Some great fresh fish. | AMALIA ESTABÉN


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Red mullet is one of the Mediterranean’s finest treats and Majorcans adore them. You will find them on restaurants menus under the Spanish name of salmonetes, or as molls, the Mallorquín word. They are at their best when simply pan-fried or grilled and that’s how you should order them.

A few years ago a poll in a local newspaper showed that Majorcans’ favourite fish is the cap roig, which means red head because of its colour and large head. It is called scorpion fish in English and is the rascasse rouge of France where it is one of the main fish in the Provençal bouillabaisse.

Majorcans are extremely fond of butterflied cap roig with spine bone intact and grilled on a hot plate then sprinkled with herbs and drizzled with virgen extra olive oil. This is most definitely one of the best ways of eating this fish. Local cooks also coat thickish slices with flour and fry them in deepish oil over a high heat…but for a short time.

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I have several English friends who on alternate days during a two-week visit to the island have a light lunch of tuna or swordfish, a mixed green salad, and four slices of melon or watermelon for dessert.

They can’t get fresh tuna or swordfish where they live, so they have one or the other every day — grilled until cooked through and juicy, and served with nothing but the pan juices and a few drops of lemon juice. It makes for princely eating.

Swordfish and tuna have a meaty look and texture: tuna is red and reminds us of beef, whereas swordfish has a lovely light pink colour that makes it look like milk-fed veal.

Majorcan restaurant cooks like to work with tuna and swordfish because the flesh is firm and well flavoured and there is no time-consuming preparation involved. They simply season slices of either fish, put them on a hot plate and keep their eye on them for 3-5 minutes depending on their thickness. The result is sheer culinary bliss.

Another fish dish loved by Majorcans and discerning visitors is mero a la mallorquina. Mero is grouper and in the mallorquina version thick slices of the fish are baked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, pinenuts and raisins. It’s a dish that could have come from a book on Arab cuisine — and it’s a reminder that Majorca was at one time under Arab domination for almost 200 years.