Going to the market
Local markets are real museums of gastronomy and in Murcia we've got enough to sink a ship.
Wander amongst the stalls, chat with the stall-keepers, ask questions, smell, touch and try... it's not every day that you see such fresh and tasty produce.
Bringing back a T-shirt as a souvenir is great, but to actually take a piece of Murcia away with you is so much better. Typical products of the region are the best way to remember your trip, or make those that could not go with you feels as if they were there too. Make space in your suitcase!
WINES OF DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (PDO)
Because our wines just love dressing up their labels, we not only have three wines with PDO affiliation, but also other awards that praise the quality of each and every one of them. There's a wide range of possibilities to choose from, each one leaving you with a lasting impression. Three main wines are produced in the Bullas municipality: white, rosé and red. Their quality is such that it is said the god Baco is thinking of moving to the area! In Jumilla, a variety of ten wines are produced: four red, two rosé, two light red, one white and another natural sweet wine; if you try to taste them all, you'll be there til' the cows come home! In Yecla, they produce seven wines for seven brothers... or was that the film? Drop everything, try these seven varieties, and take your hat off to them. But don't forget that there is life outside of PDO... and great wines too. A good example of this is the wine of El Campo de Cartagena, wines whose taste, colour and aroma are so wonderful that they have no reason to envy the produce of their neighbours. For us their sweet wine is love at first sight... or, should we say, love at first sip.
In the Bronze Age there were no freezers, nor Tupperware, nor vacuum-packaging... Therefore, in order to conserve food, salting was created. Nowadays, and although it is no longer required, this technique remains popular. Why? Well, because salted food is scrumptious. Mullet roe, ling, salted tuna, cod, mako shark, sardines, smoked herring or salted bonito make delicious souvenirs that will keep you licking your lips, even once you get back home, and start to miss us a bit.
PASTRIES AND CAKES... BUT NOT AS YOU'D EXPECT
For those with savoury rather than sweet tooth, don't worry, we have many more temptations that will keep you finger licking right up until you get back home. Pastel de carne (meat cake) is made from puff pastry, meat, chorizo, hard-boiled egg and spices, and is considered to be the typical delicacy of our region. Its lid, which consists of concentric circles of puff pastry, resembles a felled tree trunk revealing its history within; perhaps you will be able to find the recipe by reading between its lines. Okay, we can't deny pasties are commonly known worldwide, not just in our region, but here we add our own special touch - pepper, tomato, hard-boiled egg and tuna: a well-rounded recipe, much like its shape. Pastel de Cierva (a typical pastry from Mar Menor), named after the inventor of the autogiro, is a mix of sweet and savoury flavours, made even more delicious with the addition of chicken. Continuing on with the theme of sweet and savoury, try our Salteadores or Exploradores: puff pastries filled with veal and dipped in sugar. Until you try it, you won't understand just how delicious this flavour combination really is.
The first rice worldwide to obtain the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) affiliation has been traditionally cultivated for centuries, and irrigated with clean fresh water free from chemical insecticides. The Bomba or Balín varieties, which come in both wholegrain and white forms, are so fantastic to cook with that, before throwing it at the newlyweds, just think what a crime it would be to waste it!
A PRESENT FROM OUR PIGS
Our cold meat comes in a great variety of forms, yet they have one thing in common - once you start you cannot stop. Whether it be sausages, black pudding, fresh or dry sausages, or even Morcón (large blood based sausages), ask for it to be vacuum packed and it will remain delicious throughout even the toughest journeys back home. Above all, the varieties which stand out are those with a base made from Chato. Its name deriving from the shape of its snout, Chato is a type of pig whose local authenticity is evident in its charm and, as many say, its Murcian accent! Imperial from Lorca is equally as famous, and although the name provokes images of Julius Caesar suddenly appearing, we are actually talking about a pork sausage; it is physically similar to Espetec®, but with the distinctive taste of our land. We know that if there is one product you associate Spain, it has to be Jamón Serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham). But here in Murcia, our variety made with haunch of Chato wins over everyone who tries it. Try a little cut and you'll fall to his hoof.
