COSTA CÁLIDA. REGION OF MURCIA
The excellent produce of the huerta, a varied offer of meats and the prized treasures of the sea... a cuisine assimilating the products bequeathed by the peoples who settled here for centuries.
If you are on a diet or are considering starting one, it would be better to skip this section. You have been warned! We give you ten temptations that put the sweet note at the end of a meal or can be enjoyed whenever. Any time is a good time to give into your cravings, especially when it tastes as heavenly as these. So forget the calories and enjoy!
Dessert or coffee? Now there's no need to choose as you can have both, thanks to this two-in-one original and delicious coffee with condensed milk and brandy, accompanied by a few drops of Liquor 43, cinnamon, lemon zest and coffee beans. Typical of Cartagena and the surrounding region, they say that the Filipinos who came to the port in merchants' ships introduced the recipe. It is served in a unique glass: the Asian Cup, so original that it has become one of the most popular souvenirs of Cartagena.
Ok, so we already know it's a dessert that exists everywhere in Spain, but what if we add liquor flambé and a bowl of nougat ice cream to the recipe? Or, if you prefer, arrope y calabazate, made from a mixture of grape juice, figs, melon, quince jelly or sweet potato. This is a universal recipe with a regional touch.
PAN DE CALATRAVA
This delicious dessert was born out of the Muslim influence in the region, involving humble ingredients and simple preparation but with spectacular results. It only uses crème caramel, caramel and day-old bread or cakes but this mixture of textures and flavours work really well together, giving it a place in the top 10 ranking of desserts.
For foreigners this is a sweet surprise. It is a lemon tree leaf battered in dough of flour, egg, milk and shavings of lemon, which is fried and then dusted in cinnamon and sugar. Accompanied by a small glass of sweet wine it is a typical Murcian pleasure. However, don't be deceived, the leaf CANNOT be eaten. If you visit us during the Spring Festival don't forget to ask for it in any of the stalls scattered throughout the city, typical places in which to enjoy Murcian gastronomy in its purest form.
A dessert very popular in the surrounding areas of the Segura River, this is the typical dessert for big celebrations. With sponge, almonds, pastry cream or angel hair and meringue, this cake is 'constructed' in layers, making a most appetising 'building'.
The sun, earth and water of our region help make our fruits an authentic gastronomic treasure. The Jumilla pear freshly picked from the tree and marinated in wine or chutney will make your mouth water. The Torre Pacheco melon that comes in four varieties and different shapes, colours and flavours is both the freshest and healthiest melon that you've ever tried, while you may think that you're tasting a piece of earth-born sunlight with the round and yellow Cieza peach. Alcuza pears, a sweet and juicy apple of Arabic origin, apricots, Jumilla cherries, table grapes and oranges are other great examples of our fruit production. They are as sweet as our pastries but much less caloric.
A mixture of Arab, Roman and Christian knowledge, sponge, syrup, sweet pumpkin filling and almond are among the main ingredients of this dish. It serves as a practical demonstration of how delicious a combination of cultures can be.
TOCINO DE CIELO
This melt-in-the-mouth delicacy is perfect even for those with the greatest sweet-tooth, and uniquely in this region we add lemon and cinnamon to the syrup. Although it is a delight by itself, it is usually accompanied by fruit, whipped cream or ice cream.
Sweets made from flour, sugar, eggs and oil that, once cooked, get their special touch by being soaked in mead. This is one of the ways that the Vega Baja de Segura likes to leave visitors with a good taste in their mouth.
Alone, or to accompany any dessert, this is a typical drink in Totana and is made with water, honey, lemon juice, sweet wine (or muscatel) and star anise. Its sweetness and the ease with which it is drunk helps put that final 'dot' to the end of a meal.
In Valencia, they have paella; in Madrid, cocido (stew); and in Galicia, pulpo (octopus) - but what about in Murcia? Here we don't have just one typical dish; we have loads. And the truth is that one tasty bite is worth its weight in gold. That's why we're giving you ten of our best dishes that are eaten with a knife and fork. These dishes should be tasted whilst sitting down calmly because each bite is an explosion of flavour. Don't try and rush through them all if you don't have time to try every single one. Simply read the description, choose the one you feel like eating and get ready for quite a feast!
