Ensaïmada

No other product is more typical or famous of the Illes Baleares than the ensaimada. This sweet, spiral-shaped bun has become the breakfast not only of Mallorcans and visitors; its consumption has spread to bars and bakeries overseas.

Many visitors arrive on these islands with a very special request from their relatives and friends; to take them back one of the rich ensaimadas which are made here.

That is why, in the airports and ports, it is very common to see tourists carrying the typical boxes jealously guarding all types of this very special sweet bun, ranging from the traditional ensaimadas, to those filled with cabello de ángel (pumpkin jam) or custard cream.

Its name comes from 'saim' which means lard and is one of the ingredients. However, its origin is much disputed. Some consider that the 'fathers' of the ensaimada were the Arabs, who introduced it in the year 909 and that is why its shape is reminiscent of their turbans. Other believe that it derived from the 'bulema', a very similar roll which the Jews used to make in the past.

Filled or plain

The ingredients to make the dough for this sweet bun are flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, milk and pork lard (although the latter can be substituted for olive oil). The dough is rolled up like a coil and then wound around in a circle until it takes on its characteristic spiral shape. When it has been baked, it is dusted with icing sugar.

The traditional ensaimada is made with just the dough, without anything inside. But over the last few years it has also been filled with an assortment of variants, all equally delicious: pumpkin jam, custard cream, chocolate, cream. These filled ensaimadas are larger and are usually eaten as a dessert at get-togethers with family and friends. The small ones are made without any filling and are a delicacy for breakfast.

A few years ago, this product was granted its own Denominación de Origen or Guarantee of Origin and is controlled by a regulating Council, which guarantees the quality of the ingredients and its production.

The ensaimada is a product which can be eaten in practically all the bars and cafeterias in the Illes Baleares. Many bakeries and cake shops make them in their own ovens.

Sobrassada

This exquisite product is one of the islands' most famous sausages. It is still made all over the islands and nowadays is registered under the Mallorcan Sobrassada geographical denomination.
Sobrassada is made with lean and fatty cuts of pork and its characteristic colour comes from the paprika used in making it, which is mixed with salt, pepper and the ground meat. Once ready, it is stuffed into natural intestinal casing to be cured and fermented as the initial humidity is lost. The curing time required is one month on average, but varies according to the size of the piece.

A second denomination of origin exists to differentiate sobrassada made from the island's black pork.

Lobster stew

lobsterThe lobsters which come to the Balearic coasts are renowned for being the tastiest ones, especially those caught between Mallorca and Minorca. These are used to make one of the typical dishes of these Islands, caldereta de langosta or lobster stew, praised by the most discerning palates. The stew which is prepared at Fornells is a delicacy which delights King Juan Carlos I.

This exquisite lobster is queen of the sea in the Balearics. It belongs to the species of European lobsters, known scientifically as Homarus Gammarus, and comes to the rocky coasts to feed on small animals, such as small cuttlefish, mussels or sea urchins. It can grow up to 50 cm long and its shell is reddish or lilac-coloured, with spines to defend it. It is caught the traditional way, with baskets placed like traps on the sea bed and its weight ranges from 400 to 600 grams. This crustacean is protected in the Balearic Islands and can only be caught from the 1st March to the 31st August. During this time, it is forbidden to catch specimens which have not yet reached 19 cm.

Lobster is the basis for this delicious stew which can be eaten in most of the seafood restaurants which exist along the coast. It is similar to a French fish stew called Bouillabaisse. Many of the restaurants keep their lobsters on display in large fish tanks and clients can choose the one they like most for their dish. In order to know if the lobsters are fresh, they should be lifted up by their front antennae to see if they move their tail energetically. If they don't, they are not recommendable.

Tàperes, an essential ingredient in the gastronomy of the Illes

Tàperes (capers) are an essential condiment for many dishes in the cuisine of the Balearics. These are a traditional product of the Mallorcan countryside, and their use in cooking had already been experimented by the Greeks and Romans. The latter were true specialists in seasoning fish and meat with capers.
The caper is neither a fruit nor a seed, but rather the bud of a plant which is known on the island as the taparera. Its scientific name is Capparis spinosa, and it is classified as a shrub with various annual cycles which dries up in the winter, leaving only a long deep root with few ramifications.

Harvesting capers has always been one of the most arduous tasks in the Mallorcan countryside. It is a shrub and its flowers grow at ground level, which means the picker has to work bending down in the hot season, between June and September.

Traditionally this work was done by the women, who would get up at daybreak to begin their day's work. Like this, the buds can be pulled off while they are still hard from the night and the risk of being pricked by the thorns which surround the leaves is reduced.

Multiple uses in cooking

Once picked, the capers can be kept in vinegar following a simple process and are ready to be eaten as an accompaniment, in the preparation of sauces, or as an ingredient in elaborated dishes.

If they are allowed to grow, the buds give rise to a thick flower with four white-coloured petals. The fruit of this is the taperot, which can also be pickled in vinegar although they are not so commercially widespread. The same is true of the leaves of the tapareres, exquisite for decorating some dishes.

Now it is hoped to promote this product and to increase its production. For the moment, the capers can already been found in delicatessen shops in many parts of the world.

Category: Mallorca Life