Tag Archives: mallorca

Tumbet

There has been a distinct Spanish flavour to a lot of my posts recently…and today, we’re keeping that going.

I’ve been making a dish called tumbet rather a lot recently. It’s traditionally from Mallorca, and it’s really just about the simplest thing you can make. Chances are, you’ve got just about everything in the kitchen right now. Look at this lot – nothing too fancy here, eh?

But what is this dish? Well, it’s clearly a lot of potato, peppers and aubergine. It’s all sliced up, fried in a little olive oil, then topped off with a thick tomato sauce that’s rammed with lots of garlic. There seem to be quite a lot of variations out there (which is only to b expected with such a traditional dish), but I’ve made a tweak and added a few slices of Spanish Manchego cheese before pouring over the tomato sauce to add a bit more substance so that this makes a tasty and filling main dish.

Now, a lot of blogs feature recipes that are “simple” or “easy” or “a breeze”. I’m not going to lie – this is one that’s easy, but its not quick. I think this tastes best when you can leave the vegetables to fry gently on a very low heat, rather than cremating them over a hot flame. If you’re able to multi-task and do something else at the same time (which coudl involve, perhaps, glasses of wine in the sunshine) then it is indeed simply. It’s just that some thing cannot be rushed.

This a really nice dish that works either as a cold tapas-style nibble with drinks (serve it up with bowls of olives, almonds and patatas bravas with garlic mayo with a few glasses of chilled white wine), or have it as a main dish with a large green salad. Either way – delicious, and you get the feeling of just a little summer sunshine as you eat it.

To make tumbet (as a side dish for four, main for two):

For the sauce:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• pepper, to taste

• salt, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

Heat the oil over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry very gently for about a minute (it shouldn’t brown). Add the salt, pepper, oregano and chopped tomatoes. Cover the sauce, and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce is too dry, just add a little more water.

For the layers:

• 300g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 aubergine, sliced
• 2 peppers (I used one red, one yellow), cut into sticks
• 75g Manchego cheese, sliced
• olive oil, for frying

Fry the potatoes in a little olive oil until they are starting to turn golden brown. Put in the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Brush the aubergine slides with a little olive oil, and fry gently until soft and browned on both sides. Place on top of the potatoes.

Finally, fry the peppers until soft. Put on top of the aubergine, then arrange the slices of cheese on top.

Pour over the sauce and spread evenly on top of the vegetables.

Worth making? This is a tasty dish with lots of flavours and textures, and in my view, makes a nice change from lasagna, moussaka or the dreaded mushroom risotto(*) if you have to serve something to a veggie guest.

(*) Acutally, I love mushrooms risotto – it’s just that it tends to be the only thing on the menu is so many place in London these days!

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Holiday Pastries! Mallorcan Ensaïmades

As you might now be aware, I had a really great holiday on Mallorca…but there is just one little niggle…

…you see, they have a rather amazing-looking pastry over there – the ensaïmada – which is a sweet, enriched bread, formed into a coil and dusted with icing sugar. The problem? Well, they are made with a good lump of…lard.

Indeed, the clue is in the name – “saïm” is the local name for a type of reduced lard, so they translate roughly as “lard things”. So a case of “look, but don’t touch”.

For better or for worse, I found this out before I went, so of course, once I was out and about, the things were everywhere. Ensaïmades beckoning from every bakery, every café, every shop. Kids wandering the streets munching on the things. I was even handed one in the airport wine store as a souvenir. So it’s very, very lucky I have a will of iron.

Now firmly back in the UK, and with all the excitement of the Royal Wedding behind us, I decided that I would give these a try myself, but make a vegetarian version of them. So I’ve replaced the lard with butter and a bit of olive oil. So maybe not exactly healthy, but heck – I resisted for a week!

The process for making them is pretty easy and quite good fun, but it just takes a while. You start off making a dough, which I did by hand (and ended up with very sore arm muscles in the process). Once the dough has risen once, you knock it back, then roll out portions as thin as you can, brush with soft butter, then roll them up and form into spirals. I’ve done a little research, and I have concluded that lard probably works best, so if that’s your thing, then go for it. However, my butter version is still pretty darned nice, if not quite as flaky as the authentic Mallorcan version.

And the shaping process is also important – the dough needs to be as thin as possible, so when they bake, you get maximum puffiness and volume. And you need to let the rolled up dough rise first, then carefully coil it loosely afterwards – you really want the breads to be big but quite flat, rather than a round dome shape. Make sense?