This salad is the perfect combination between tinned food and natural food, and between farm, countryside and sea. Made from peeled tinned tomato, hard-boiled eggs, fresh onion, olives and tuna, it's ideal for summer and for fans of tasty and healthy dishes. And if you're not on a diet, don't hesitate in having some bread as an accompaniment, known in some places as mojete (bread used to soak up the sauce).
This is a typical salad from Cartagena in which fish conserved by an old (and tasty) smoking technique takes the starring role. It is a perfect combination between sea and countryside as salmon, cod and harvest fish are mixed together with capers, onion and olive oil. A little bit of advice- don't be shy to ask for some bread to mop up the sauce. No one will be surprised.
The rainbow has a flavour: the flavour of the fertile, irrigated Region of Murcia. Enjoy a colourful dish made with the best vegetables in the land. Tasty and without any seasoning, they are a culinary gift for vegetable lovers everywhere. Flavour is not at odds with health - they go hand in hand in this dish. Don't forget to add a slice of lemon for pure luxury.
This is an exquisite dish with a strange name that exemplifies the magnificent use of vegetables here. It basically consists of courgette, onion and eggs all scrambled up with olive oil. In Cieza, tomato or even aubergine or pumpkin is added, and in the Campo de Cartagena it's cooked inside bread dough. Poultry and vegetables are put together with one common aim: to bring enjoyment to your taste buds without affecting your diet.
BERENJENAS A LA CREMA
This creamy crème de la crème dish just melts in your mouth. It was invented in the kitchen of the emblematic restaurant Rincón de Pepe, and in a short period of time has become a gastronomic icon extolled by gourmands from all over the world. One passionate gourmand in particular, Vazquez Montalbán, even makes a detective Pepe Carvahlo in his novel Los Mares del Sur cook them. Composed of Béchamel sauce, ham, prawns and of course, aubergines!
Rice is like a 'jack-of-all-trades' that goes with everything. Try it with rabbit and snails if you are inland, withvegetables or pava (cauliflower) if you are in the countryside or with shellfish such as lobster if you are visiting the coast. But just one thing, make sure it is always Calasparra rice, the first rice in the world with a Denomination of Origin.
Here cauldrons are used by sailors instead of witches. This is one of the most typical dishes of the Region: rice cooked in a cauldron with rock fish and dried ñora pepper broth. It is usually served on separate plates, with the rice on one side and the fish on the other, and is perfect for recharging your batteries after a day at the beach.
In Murcia there is cause for a double celebration when it rains - firstly because it is not something that happens every day but also because that's when this delicious dish is made. There are two versions: one made of flour, oil, water and dried garlic, and the other with a base of stale bread crumbs. This dish is delicious with cold meats, sardines, spring garlic, pomegranates, grapes or even chocolate. Just one thing - it is very important to eat them when they are hot, accompanied by a glass of wine from the region and above all, slowly. Because as the saying goes- while there are still migas left the party won't stop.
Whether made with lamb or young goat's meat, in its different forms this dish serves as a symbol of our gastronomy's identity. The Tartera, typical of the Segura River Basin, roasted young goats' heads or lamb heads with pebre (mild sauce made from vinegar, garlic, parsley and pepper), the llandas de Cehegín (lamb meat, tomato, pepper and potatoes), or young goats' legs are some of our most typical dishes. They are all rustic and delicious recipes that are cooked slowly, and you only need to hear them crackling as they come out of the oven to suddenly become absolutely ravenous.
PESCADOS A LA SAL
Our coast is a paradise for fish: calm and toasty waters allow these underwater inhabitants to grow up fit and healthy, and in this two-ingredient recipe they really make an impact. A whole fish (usually sea bass or gilthead bream) is buried in a tray of coarse sea salt, baked in the oven and then served once it has been cleaned and the bones removed, which is done right next to the customer. It's a very healthy yet simple method that produces spectacular results. And if the ingredients are from the Mar Menor Sea, so much the better!
