The Fira de Sa Sobrassada de Mallorca

I have an admission to make. This is not an objective blog. Much as I might try to be guided by objectivity when reporting about this island, how can I report without being subjected to my own views, tastes, likes and dislikes. The genre blog gives it away; a weblog is a log, logbook or record of incidents and observations. Sobrassada it is, then. I happen to like Sobrassada.

I have praised the virtues of Sobrassada many times before (here, here and here, amongst others). The pueblo of Campos has taken it upon themselves to organize the Fira de sa Sobrassada de Mallorca, now in its 4th year. From tomorrow, October 20th, to Friday, October 21st, you can smell Sobrassada, taste Sobrassada, buy Sobrassada or even reject Sobrassada as long as you like.

There will also be a Ruta Gastronòmica with the participation of eleven restaurants and eleven bars where you can try Sobrassada amb setas, Llomillo de porc amb sobrassada, Sobrassada with snails, calamares with Sobrassada, bacalao with Sobrassada, Sobrassada con miel, or suckling pig in Sobrassada sauce, just to give you an idea of some of the Sobrassada delicacies. Bon Profit!

The Fira de sa Sobrassada is held in the Plaça de Can Pere Ignasi in Campos. The venues for the Ruta Gastronòmica are spread all over Campos, and extend to the Club Nàutic de Sa Ràpita. Here is a link to the Ajuntament de Campos website with all the relevant information (in Catalàn only, I am afraid).

The neighbouring town of Felanitx will hold its annual Fira del Pebre Bord on Sunday, October 23rd. Pebre Bord is the sweet chili powder essential in the making of Sobrassada.

The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Consell, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: October 25th, 2009. The time was 14:52:37.

The Fira de Sa Sobrassada de Mallorca

The Pastor Mallorquín

If you would ask me what I liked best about Mallorca, I would probably give you a dozen aspects, or two. There are the local Mallorcan people, there is the landscape, there is the sea. I like the light here, the blue sky, the weather and the sun. I wouldn’t want to miss the history of this island, the Talayots, the monasteries, the sundials. I could do without yachts and golf courses, but, I could not do without the smell of the algarroba, the fig tree, the Higo Chumbos, the poppy fields. I would not want to miss the tempting fish markets, the gentle olive oil, pa amb oli, sopas or vi negre. I would very much miss the sheep bells, the high-pitched cry of the peacocks, the elegance of the Mallorcan thoroughbred and the devotion of the Pastor Mallorquín, in the local lingo (Catalan) known as Ca de Bestiar. And I certainly would not want to be denied the local lingo itself, Mallorquín, a language which I love even though I do not speak it very well. I’m working on it, though.

The Ca de Bestiar will have its annual dog show competition, the XVIII Exposició Monogràfica de Ca de Bestiar, in Felanitx tomorrow, Sunday, September 25th, 2011. The contest will start at 10h00. I’ll be there.

The dog show is part of the Fira de Sant Miquel which this year also includes a Fira de Vi i Dolços, starting this afternoon at 16h30, weather permitting.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of es.cadebestiar.de.

Danke, Ana.

The Pastor Mallorquín

Pa de Xeixa

The forns and panaderías (bakeries) in Campos staged the first ever Mostra de Pa Pagès (bakery presentation) as part of this year’s Fira de Maig. You wouldn’t believe what amazing wares they had on offer.

Eight Campos forns participated, with bread and rolls, barras and panades, ensaïmades, cocarrois and prims all baked the old, traditional, artisan way, and they were proud to compete for our custom. I had never had a prim before, apparently a specialty particular to Campos at matançes times and made of unwanted residue of saïm (Castellano: manteca, lard). Great taste. And I had never had Pa de Xeixa, a pa moreno made from the long forgotten xeixa wheat, a blat (wheat) which had extensively been grown in Mallorca until it was phased out as soon as Brussels and the recently joined Common Market got wind of the unruly Mallorcan bread-making extravaganzas.

Up to 100 years ago, some 3,000 wheat varieties were known in Europe alone. Today, we are down to about 24. The Associació de Forners i Pastissers de les Illes Balears wants to reintroduce the Blat Xeixa wheat variety and the bread made from it. Approval is pending. As soon as permission is forthcoming, you’ll be able to buy Pa de Xeixa in your local forn, or at least in one of the eight forners in Campos. I am looking forward to it. The bread is quite noticeably different in smell, taste and texture. When I had my first bite of Pa de Xeixa, I thought the bread was made of flour with added spices or aromas but, no. I was assured that the difference in aroma was solely due to the xeixa grain (see photo top), the natural yeast and a slow fermentation process.

One of the problems in Mallorca, apart from the stringent restrictions imposed by the mandarins in Brussels, is the fact, that only two flour mills remain active on the island, apart from the industrial mills of Harinas de Mallorca who, by the sounds of it, wouldn’t touch the xeixa wheat with a large pole.

Apparently, the xeixa wheat (Triticum compactum) had been introduced in Mallorca by the Romans, some 2,000 years ago. Since then it had been the staple wheat in Mallorca until about thirty years ago or so, when the Triticum aestivum variety replaced the Blat Xeixa as well as other ancient Mallorcan wheat varieties, such as Blat Mort, Blat Mollar, Blat Barba and Blat Vestit. Now, at least one of them, and seemingly the most important one, will be reintroduced into our daily diet, and we all shall be better off for it.

