The lavish and sophisticated cuisine across the Mediterranean may differ from country to country, but the culinary art of creating delicious dishes that have been passed down from each generation provides an important identity to each country.
Here we explore some of the Mediterranean’s cosmopolitan cities and unspoilt villages to search for some of the best gastronomic delights each country serves.
Greece boasts over 6,000 islands, mild year-round climate, and diverse landscapes from majestic mountains to valleys stretching for miles. Therefore, it comes as no surprise the Greeks enjoy a great variety of fresh food products including the fishermen’s catch of the day, and the valley’s groves rich with olives, oranges, grapes, and vineyards, as well as an abundant of seasonal vegetables.
Stunning views of the turquoise sea and sculptured bays provides the perfect setting to enjoy the flavoursome taste of the traditional “Horiatiki” salad, rich plump tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onion, and olive oil with a large chunk of feta cheese placed on top. This salad can be enjoyed with charcoal grilled meat or seafood, or try as a side-dish with the traditional Greek Spanakopita pie, filled with goat cheese and spinach. Savour these Greek delights with a local wine or the national drink, ouzo poured over large cubes of ice.
Malta’s delicious cuisine is influenced by the island’s rich history with an excellent selection of seasonal dishes. On warm summer days enjoy a light snack of crusty Maltese bread topped with red tomatoes, onion, sheep’s cheese, anchovies, and a drizzling of olive oil.
Any time of the year the Lampuki Pie (fish pie) or Stuffat tal-Fenek, rabbit stew served with locally grown potatoes and vegetables or sun-ripened salads is a firm favourite. While the thick Minestra vegetable soup is a great winter warmer along with Bigilla, a traditional Maltese pate or dip made of broad beans and garlic. During your stay in Malta try the mouth-watering ricotta pie, a fried pastry filled with ricotta.
Costa del Sol
The world-famous Tapas is the true taste of Spain but explore the Costa del Sol to discover the authentic flavours of Andalusia.
Surprisingly throughout the hot summer months, Gazpacho a cold vegetable soup and Ajoblanco, a spicy, garlic cold appetizer are popular choices.
The Costa del Sol’s coastline cities or quaint fishing villages offer many sea-front restaurants and chiringuitos serving delectable plates of Pescaito Frito, small fried fish or Gambas al Pil-Pil, spicy prawns oven cooked in garlic, herbs, and white wine. Sweet tooth lovers can indulge in Malaga’s typical Borrachuelos, a rich flavoured wine and brandy bite-sized sweet or the rich almond Bienmesabe biscuit originally from Antequera.
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Majorca the largest of the Balearic Islands boasts some of the finest food markets in the capital city, Palma. Feast your eyes on the colourful stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and the impressive fish market.
For a hearty meal tuck into the Majorcan specialty, Chicken with Sobrasada Sausage, a meaty dish slowly cooked with butter beans and courguettes.
Spiny Lobster dishes are a favourite across the Balearic Islands, providing varying recipes and cooking techniques, including soups and stews.
Vegetarians have a tantalizing choice of dishes including Pimientos de Padrón, small green peppers fried in olive oil, or try the simple but filling snack, Pa Amb Oli, “bread with olive oil” served with a wide choice of toppings, raw garlic is rubbed onto the bread giving it a distinct flavour.
A meal is not complete without the locally made aromatic, herby liqueur or a glass of Menorcan gin.
Wooden tables ladled with food and drink overlooking the rolling lavender hills of Tuscany or nestled in the cobbled streets of Rome evokes wonderful images of Italy.
The Italians have created an art to their culinary skills by following recipes from their ancestors, using fresh ingredients and most importantly, good company to share special moments and savour their gastronomic delights.
Pasta and Pizza are the two world-famous Italian dishes; however, the recipes and toppings vary from different regions. Rome specializes in the pasta alla carbonara or treat yourself to Spaghetti alla Gricia in a restaurant overlooking the Vatican. To discover the true taste of Pizza visit Naples, the homeland of the original Margherita.
Indulge in something different, try Saltimbocca, these mouth-watering parcels filled with slices of meat (chicken or veal) wrapped in salty prosciutto, herb leaves and sauté until tender. Sweet lovers will not want to leave Italy after tasting the creamy tiramisu, and the homemade gelatos come in every flavour. Absorb the Italian atmosphere in a charming café with a rich aroma espresso and a chunk of Torrone, a nutty nougat sweet.
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The extensive cuisine of Turkey goes way beyond the Shish Kebab and the sugar-coated Turkish Delights. This colourful country boasts an array of exotic savoury and sweet dishes.
Turkey’s Mediterranean coast offers a wide variety of dishes using vegetables, herbs, fish, meat, and bread. For a true taste of Turkey try the nutritious Dolma and Sarma, small rolls of vine leaves filled with rice, spices, and minced meat. Explore the charismatic city of Istanbul and for a quick snack enjoy the Lahmacun, a Turkish oven baked Pizza, often served with a salty yoghurt.
Experience a taste of the Turkish culture by stopping at one of the many tearooms to enjoy the rich sweet pastry Baklava and Çay, black tea or an aromatic Turkish coffee, slowly brewed in a bronze pot over a low heat or originally on hot sand.
Côte d’Azur also known as the French Riviera is a stunning region of southeast France. Winding roads carve along the spectacular coastline offering dramatic views of the azure blue Mediterranean Sea and dotted with prestigious towns, home to the rich and famous, as well as world famous events, such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix races.
The dramatic changes to the South of France over the years has influenced the haute cuisine to nouvelle cuisine, showing Michelin Star Chefs preparing award-winning dishes using traditional recipes.
A classic example is the delicious Ratatouille, an 18th-Century “farmer’s food” is a colourful stew made of seasonal vegetables, herbs, garlic, and olive oil. Bouillabaisse Fish Stew is another traditional favourite, this dish is only considered authentic if it contains at least five different fish or seafood.
Should you be looking for a lighter meal then chose a Nicoise Salad, a wonderful mix of ripe red tomatoes, anchovies, olives, beans, and dressed with the distinct taste of French vinaigrette.
Côte d’Azur is the perfect destination for wine connoisseurs, as the nearby Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur valleys have been producing some of the finest full-bodied wines for over 2,000 years.
Sun-soaked Cyprus not only offers beautiful coastlines, unspoilt villages and historical towns but a wonderful mix of Greek and Asian cuisine guaranteeing to satisfy every taste bud.
The Cypriot’s healthy diet is based on locally grown fresh ingredients, such as tomatoes, nuts, honey, olives, goats milk and cheese. With such a large choice of mouth-watering dishes, the Cypriots enjoy their mezes, (small dishes) with a selection of olives, grilled seafood, dips including melitzanosalata (eggplant salad) and taramosalata. One of the most famous side-dish or meze in Cyprus is Halloumi Cheese, a unique fried goat and sheep’s cheese.
An island full of exotic savoury and sweet tastes, so bite-sized snacks are a great way to experience the Cypriot cuisine. Koubes are small croquettes filled with minced meat and herbs, with a squirt of fresh lemon juice. The irresistible Loukoumades sweet, deep-fried dough balls are soaked in honey, nuts, and cinnamon.