Reading the menu in a Murcia bar or restaurant can be, to say the least, perplexing for a foreigner. You could submit the waiter to an intensive questioning, play eenie meenie miney moe or have a look at our glossary, but really don't worry! Whatever you choose, it's sure to be the right decision.
ARROZ CON HABICHUELAS OR EMPEDRADO
Those who aren't fans of meat are in luck. In Murcia we have dishes composed completely of vegetables (and minerals), just like this one. Traditionally made in the cold high fields, this dish contains beans, rice, tomato, garlic, onion, peppers and potato, and will leave you with a full stomach and a smile on your face.
CALDO DE PELOTAS
This consists of a light chicken broth served in a small bowl and accompanied by reasonably sized meatballs made from chicken, pork and local embutidos (cold meat) which give it an exquisite flavour. It should be eaten when it's steaming, perhaps with a bit of lemon or even some of the Region's red wine sprinkled on top. Although it is prepared the whole year round, it is a typical Christmas dish and is great for warming you up during winter.
This is a stew made from game meat and snails and served on a wheat flour pancake. A typical of Jumilla and Yecla, this is a dish with a great deal of substance that should be accompanied with a good local wine. Other versions use chicken or rabbit meat instead which result in a less intense but nevertheless still exquisite dish.
GUISO DE PAVO CON PELOTAS
Spoons come in useful in this slow-cooked stew consisting of potatoes, turkey and embutidos. The secret lies in using a meat that has little fat in the preparation of the meatballs so that they stay tasty and firm. Quality ingredients and lots of care go into its preparation.
GUISO DE TRIGO
The recipe is always the same: high quality ingredients, with centuries of culinary tradition and lots of care going into its preparation. This is a filling dish whose recipe resembles other typical stews with their vegetables and spices but with an added bonus: tender wheat which has been previously soaked, giving it a similar taste to that of pasta. Mamma Mia!
There is a saying that goes 'toda olla es vil si le falta el pernil' (all stews are useless if the leg is missing). And so, following this ancient commandment comes this dish in which the main ingredient is pork. The slaughter of this animal, also known here as cochino or chino, apart from being almost like a ritual, provides numerous delicacies. Morcillas and longanizas cooked in flour, olive oil and salt make up this dense flour purée which is brought to life by the pieces of meat within. You just might have to undo the top button of your trousers!
OLLA FRESCA O DE CERDO
Rice, beans, chickpeas, black-pudding and different parts of the pig like the backbone and trotters make this half-soup half-stew an authentic delicacy. It is said that this dish might have been created to expose the false converted Jews, but all we know for sure is that nowadays the only thing this stew might tempt is your palate.
Simple yet abundant with ingredients, this dish wins over all those who try it due to the variety of products it uses that come from the fertile, irrigated farmland of Murcia: chickpeas, Totana pumpkin, green beans, pear, ripe tomatoes and onion, all seasoned with peppers, saffron and mint. All of the flavours of the region of Vega del Segura on your plate.
GUISO DE GURULLOS
Like many other gastronomy dishes from Murcia, this dates all the way back to the Roman and Arab eras. In this dish rabbit meat, typical vegetables of the area and serranas, exquisitely tasting snails, all go together perfectly. To all this is added gurullo, the curious name used for small flour dough balls which were used instead of rice in times when it was scarce.
Originating from the ancient ancestry of the North East area of Murcia, this typical dish was created during the Roman era to deal with the high amount of hares and rabbits that inhabited these lands. This stew's main components consist of these aforementioned animals as well as a broth in which fried tomato, peppers and onion are left to cook. Its interesting name comes from the strips of flour dough which are cooked with it and look like pieces of broken fabric.
Frankly, we just love hustle and bustle. Both the great climate and tradition lead Murcian people to meet up in good company in order to make the most of the good weather. One example of these meeting places are the bars where you can enjoy nearly an infinite variety of tapas, whether it be inside at the counter or outside on the sun terraces. Just don't forget to always have your napkin to hand and, if you're still hungry, be ready to shout out 'Camarero, otra ronda!' ('Waiter, another round please!')