Once they were kneaded, brushed, shaped and risen, they went into the oven, and emerged puffy and golden. I gave them a quick brush with more melted butter (yay!) and a dredging of icing sugar later, and they looked absolutely perfect.

But looks are not everything – finally I was going to get to taste an ensaïmada.

Happily, I can report that mine were delicious. Rich, slightly sweet and very, very buttery. The process for making them means that they are a delight to pull apart as you are eating them too, so perfect for people who are partial to playing with their food. I like to do that.

To make 12 ensaïmadas:

For the dough:

• 4 teaspoons dried yeast
• 240ml milk, boiled and cooled
• 100g white sugar
• 450g flour
• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 40ml olive oil
• 170g butter, softened

To finish the ensaïmades:

• 25g butter
• 50g icing sugar

To make the dough:

By hand: Combine the yeast, 2 tablespoons of white sugar and warm milk and allow to sit for 15 minutes until frothy. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and remaining sugar. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and mix as much as you can (it will be very dry). Add the eggs and olive oil, and work until you have a smooth, soft, elastic dough (about 10 minutes). Once the dough is made, cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave somewhere warm until doubled in size (around 1 hour).

By machine: Combine the yeast, 2 tablespoons of white sugar and warm milk and allow to sit for 15 minutes until frothy. Put the yeast, flour, salt, remaining sugar, eggs and olive oil into the bread machine and run the dough cycle.

To form the ensaïmades:

Knock back the dough and knead again for a minute. Divide the dough into 12 portions. Roll each portion as thin as possible (as in – really, really thin). Brush each generously with softened butter. Roll up the dough (Swiss-roll style) and put on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and leave until doubled in size (around 1 hour).

Next, take each piece of rolled-up dough, and form into a loose coil (gaps will be filled when they rise again). Transfer each coil to a well-greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth or a piece of oiled cling film and leave until – you guessed – doubled in size.

To bake the ensaïmades:

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Put hot water in an ovenproof dish and put in the oven to create steam.

Bake the ensaïmades until they are golden brown (about 15 minutes). Once cooked, remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then brush lightly while still warm with melted butter and dredge with icing sugar.

Worth making? They might be a lot of work, but they are fun and taste really good. I will be making these again, more likely for a special occasion than for an everyday breakfast, but a nice way to bring a little Mallorcan sunshine to the early mornings. If you’re so minded, you can also change them with a dusting of cocoa powder in the filling, or add cinnamon or raisins.

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On Location: Genestar (Alcúdia, Mallorca)

More on Mallorca! But this time, less tourism, more some sharing a little bit of the restaurant scene.

Palma has its fair share of fancy places, and I am sure any visitor there land on their feet if they want to, so I’ve plumped for one that is slightly further afield, in the very pretty northern town of Alcúdia. This is just a hop, skip and jump from tourist-focussed beach resorts, but this town is smart, chic and clearly trying to go rather up-market. This was fully apparent to me when I popped into a deli to buy some local produce, and left many, many Euro lighter. But Alcúdia…now, I fully understand that this is not the sort of place that you’re likely to be passing (compared to places in London or Brussels) but then again, isn’t it nice to have a few gems tucked away for that day that you do happen to find yourself in this part of the world? Here is one such gem.

My pick is the rather space-age sounding Genestar. At first, I puzzled about the moniker. What could it mean? As it turns out, it’s simply the name of the chef, the magnificently-named Joan Josep Genestar Amengual (think Joan as in “Juan”, not Collins). In all likelihood, I was pronouncing Genestar incorrectly too.

Our Joan is not a hands-off, back-room man. For it was he who took the booking, where I flagged that I was veggie and would this be an issue. He came to greet us at the table, explained the menu, advised us about wines and indulged all the questions we had, and played the roles of host and chef magnificently. Now, it’s probably a lot easier to come out and talk about the food when you don’t have a menu, for Genestar’s concept is that you come, you’re taken care of, and you enjoy a tasting menu. Perfect for those days when you don’t want to choose, and want to be marched somewhere and told what to do. Except that here, it is all done with flair and friendliness, all in lovely surroundings. And it is great to hear about the food from the guy that’s gone to all the effort of preparing it.

