. In my experience that is a hopeless task. Be it Hollywood stars such as Michael Douglas, or long serving rock performers who are famous worldwide, I have seen more autographs signed on these shores than anywhere else in Spain.

Majorca remains a great place to spend a holiday. You may not have been there for decades. Or you may not have been there at all. But it is still a sought after destination and one of the smarter places to eat out.

Educate your palate and, if holidaying Balearic style, try some of the following dishes.

Should you find yourself on popular Islands such as Ibiza in the winter months, and feel a little chilly late in the day, how about sampling some cabbage soup.

It is a little surprising but some of the home grown vegetables are more expensive than those imported on to the Islands. But the people of the Balearic Islands are rightly very proud of their locally grown vegetables.

The soil on the Islands contains more more lime but a shortage of water can lead to the vegetables being smaller than you may be used to when holidaying on mainland Spain.

They remain fresh and tasty. For example, artichokes from these Islands have more flavour.

Savouring Squid

In general, the cuisine of the Balearic Islands is based around what is available at the regional markets. And which fish and seafood has been landed locally.

Looking around you today, you would find it hard to believe that, in relatively recent times past, these Islands were poor. So, historically, the people have made the most of what they have.

I find their attitude to food and diet very much like that of the people of Andalusia. The elderly have grown up making meals from some basic ingredients grown close to home. I love what some people class as the ‘food of the poor’ not least because it is so filling.

Lobster for lunch

And the potatoes of the Balearic Islands are among the tastiest to cross my lips. The weather on Islands such as Minorca leads to there being three differing crops of potatoes being grown each year.

There is no shortage of tomatoes grown on the Balearic Islands. Quite small, and a dark colour, the best ones are called tomàtiques de ramellet.

Palma, the capital of Majorca, has the biggest food markets. However, there are plenty of good markets on the other Islands. For example, you can buy quality ingredients on Ibiza and Minorca.

One of my favourites is Berenjena (eggplant). Served with honey or topped off with some melted cheese, a delight however you eat it.

Likewise fish and seafood landed on the shores of the Islands. Spiny Lobster is a classic local dish. And, for carnivores, the Sobrasada sausage is something you must try. After all, it is the national sausage of the Balearic Islands.

The air here is too humid for ham to be air dried so the Sobrasada sausage is what you should eat instead.

Berenjenas con Queso

It is a delicious sausage that is surprisingly soft in texture. It can be eaten cooked or uncooked.

To be the genuine article, Sobrasada must be made from the meat of local black pigs. Anything else just isn’t Sobrasada. Have the real thing.

The good people of the Balearic Islands are also very fond of their bread. Known locally as coca it can be made with or without yeast and with or without egg. Either way, the bread is then topped up with a variety of ingredients including vegetables, spinach or sardines.

The Balearic people put most foods on top of their bread.

You may go on holiday to these unique Islands for all manner of reasons. To relax, to sunbathe or to see the sights. But, when you go, do not come home without having tried the local dishes on offer in the splendid cafes and restaurants there.

And don’t worry if I am not there to pick up the bill. As with so much on the Balearic Islands, it is sure to leave a smile on your face.

Posted by vernon
Vernon is a London born, former Fleet Street journalist and, for 25 years, a television producer for ITV, BBC, SKY & C4. In 2002 he began travelling the length and breadth of Spain. In 2005 he settled south of Granada, and is co-author of a guidebook to the 100 best tapas bars in the city and province of Granada.