The Primera Mostra de Pa Pagès Campaner will still be on, today between 10h00 and 14h00, in Campos. It might be worth a visit.

The photo (top) was taken in Campos, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 7th, 2011. The time was 13:15:49. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of arcalcel.blogspot.com.

Muchas gracias.

Pa de Xeixa

Sea Fennel

Sea Fennel or Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) is known in the Balearics under the name of Fonoll marí (Catalan) or Hinojo marino (Castellano). In Mallorca, pickled Fonoll marí (see photo below) is a common, almost indispensable embellishment of a traditional Pa amb oli.

One is more likely to encounter the plant in its culinary variation in one of the local markets where it is sold by providers of aceitunas (olives), pickled garlic, capers and dried tomatoes, than out in the open nature. The plant is less abundant than it used to be due to some abusive and uncontrolled picking. Should you happen to find the plant whilst ambling along on a coastal walk or hike, you can take a few sprigs back home and try the fleshy leaves in its raw state as part of your summer salad. Don’t take more than a few shoots, though, as the plant is listed in the Catálogo Balear as being protected by law.

Bon provecho.

The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of luirig.altervista.org and photographer, Luigi Rignanese.

Molto grazie.

The photo (bottom) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 11th, 2010. The time was 12:32:04.

Sea Fennel

Pa Amb Oli

Pa amb oli is in all probability the quintessential Mallorcan food item. It could be compared with the Catalan Pa amb tomàquet even though it is said that the Mallorcan pa precedes its Catalan cousin by about 100 years. It is also, vaguely, comparable with the Italian Bruschetta.

The name pa amb oli means, simply, bread with oil. It is essentially the combination of pa moreno (unsalted brown bread), olive oil and tomato, the latter mostly of the Tomàtiga de Ramellet variety. A Ramellet tomato is cut in half and rubbed over the bread which then is soused with Oli de Mallorca. Any one of a myriad of ingredients can be added to this bread, be it Sobrassada, thinly sliced Cuixot (air-dried ham), a variety of embotits (a kind of pork paté), cheese, anchovies or any other food item that strikes one’s fancy, including peppers, figs, grapes or indeed, sliced tomatoes.

The other day I visited Mancor de la Vall and its Fira de l’Esclata-sang i de la Muntanya where I had pa amb oli with setas (see photo). It was simply delicious.

The best book on the subject, to my mind, is Volem Pa Amb Oli, written in Catalan by Tomás Graves, the youngest son of Robert Graves. The book is also available in English, translated by the very man himself, and is available in UK as well as US editions.

The photo was taken in Mancor de la Vall, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 29th, 2009. The time was 13:28:30.

Pa Amb Oli

Gefilte Fish

arenque

Apologies for today’s misleading title. The fish shown here is, of course, not the Gefilte Fish. I do not know if there was a lot of Gefilte Fish in Spain 600 years ago, before the Sephardi Jews of Spain were persecuted, shunned, killed or forcibly converted. I imagine there must have been, but not since and not now.

Instead, Spain is rather big in salted fish. The best known Spanish salted fish is the Bacalao (Gadus morhua), which is an Atlantic speciality, and mainly at home in northern Spain, in Galicia and the Basque Country, but eaten all over Spain. But there is also the Arenque (Clupeidae harengus) or the Sardina Arenque, a Herring species, similar to the Flatiron Herring. Of course, the herring family also includes sprats, shads, and pilchards. The salted Arenque is also an Atlantic fish, and is at home in southern Spain, in Andalucía, but again, is eaten up and down the Iberian Peninsula. You will see Arenques in flat fish barrels on display in traditional Colmadas (food and grocery shops) or in the weekly markets. The Arenque is salted and dried, and is cooked in a number of traditional Spanish stews or eaten with bread and olive oil (Pa amb Oli).

¡Bon profít!

The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 18, 2007. The time was 12:52:22.

Gefilte Fish

Tomàtigues de Ramellet

tomatigues_de_ramallet

If you have been living in Mallorca long enough, or if you are a frequent visitor, chances are that you have eaten some Pa amb Oli (more about Pa amb Oli some other time.)

In all likelihood, you will also have seen the funny looking strings of hanging tomatoes, the ominous Tomàtigues de Ramellet. This tomato variety grows on sprigs (= ramellets), hence the name.

The Tomàtiga de Ramellet is used in the preparation of a proper Pa amb Oli. You can read more about the numerous indigenous Mallorcan tomato varieties and also about the cult of the Mallorcan Pa amb Oli in Tomàs Graves‘ lovely little book, Bread & Oil. According to Robert Graves’ son, the Tomàtiga de Ramellet is a small and compact tomato, which comes with a tough skin and pasty flesh.

The Tomàtiga de Ramellet is usually harvested in July and August, and you can find it in the markets by September. Only one part of the crop is sold in the markets after the harvest; the remaining tomatoes are strung by hand and hung to dry. They last well over the winter; a second batch of these tomatoes gets to the mercats in January and February, at a slightly higher price than they were in the autumn. You can find Tomàtigues de Ramellet in the country tiendas as late as May.

This year, there may be a bit of a problem though. Tomàtigues de Ramellet do not like the rain. You will know that we had a lot of rain, virtually all of last year, and there seem to be less Tomàtigues de Ramellet on sale now than in other years, and at a higher price than usual.

The photo was taken in the town of Inca, Mallorca, Spain. The date: January 24th, 2008. The time was 15:18:31.

Tomàtigues de Ramellet