Most interestingly of all, at least to me, was that Joan was not in the least fazed by the fact that I wanted to eat vegetarian. In a place that is as meat and fish friendly as Mallorca, this could have been an issue. Not here. Joan seemed to take to it as a challenge, and the results were delicious. Of which more later.

But before the food, the wine! Joan was an enthusiastic promoter of local wines, and there was one on the menu that caught my eye – a White Merlot. As he was telling us what we would be eating (we were being told, this was no process of selection!), he recommended a couple of other whites, but I just couldn’t resist. How was the white Merlot? Oh, it’s very good. But it is unique. Some people find it too unusual, but it is very good. You should try it is you would like to, but if it’s not your thing, we can change it. Now, that is something a few placed in London could learn from. It was a constant theme here, but on Mallorca, it seems people are genuinely enthusiastic about their products, and are willing to stand behind them. The wine came, and it was indeed excellent, and it was quickly decided that we would not be sending this back. It had a light golden colour and a noticeable richness of aroma and flavour. It was a white wine with gusto, a noticeable robustness and a lot of the brioche-quality you get with some champagnes made from red grapes. I loved it. Thank goodness they were also selling bottles of it in the airport.

What I do suspect is that while I was not the first vegetarian to visit Genestar, I may be the pickiest. No fish, but also no eggs on their own (i.e. not scrambled, boiled or fried). Cue a little head scratching at first, but our friend Joan just saw it as a challenge and vanished into the kitchen to produce some good things to eat.

Before the meal started to arrive, we were given some fresh rolls and a little local olive oil and sea salt. You get this in London, but here…it just tasted better. Maybe because it’s holiday, maybe because the weather is warm…but it was unusually tasty. And yes, I ended up buying a bottle of the local olive oil later when I popped back to that deli.

First course was a light salad with grilled vegetables, nuts and a simple olive oil dressing and topped with fresh herbs. Incredibly simple, but beautifully presented and packing a real flavour punch. Smooth buttery lettuce, toasted nuts, tangy tomatoes and rich oil.

The next course was pasta with artichokes and mushrooms. Sounds simple. Sounds boring even. But no! Frankly, I do not think my picture does this one justice – partly due to the light, and mainly due to the fact I was aware that this was a nice place and I didn’t want to be that person spending the whole meal taking pictures of it rather than enjoying it. This might have been a simple dish, but utterly delicious. These were the freshest, most tasty baby artichokes I have ever had – lightly grilled so they just had a subtle smokiness, but kept a little crunch too. Again, the simplicity meant the flavours were there to be fully enjoyed. And it went well with the wine too.

To follow this, there was a substantial bruschetta-type affair piled high with mushrooms, tomatoes and beansprouts, all on an rich emulsified buttery sauce. Again, not sure that my picture really does it justice, as it was a lovely combination of flavours and textures, and it certainly looked impressive on the plate (note to self: candlelight is not good for pictures…). I liked that this contrasted with the previous course too, moving from simple to more fancy.

And to finish, the dessert was a Mallorcan take on bread and butter pudding, a little piece of some sort of pastry, dipped in custard and baked until the top was a crisp caramel. Finish with a dash of cold custard sauce and some strawberries, and it was a the perfect bite-sized sweet end to the meal. Well, it was once it was augmented with a little glass of dessert wine. Hey, it was a holiday! What I very much liked was the dinky size – I think this is the way to finish off a meal, just a little something sweet rather than a wedge of cake.

Mid-way through the meal, something struck me. There were very few tourists in the place, and the foreigners here were obviously people who have moved to the area. Then, around 9, it suddenly became very, very busy as the locals descended in droves. In pairs, groups of four and very, very large groups. The atmosphere was buzzy and lively, but never too busy or noisy. This was clearly the place to come to enjoy of good night with friends and excellent food. Knowing somewhere is a hit with the locals is always a boon to me!

So, just in case there is any doubt, I absolutely loved this place. The host and the staff were super-friendly (and found my basic bumbling Spanish rather amusing), the decor is clean, modern and bright, and the food excellent, excellent value, and rather unexpected in a rather touristy part of the island. Would I go back? In a shot. My only regret is that this is one of the nicest new places I have been to for some time, and yet it’s so far away…so if you do happen to be passing, it’s worth stopping in. But if you’re veggie, just call ahead first. And ask for Joan. And say hi.

Genestar, 1 Plaça Porta de Mallorca, Alcúdia, Mallorca.  Tel: 971.549.157 / 630.039.169. Email: info@genestarestaurant.com

LondonEats locations map here.