FROM PEPPER TO PAPRIKA
Pimiento de bola is a round pepper originating from America, but which has been cultivated 'Murcia-style'. If left to dry out, it becomes ñora, an essential ingredient in our dishes such as the fish and rice based Caldero. And, once the ñora is milled the pepper is much sweeter than its American cousin. Boasting the PDO affiliation, it adds colour and flavour to any dish, giving it that special Murcian touch.
FLEUR DE SEL
Originating from the sea, and collected using traditional techniques and under special weather conditions, our fleur de sel is a form of pure salt extracted in the protected salt mines of San Pedro del Pinatar. The salt does not get lumpy and dissolves easily in the mouth, giving it a distinctive flavour. And if you just can't get enough, try one or more of our flavoured varieties; as well as the more traditional flavours such as herbal, try the more original spicy, sweet, tuna roe, tomato, or olive varieties. Prepared to be amazed!
If you're on a diet or are planning to start one, it might be better to skip this section .Some people brand our sweet snacks as sinful or a naughty habit because they truly are a temptation. Typical of the entire region, our most famous desserts are Borrachos de Ojós, sponge cakes soaked in syrup and local wine. Literally translating as 'tipsy', don't worry, you won't need to hold back in moderation. When we speak of horns, there are those of the Vikings and those made from meringue. While we aren't sure how the first ones would taste, we do know that the second ones would make even the god Thor shiver with pleasure. Libricos, typical desserts from Yecla, are wafer sheets stuck together with honey as if they were books, a real bestseller. In Totana, Santiaguitos have become the hallmark of this town. Made with sliced almonds, butter, sugar and candied orange, even the box they are presented in looks good enough to eat! If you visit Jumilla, get your hands on Sequillos: sweets made with flour, egg and oil, decorated with meringue and hardened sugar. Naturally, simply reading a description like this doesn't do justice to their taste, so you'd better stop reading and take a bite. Yemas, from Caravaca de la Cruz, both covered with caramel or chocolate, have a monastic origin. These desserts, made from a base of sugar and egg yolk, delight children and adults alike; the truth is that there have always been amazing bakers living in the convents. If you visit Murcia at Easter to see our religious processions, you will pleasantly surprised to find that the members of the procession distribute typical sweets with biblical verses written on the packaging. You can also find these in sweet shops throughout the year; it is a gastronomic and reading souvenir, all in one!
Jams and chutneys, besides being extremely practical, are delicious. Disagree? You have obviously not yet tried these cravings in a jar. Delight yourself with classic preserves or branch out with others such as courgette, pepper, onion, tomato, or even orange blossom or jasmine petals. Created naturally using the best produce from our region, they contain no added preservatives or colourings.
Although most of these delicacies can be found throughout the whole year, the Christmas season is without a doubt the perfect excuse to indulge yourself, especially when you know how glorious it all tastes. Tortas de Pascua and Tortas de Recao are made in a similar manner primarily using a base of egg, flour and star anise. The Pascua variety has a surprising orange flavour, while the Recao variety comes with a hole in the centre ready to fill with honey. How do you fancy buying one of each and trying to guess all 7 different flavours? Cordiales are desserts for every taste: stuffed with sweet pumpkin filling in Murcia, with sweet potato cake or with yam in the Cartagena countryside, yet with nothing extra added in the Andean mountain ranges (here they are called cristóbalas), they are made from eggs and almonds. Forget the calories and enjoy! Moratalla's marzipan is a bar filled with egg yolk that will delight even the sweetest tooth. Cut it into slices and let the yellowish sweet treat take over your palate. Alfajores from Murcia have little or no reason to envy the Argentinian version: distributed between wafers you will find dough made from rosemary honey, almonds and hazelnuts among other ingredients.
Take your wicker basket or shopping trolley and wait your turn. Pick up top quality produce while you enjoy the lively conversations between stall-holders and other customers. The latest news and good food; what more could you ask for?