Mediterranean cuisine in Spain, France, Greece, Malta and the Balkans
After my recent description of the Mediterranean dishes in the Italian cuisine, I would like to continue this tour of the Mediterranean cuisine by writing a bit about the other European countries that border the Mediterranean Sea: Spain, France, Greece, Malta, Greece and the Balkans.
Mediterranean cuisine in Spain
The Spanish traditional cuisine has the merit of having introduced new products from the Americas at the beginning of the sixteenth century. These include: potatoes, tomatoes, corn, cocoa, among the others. The gastronomy of the seaside regions (Catalunya, Comunidad Valenciana, Andalusia, Canary Islands) includes many imaginative fish and meat preparations. Paella, the most famous preparation of the Spanish cuisine, is a unique dish, prepared with rice, meat and fish.
Majorca and Balearic Islands – The Majorcan and the Balearic cuisines have been influenced both by the Spanish cuisine and by the Moorish traditions. Fruit, herbs and spices (apricots, pine nuts, almonds, raisins, cinnamon, anise and capers) are used a lot here. This gives life to many enjoyable recipes. Typical dishes of the Balearic Islands are: the Sopes Mallorquines and the Tumbet Mallorquino. The first is a vegetable stew made of different vegetables depending on the season: cabbage, chard, green beans, spinach. The second is a also made with several vegetables and potatoes. There is no shortage of salted focaccia made from leavened dough with various fillings. Espinagada is also a famous dish: a pie stuffed with peas, spinach, eels and the ever-present chilli pepper. As for desserts, many of them are prepared with figs and almonds.
Mediterranean cuisine in France
The South of France and Corsica have been strongly influenced by the Mediterranean tradition, and so is their cuisine.
Southern France – In the coastal areas of Southern France, fish is used as an ingredient in many recipes. The cuisine of this area is distinguished by the use of extra virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs. It is influenced by Mediterranean cuisine, especially the Italian cuisine. One of the most popular dishes from South France is the Bouillabaisse. The latter is a traditional fish soup from Provence which is usually served with croutons.
Corsica – The Corsican cuisine leverages on the robust flavours and the aroma of the fresh herbs that grow on this island. Alongside a wide variety of vegetables, there is no shortage of sheep and goat dairy products. The latter include the pecurinu (a sheep cheese) and the brocciu, a type of sheep or goat ricotta. Meat is also popular is, especially pork and boar sausages, that are sold almost everywhere. Typical are also the ravioli stuffed with brocciu and marjoram, as well as savoury vegetable pies and, of course, fish dishes. Notably, chestnuts are used as flour for making pies, bread and polenta. The national dessert is the fairy-tale (or embrucciante), a tart stuffed with brocciu and flavoured with orange or lemon peel.
Mediterranean cuisine in Greece
In Greece a typical meal begins with a series of starters called mezédes or orektiká. These are followed by a main dish that can be made of meat or fish, often grilled or roasted, or a salad with cheese, such as the typical Greek salad. The olive oil is of a high quality and it is used generously. It is almost omnipresent in the Greek cuisine. From the simplest dishes to the most complex ones, such as moussaka or the many stuffed focaccia, the Greek cuisine includes many tasty dishes.
Mediterranean cuisine in the Balkan Peninsula
There are several countries that overlook the eastern Adriatic Sea: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania. Their cuisines have been inspired by the Turkish tradition. They include many simple dishes, based on fresh ingredients and without too much spices or fats. A typical ingredient is represented by the many cheeses. Slow Food have recently mapped them and they are also used to make cakes. Yoghurt, which is used as a sauce, is excellent.
Mediterranean cuisine in Malta
Despite the influence of the English cuisine, the Maltese cuisine has maintained its Mediterranean roots. Raw vegetables or vegetables cooked as soups, lots of fish (such as the popular lampuki fish) and various types of savoury pies (made with cheese, meat or fish) are common. Pasta is served with vegetables, meat and fish sauces. For instance, injokkimlija, is a type of pasta filled with meat, ricotta and tomatoes, whereas ravjul is a dish based on ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and parsley. A well-known dish is the tympana, a pie made of macaroni, meat, sauce and cheese.
Mediterranean cuisine in Cyprus
In Cyprus, the cuisine has its roots in the past and was influenced by the Middle Eastern cuisine as well as by the Greek, Turkish, Arabic and even by the English cuisine. In Cyprus it is tradition to start a meal with a selection of appetizers called “meze” (a set of creamy dishes), a tradition that comes from Greece and Turkey. Among the meat dishes, one of the best known is the tsamarella, a typical dish traditionally consumed by shepherds and prepared with goat meat dried in the sun, sparkled with origano and salt. Tsamarella is a typical product of the Limassol region. A typical cheese consumed in Cyprus is the famous halloumi, which is produced with different types of milk and that can also be fried. Finally, among the typical Cypriot desserts, let me mention the baklava, a dessert typical of the Greek culinary tradition.