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Holiday Time – the Island of Mallorca

Ah, we’re just finished what seemed like back-to-back public holidays, so of course, that meant that it was also time for a bit of a getaway. I left London behind (with the intention to return in time for the Royal Wedding) and spent a week on Mallorca, with most of the time in the north of the island, and a couple of days in the southern capital, Palma.

If Mallorca doesn’t say anything to you, you’re either (1) not from Europe; or (2) not living in Europe. It’s the largest of the Balearic Islands, off the eastern coast of Spain and in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Mallorca (mah-york-a) is famous for it’s clear blue seas, sandy beaches and some rather notorious tourism – which is why we all know it. Well, that last one is not entirely fair. Mallorca has made huge efforts to go all posh, and now boasts exclusive upmarket villas and offers a lot to the more discerning visitor. Yes, time to put away the bucket and spade and think traditional foods, local drinks and some interesting places to visit.

Now, let’s be honest. I expected to spend the best part of the Easter weekend on a beach, reading and eventually retreating to the shade of the pine trees that line the coast when I had had too much sunshine. But…that was not to be.

The weather was, for the first three days, what we like to call “changeable”. This meant it changed from mist to cloud to rain, and then occasionally the sun would make an appearance. Meanwhile, it was pushing 30 degrees back home, which I knew because my friends were sending emails of themselves basking in the sunshine of Hyde Park.

However, I had rented a car and headed inland to see the mountains. One of the most surprising things about Mallorca is just how varied the landscape it – high mountains in the west (with precarious roads that need to be navigated very, very slowly!) to inland plains and sandy beaches. In the extreme north, the coast gets very rugged, with dramatic rock formations jutting out of the sea. As you can see below, the coastlines are many and varied.

In my view, one of the most spectacular parts of the island is the Cap de Formentor, where a truly tiny road snakes through pine forests up to sheer cliffs and on to the lighthouse at the end of the island (bottom two pictures). Quite breathtaking.

Breathtaking, and rather alarming to drive along! Thank goodness the car was about the smallest and most nimble on offer in the rental place. There was no chance of getting a BMW or a Hummer round those hairpin bends! But you need to get up into the hills to see some of the most spectacular scenery and some truly beautiful monasteries and churches. Well worth it.

With the mountains explored, and still very grateful for the tiny car (which turned out to be small enough to park anywhere in the most narrow streets imaginable), it was time for a bit of a change of scene. It wasn’t getting beach-hot yet, so we headed inland to the area known as Es Pla (literally “the plain”).

This is the fertile, agricultural heart of the island. Bumbling around the small towns that dot this landscape, I managed to mangle everything in Spanish as well as the local Catalan. It might look easy written down, but I got pretty tongue-tied, and soon discovered that a big smile and mastery of gracias will still get you pretty darn far. Say it in Catalan (gràcies) and you get a little further. Interesting!

So what are the foody highlights? Mallorca is known for its almonds (the flat, sweet, round variety). These are recorded as far back as Roman times, and even today there are many varieties that are apparently unique to Mallorca. Boom time came when the island’s vines were affected by the phylloxera plague  more than 100 years ago – farmers moved over to almonds, and a new industry took off. Almonds make appearances in perfume, as well as a tasty cake – gató d’ametlla – made with almonds and oranges, and served with almond ice-cream. It’s big, fluffy and delicious.

Another, perhaps more glossy, sophisticated and modern item is sea salt, which is produced in the south of the island around Ses Salines. This is what the locals call flor de sal, literally “sea blossom salt” which is prepared by filtering sea water, and leaving it in outdoor “lakes” and allowing the hot sun to do its work. The crystals are then harvested as they appear. This salt is valued for its higher-than-usual mineral content, and comes all packed in rather attractive, modern packaging (like these). What’s not to like?

Nearby Menorca also makes one rather major claim to fame – that mayonnaise was invented there and is named after its capital, Maó (formerly known as Mahón). Salsa mahonesa. See it? Of course the French don’t agree, but I like the Spanish version of events. In any event, Mallorca today has a very tasty garlic sauce, allioli, which tastes sublime with patatas bravas. So tasty that I didn’t care how much I stank of garlic.

And no piece about Mallorcan food is complete without the ensaïmada…but more of them another day. I’m sure you can guess what I’m up to.