This is one of the signature foods of our region that you just can't miss out on trying. It's made up of ensalada rusa (Russian salad) served on top of a long crunchy ring-shaped bread stick, and topped off with an anchovy in brine. Change the gender of the word and it's called a 'marinero', where an anchovy in vinegar replaces the anchovy in brine. And if you want it to be even simpler, that is, only with ensaladilla rusa, then ask for a bicicleta. But whichever type you have, there is an art to eating it without destroying the whole thing!
Our octopus is truly multi-talented! One day it could be the main ingredient of a salad, whilst the next it may appear alone, cooked on the grill. But if there is one dish where this cephalopod really shines it's when it is oven-baked. The secret is the alcohol from either beer, wine or cognac with which the octopus is baked that gives it an incomparable flavour and texture. Just one piece of advice- work out what time the octopus is coming out of the oven as, although this may surprise you, it goes fast!
Don't worry! The only thing that links this tapas to anything equine is its name (caballito, meaning 'little horse'). Over here we like to dress prawns up in a crunchy breadcrumb jacket and serve them on a platter, skewered on sticks. And if you really want to look like a native, don't forget to squeeze a little bit of lemon on top.
Dry beans cooked with paprika, bacon, ham bone, chorizo and a little bit of chili and served very hot in a clay cooking pot. In winter they are great for warming yourself up, especially when accompanied by a glass of wine. And if you visit Murcia during the Spring festivals, don't forget to ask for them in the little stalls that pop up all over the city which give you the chance to enjoy the most typical Murcia gastronomy.
From the love story between an anchovy in brine and an anchovy in vinegar comes this tapas that concentrates all the taste of the sea into one single mouthful. In this gastronomical pairing, as many experts have recommended, the anchovy in brine is served on top, making it the winner in this tapas. We would recommend that you accompany this light dish with a cold beer in any one of the hundreds of sun terraces dotted around Murcia.
SALAZONES (SALTY TAPAS)
In the Bronze Age neither fridges, nor Tupperware nor vacuum packaging existed, so in order to conserve various foods salting was invented. Although this is no longer necessary, we still continue to use this technique. Why? Well, so that the food stays rich! There are a thousand ways to try these kinds of tapas- egg and salted tuna with fried almonds, tinned sardines with migas or pipirrana, or, perhaps the most surprising, tuna with raw beans and some simple tomato segments, preferably from Águilas or Mazarrón. They can be such a tasty reminder that they will have you licking your fingers even after you get home.
CHEESES WITH A DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN
Made from goat's milk, our cheeses' great flavours are guaranteed by their Denomination of Origin. Some of the best examples include Murcianwine cheese or mature almond cheese, to name but a few. Even being on a diet is no excuse, as even the most weight-obsessed can enjoy tapas of fresh grilled cheese. Having it on top of toast with either tomato or sobrasada (a chorizo paste) is optional!
LANGOSTINOS DEL MAR MENOR
Smaller than the rest of its kind but with a much more intense colour and flavour, these prawns are one shellfish that is enjoyed across the entire peninsula. Fishermen say that this shellfish likes good weather, a westerly wind, calm nights and a floor of sand. So, they are as hedonistic as those who taste them! Whether they as an appetizer or served in more elaborate dishes, they are the joy of the Mar Menor.
Companions of Christopher Colombus on his journey, the dishes in which these molluscs appear aren't to everyone's taste, but those who do try them don't remain indifferent. Their name betrays the fact that they are eaten not with a knife and fork but straight out of the shell. Simply fried with tomato or in a sauce with local ingredients such as tomato, peppers or almonds, this is an essential dish in the bars and restaurants of our region. Make sure you ask for bread as you're going to want to wipe your plate clean right down to the last tiny droplet of spicy sauce.
Its origin dates back to the Muslim presence in the area and all of the ingredients are born out of the richness of the fertile, irrigated Region of Murcia. Essentially a base of fried onion, peppers and aubergine, it can be eaten alone or with scrambled eggs. Mouth-wateringly good!
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.