When I first started to think about the food and drink which typify Menorca I began to think that I could fill a
whole book with such information.
As a result of its cosmopolitan history the food and drink of the little Island the basic Catalan cuisine has developed a
uniquely Menorcan slant.
Add to this the influences of tourism and the standard international hotel buffet and one realises that many visitors spend
a fortnight in Menorca without really seeing, let alone sampling, its delicious dishes.
For a start with the National Dishes of Menorca. Firstly there is Sépia al Forn
(baked cuttlefish), followed by Tumbet (a baked vegetable dish) and to follow Ensaimada
(spiral-shaped bun)and Cuscusso (a Christmas dessert). However the King of Menorcan
National dishes has to be its Lobster casserole. It is strongly believed that the
King of Spain, King Juan Carlos, visits Fornells, in the north of the island whenever
he is holidaying at his Palace in nearby Menorca, especially to enjoy the exquisite lobster stew.
Lobster Stew (Caldereta Langosta)
To be fair anywhere along the Menorcan coast can provide you with the traditional
lobster stew, as well as other food and drink, but Fornells is an especially charming fishing village. Here you can he takes
the opportunity of enjoy this delicacy in one of the few special restaurants in
the bay, on its terraza or outside terrace, overlooking the sea with its fantastic views.
Lobster is the basis for this delicious stew which 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 establish
if the lobsters are fresh they should be lifted up by their front claws to see if
they move their tail energetically. If they do not, they are not fresh lobsters!
Lobster should not be allowed to eclipse Menorca's other fish and seafood dishes which also
deserve a special mention. As befits an island surrounded by the warm sea provides a variety of fish
and seafood. The result is that Mediterranean fish and
seafood reaches Menorcan restaurants fresh and full of
flavour and adds to the unique nature of Menorcan Food and Drink.
Meat and meat products served in restaurants, tend to come from
traditional Menorcan farms, known as Llocs.These are characterised by their extensive
fields for grazing and breeding. Menorcan calves (‘vedella
menorquina’), Menorcan lambs, a first-class breed of pig, plus
various types of fowl such as chickens, capons and
turkeys can all be obtained locally.
Menorcan Cheese has now established itself internationally. Maó cheese (Menorca)is made from
cow's milk, unlike Mallorcan cheese which uses goat's milk. Its popularity began to increase with
the increase in cattle breeding, mainly friesian cows, and to the
large production of milk which was obtained. It was held in such high esteem
that an english engineer even said that 'the italians prefer menorcan cheese to
their own parmesan.
Most of the production today is mechanised, however this cheese is still made the
traditional way using the old methods. The milk is curdled using herbs, wrapped in
a very fine white cloth and moulded into shape by hand until it becomes compact.
Maó cheese comes in several varieties depending on the maturation process, with
different aromas and flavours. The maturing period of the mild cheese (queso tierno)
fluctuates between 21 and 60 days. It is a yellowish colour, with an aroma which
reminds one of butter and has a slightly acidic flavour.
If the maturing period is longer, the cheese is known as mature cheese (queso curado),
much harder and with a more intense flavour. It is also made preserved in olive oil,
giving rise to an exquisite product. There are several companies on the island which
specialise in making cheese.
Menorcans have a very sweet tooth. This has led to the development of a vast array of
pastries and desserts. During your visit you should at least try the almond macaroons
(carquinyols) or have an ensaimada with your morning coffee. This fluffy spiral pastry is made with flour, lard and sugar.
Menorca also has its own ice cream called La Menorquina . Its smooth, creamy taste is highly
popular and from its base in Alaior it is now sold throughout Spain.
Menorca's culinary diversity in food and drink is expressed in a huge range
of fish, shell-fish and meat recipes. Dishes as diverse as ‘cous
cous,’ of Arab origin and British ‘puddings.
Like its neighbouring islands, Menorca has an age old tradition of wine making amongst its food and drink industries.
This tradition was interupted at the end of British rule and on a number
of other occasions. In recent years vineyards have begun to
cultivate different varieties of grapes and open wine cellars boosting
an old tradition with new vigour.
Currently there are four wineries and their associated vineyards
on the island. Vine Sa Cudía in S'Albufera des Grau Nature Park, Viñas
Binifadet near the village of Sant Lluís, Ferrer de Muntpalau in the town
of Es Mercadal and Bodega Vi de S'Illa in Alaior.
All of these enterprises offer guided visits around the wine
cellars and vineyards culminating in a wine tasting session.
Due to these enterprising initiatives Menorca now has an Illa de Menorca as a brand
which includes white wines such as Chardonnay, Macabeo,
Malvasía, Moscatel, Parellada and Moll, and red wines from Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, Monastrell, Syrah through to Tempranillo.
Nowadays there are a number of locally made liqueurs
based on Mandarin, Orange, Peach and lemon juices.
There is also Estomagale a mild drink with a unique taste and texture.
Calent an artisan drink which combines herbs, anis, cinnamon, wine and
saffron in a warm infusion. Tradition states that
this drink has been prepared since antiquity, when the island was famous for its wines,
and Calent based drink was prepared to give to their
friends on holidays and especially at Christmas time.
No article on Menorcan food and drink is complete without the mention of Gin.
A locally made liqueurs is gin, made from grapes and perfumed
with juniper berries. The Gin Xoriguer distillery has been making this drink
now for almost a century. Minorcan gin (Gin Xoriguer) originated during the times
of the British rule in the 18th Century. Thousands of English sailors and soldiers
arrived on Minorca to garrison the island. During their time off they visited the Taverns
and wanted to drink the fashionable drink of that time, gin. Gin was
unknown on the island but local tradesmen soon devised a way to produce the drink
using imported juniper berries water and plant-based ethyl alcohol.
They used old copper stills, into which high quality wine
alcohol, juniper berries from the mountains and other aromatic
herbs were placed. The resulting distillation was then stored in large oak
barrels before being bottled.
Menorcan Gin can be drunk neat, although it is traditionally drunk with soda
and lemon peel or with lemonade as 'pomada.