Yes, the Es Pla area is really rather lovely, and here, amid the corn, oats, fruit orchards, olive groves…rather excitingly…you see a lot of vineyards! Wine! Yes, Mallorca makes wine!

As Mallorca is not so large, it doesn’t produce the huge amounts of wine that are needed for bulk production and export. However, there are some decent types, and it’s worth doing a little exploration and trying a bit of the local production.

We popped in to Bodegues Ca’n Ramis in the pretty town of Sencelles, and also picked up a few bottles of the award-winning AN/2 wine from Anima Negra. But perhaps most exciting of all, in one restaurant, I spied a bottle of white Merlot from the Son Prim estate.

I asked the chef for a wine recommendation to go with the meal, and he suggested another Mallorcan white, but I couldn’t resist asking about this white Merlot. Would it go with the dish? He was rather taken aback, said that it was actually his first preference, but that as it was quite unusual, he didn’t think we would like it. So much so, that he even said we could send back the whole bottle if we didn’t like it. Happily, we took the plunge, and it was great. It had a very apparent richness, a sort of buttery quality and depth of flavour that you don’t (or I don’t) usually associate with a white wine. Lucky this was also on sale in a wine shop, so I’ve now got a bottle hidden away at home.

If all that wine isn’t quite enough, at the end of the day and after all that wine tasting, you can also sit back in the heat and enjoy a glass of pomada made with a type of gin from the neighbouring island of Menorca….but more of that some other time (again, you can guess…). Suffice to say, to many can be dangerous.

Around the rest of Es Pla, it’s just a case of pottering around and taking in pretty villages, cafés, restaurants and fields of fruit, vegetables and goats. The attractive town of Artà is home to many artists, and the beaches along the bay of Muro are long, sandy and go from dunes into a bright blue sea. Really, picture perfect.

Later in the week, the sun did finally make an appearance, and it became proper beach weather. While Mallorca might heave in the middle of summer, it is perfect in April. Long stretches of sand, not too busy, and (realising that this is sounding repetitive) lots of bays with clear, azure water. Swimming was….possible, but it did take a while to get acclimatised to the still somewhat fresh waters of the Med. The old story – chilly at first, but fine once you’re in.

The area we stayed in was a little on the touristy side, but it was a hope, skip and jump (or, more accurately, 5 euro in a taxi) to the incredibly scenic town of Alcúdia, which boasts a couple of lovely squares and a clutch of very decent restaurants. This was all the more amazing given that this was not all that far from some of the more extremely “all inclusive” tourist traps. I find it odd that people sometimes don’t want to venture just a few more minutes to somewhere more pleasant, but it’s nice to feel a little smug as you are sitting on a shady plaza sipping the local drink.

And to round off the trip – all that time in the countryside, by the sea and in small towns was nice, but I had to spend a couple of sun-soaked days checking out the Mallorcan capital, Palma. It’s a pleasant place – the skyline is dominated by the cathedral which juts out of the old town. There are plenty of leafy avenues and grand buildings with high-end stores and a large number of bakeries selling ensaïmadas. And, rather helpfully, it’s got a lot of very classy bars for a drink in the evening (such as the excellent Nicolás on Plaza Mercat), as well as lots of good restaurants. The up-and-coming neighbourhood of La Ljota has some interesting places to eat, which tended to be rammed with locals as well as a few more adventurous tourists. I also popped in to the Mercat Olivar, which the guide book dismissed as being of no interest, but it was a treasure trove of little shops and stalls selling just about any item of food you can imagine. I’ve got a little something from there I’ll post shortly, but let that be a lesson – the guidebook often ain’t right!

Much to my delight, the trees all over the city were also sporting jaunty little oranges. I always find it amazing that they are left handing on the trees, as they look so tempting, and are just asking to be picked. However, I did restrain myself from taking them, just as I managed to resist reaching over the fences of houses all over the island and taking lemons from their trees. Can’t imagine that a little Mallorcan granny would have been too impressed to see my hands reaching over her garden wall…

And finally, something that is bound to appeal to animal lovers out there.

Mallorca seems to have a very, very big number of cats. These creatures seem to be everywhere. Towns, countryside, shops, cafés, tourist hotspots, church steps…all lazing around in the sun, and tolerating the occasional pat from a passing visitor.

All in all, a great little trip. Now, can you guess what sort of things I will be blogging about for the next few days? Hmmm…

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