Sant Marc and the Fate of Snails

I have a few admissions to make, this Day of Sant Marc (Mark the Evangelist). For some reason, this is the day when tradition in Mallorca calls for the celebration of Caragoladas, snail eating banquets.

Admission no. one: I have taken lots of photos of snails over the years in all shapes and sizes, alive or boiled, on the plate or in the field, in the nature or in Mallorca’s markets but right now, I can’t find any of my snail photos just as I would need one. I seem to lack in keywording abilities or in more efficient photo archiving. I am sorry but I had to borrow a photo from Wikimedia.

Admission no. two: I am at a total loss as to why Sant Marc is associated with the eating of snails. The snail eating capital of Mallorca seems to be Sineu, but Algaïda and Sant Jordi are big snail eating communities as well. In Sant Jordi, an annual snail race is held, albeit a bit later, in mid-May. Sineu is celebrating its patron’s day today, Sant Marc, with the usual Wednesday market in an extra special, festive edition, whilst banks and offices have a festive day off. I believe that the Palau dels Reis will be open for visits today in Sineu as well. Sineu is also the place where Caragols-Mallorca resides, Mallorca’s largest snail breeders.

I am sorry if I may sound a bit vague today but there you are. I don’t know everything, so there.

The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of wikimedia.org. and the photographer, Thomas Schoch. The photo (bottom) was chosen from my archive. It was taken near Petra, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 9th, 2008. The time was 15:33:58.

Thank you very much, and

vielen Dank.

Sant Marc and the Fate of Snails

The Roscón de Reyes

The Reyes Magos made their appearance last night all over Spain as well as here on the island of Mallorca. One essential part of the festivities is the traditional Roscón de Reyes. I am told that there is not a single Spanish family up and down the country which would not have bought one of those elaborate pastry rings for Three Kings, or baked one as the case may be.

In the past, the Roscón de Reyes was often adorned with a hidden gem for the children, a sweet perhaps, a small toy or a peseta coin. There are basic versions and there are variants with fillings. Fillings might be made of crema or nata or cabello de angel, to name but a few. The possibilities are endless.

Another endearing custom involves two lovers. A young male individual, courting, might bring a Roscón de Reyes to his beloved and hide a ring in it. If the ring was found the youngster would declare himself and his love and propose to the girl. If the ring was not found, that would constitute a bad omen and the engagement would have to be postponed. I do not know if this custom is still being practised here in Mallorca but I do know that an awful lot of Roscónes de Reyes were sold in Mallorca these last few days. Perhaps you bought one yourself.

In case you would be intrigued to know how to make and bake a Roscón de Reyes, let me present you a video with a Roscón recipe for your convenience:

The photo (top) was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 5th, 2011. The time was 17:57:12. The photo (centre) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of tequedasacenar.com. The video was also borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of YouTube and Mcdewebosfritos.

Muchas gracias.

The Roscón de Reyes

Twist & Squeeze

The function of a lemon squeezer is simple: pressure is exerted on a lemon to extract its juice. The squeezer itself must resist the pressure, hence soft, easily deformable materials cannot be used. Because the lemon juice is very acidy, the squeezer can only be made of acid-resistant materials.

I found the gorgeous lemon squeezers shown here in Caimari’s olive oil market ten days ago. They were made of boxwood and crafted in Girona, to the northeast of Barcelona. The buxus tree (castellano: boj, catalan: boix) grows in Mallorca too, for instance in the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. This plant was much more widespread here in the past, and could also be found in Menorca where nowadays it is absent. Apparently the activities of Mallorcan carboners (charcoal makers) in bygone times have lead to the rarefaction of this tree species.

The boxwood lemon squeezers were for sale at 10 €.

The photo was taken in Caimari, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 22nd, 2009. The time was 12:09:33.

Twist & Squeeze

Chilled Gazpacho Soup

Gazpacho

I could have posted this blog entry earlier, at the beginning of Summer. But now, at the beginning of September temperatures here are still hot enough in Mallorca to enjoy a chilled gazpacho soup. Gazpacho has become an almost generic term for chilled vegetable soup. There are many regional variations; some are made with almonds, some with lots of garlic, some with stale bread and some with grapes.

You could enjoy a gazpacho the easy way by eating it at your local restaurant. But that would involve a certain risk. I have eaten some excellent gazpacho served in restaurants here in Mallorca, as well as elsewhere on the Spanish mainland, but I have also had to eat some rather unpleasant samples of cold Spanish soups that were called gazpachos but didn’t taste the way they should.

Alternatively, you could buy a carton of ready-made gazpacho soup from your local supermarket. You will probably find that the quality is better the more you pay for the package. Nowadays the small sum of between 2.50 € and 3 € should give you a good cold vegetable soup made with fresh ingredients and full of flavour, allowing for four servings. And you could always add your own bits to the ready-made soup, improving on taste and flavour, such as lemon juice and olive oil.

The very best way to enjoy a real good gazpacho however is to make your very own. And it could not be easier if you tried. Here is one way to make a good gazpacho, but there are countless variations:

Use 4 or 5 large ripe rama tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped), 2 small cucumbers (peeled, seeded, and diced), 1 large wedge of watermelon (seeded, and diced), 1 onion (peeled, and thinly sliced), 1 red pepper (seeded, and diced), some parsley, some coriander, some lemon juice, some red wine vinegar, 4 cups of beef or chicken stock, 2 slices of stale pan pages without the crust, 1 clove of garlic (chopped finely), 1 tea spoon of sugar, black pepper, sea salt. Combine all of the vegetables and the broken up bread in a large bowl. Add the stock, the sugar, lemon juice and vinegar, and blend very briefly. Stir in the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add some water if needed. Chill the soup for one hour before serving. Remove from the refrigerator, stir, let rest for 10 minutes and then pour a generous helping of best-quality extra-virgin olive oil over the soup. As an option, you could add three cooked langostino prawns per helping, and serve.

Bon profit.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 4th, 2009. The time was 15:09:31.

Chilled Gazpacho Soup

Lomo Con Col

piggies

This pig in my photo is the biggest porcine animal I have ever seen, in Mallorca or anywhere else.

Tradition and circumstance had it that pigs and pork played a prominent role in the Mallorcan cuisine and still do. Before the event of tourism, the island relied on agriculture as the main source of income, and pigs, especially the indigenous Porc Negre, provided an important part of the food intake. Meat could not be afforded on a daily basis, because times were hard and the average Mallorcan citizen lived a rather impoverished life for centuries.

Lomo con col was served on rare occasions such as on special Sundays or at festive family gatherings. Here’s a recipe for six persons in case you would want to treat yourself and your loved ones:

12 thickish slices of pork loin and 12 large cabbage leaves are used for Lomo con col; two of each would provide each person with one portion. The pork loin is fried in a little olive oil until sealed and golden brown. Place each pork loin on a cabbage leaf with a small amount of Sobrassada and some Botifarró, fold carefully into neat parcels, place the folded parcels in a baking dish or better still a Greixonera (one of the brown Mallorcan clay dishes, also known as a Cazuela). Add some more ingredients, such as chopped and peeled tomatoes, a chopped onion, some pine kernels, a few cloves of garlic, some Sultanas, some chopped parsley, some dry white wine plus salt and pepper, cover with a foil and bake for about 25 minutes in a moderate oven heat (180° C).

¡Bon profit!

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 3rd, 2009. The time was 14:00:11.

Lomo Con Col