Traditional Mallorcan Cuisine

What's on the menu when you visit Mallorca

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Mallorcan cuisine, based on pork, fish and vegetables with generous use of garlic and olive oil, is hearty peasant fare steeped in tradition and rooted in local ingredients.

Not long ago every village would celebrate the matanca, the winter slaughter of pigs, with songs and dancing and the making of hams and sausages for the coming year. Sausages come in several varieties - sobrasada (raw minced pork with hot red pepper) and botifarro (cured pork with blood), as well as spicy chorizo from Spain. And no bar would be complete without its jamon serrano, a whole cured ham displayed on an attractive slicing-board.

A side effect of the matanca (traditional slaughter of pigs in winter) was frit mallorqui, a fry-up of the most perishable offal with potatoes, onions and tomatoes. Nowadays you find it on menus alongside tumbet, a Mallorcan-style ratatouille of aubergines, potatoes and peppers in olive oil, and sopes mallorquines, a thick broth of thinly-sliced brown bread and vegetables. Other classic dishes include llom amb col (pork wrapped in cabbage with pine nuts and raisins) and lechona asada (roast suckling pig).

Paella is not specifically a Majorcan dish but it is widely available; paella ciega (blind man's paella) comes without bones. The local equivalent is arros brat ('dirty rice'), saffron rice cooked with chicken, pork and vegetables. Fish is mostly imported and frozen - restaurants have to state this - but lobster, prawns, sardines and sea bass are all good. The latter, baked in rock salt, is a Mallorcan speciality.

Desserts are not Majorca's strong point - often the choice is between helado (ice cream) and flan (creme caramel). An interesting alternative is gato de almendras, almond cake served with toasted almond ice-cream. Mallorcans are very proud of ensaimadas, fluffy, spiral-shaped pastries dusted with sugar and filled with anything from pumpkin jam to sobrasada sausage; the secret ingredient is said to be the lard in the pastry. Cheeses include Mahon from Menorca and Manchego from central Spain as well as local varieties.