The cocarroi is a crescent-shaped veggie-filled savoury pastry you will find in every bakery and supermarket on the island because it is one of Mallorca’s most popular mid-morning snacks.
The cocarroi, like all other small pies, is one of the original fast foods — although it was invented centuries ago long before that term was coined. In the Middle Ages, pies of all shapes and sizes were sold in the streets of London from wooden trays balanced on the heads of young boys. They were perfect finger food for a quick bite.
One of the most popular small pies, savoury and sweet, is the turnover. Its appeal is universal and it crops up on all five continents. The savoury filling can be meat only, a mixture of meat and veg, all veggie and sometimes fish with vegetables.
In Argentina they do a crescent-shaped empanada with a minced meat filling that you’ll come across in the island’s Argentinian and Uruguayan restaurants. They are usually deep-fried but can also be baked.
Since just a few weeks ago we have a little shop in Calle Olmos, called Don’t Cry For Me — it sells nothing but Argentinian empanadas for takeaway. They are heated up in the oven, so you get them nice and hot. They cost €2.50 and €3.50. I haven’t tried them yet but they look absolutely delicious.
In Britain, we have the Cornish pasty with its mainly meat and potatoes filling, and the Scots have their Forfar bridie, filled with minced meat and finely chopped onion.
Majorca’s contribution is the cocarroi which sometimes looks like a small Cornish pasty, although the filling is quite different. It is mainly veggie and sometimes includes pinenuts and raisins, two common ingredients in Mediterranean stuffings.
There is no such thing as a typical cocarroi and it would be a most arrogant cook who claimed his or her recipe was the authentic one: the pastries can have different textures and the fillings vary enormously.
Among the most popular Mallorcan fillings are those containing spinach or Swiss chard (acelgas), which often feature pinenuts and raisins. Cocarroi filling in bakeries are almost always vegetable-based but homemade ones sometimes contain chopped meat or fish.
You occasionally came across what are known as ‘white’ cocarroi - the fillings are made with cauliflower, white cabbage, onions or the white part of leeks.
There is also a variation in Sant Llorenç des Cardassar that contains only onions. It is slightly bigger and flatter than the classic cocarroi and it is delicious. You could get them at the bakery in the Alcampo supermarket and they were also succulent and worth trying.
You will also find onion-filled cocarrois at a bakery in Inca. I can’t remember its name but it’s easy to find. As you come out of the station (I always go to Inca by train) you turn right and continue until you have to make a left or a right turning.
Go left (walking on the right hand side) and after about 70 yards you’ll come to a tiny bakery that does good bread and rolls as well as empanadas and onion-filled cocarrois. It’s always my first port of call when I’m in Inca.
When you’re visiting any of the inland towns and villages you will always get good bread and savoury pastries at any of the bakeries that do their own baking. It’s a good idea to try their cocarrois and meat-filled empanadas.
Just about every Mallorcan family seems to have its own traditional recipe for cocarrois — and every other Mallorcan dish.
Even the ingredients for the pastry can vary considerably. Some people add a little orange juice, others some sherry, some prefer to use an egg, although most don’t.
The following recipe for the pastry comes from Xisco Moranta of Sa Pobla, who was one of the island’s finest pastry cooks when he retired a few years ago.
Recipe for Cocaroi
Xisco’s ingredients are: 1 kilo flour (ask for harina floja), 200 grs lard, 100 mls olive oil, 400 mls water (or a little more or less, depending on the flour).
Rub the lard into the flour as lightly as possible and then mix in the olive oil. Finally, add the water little by little until you have a smooth dough. Let it lie covered for half an hour while you prepare the filling.
The most popular filling for homemade cocarrois contains pinenuts and raisins, although this version is not always available in bakeries because pinenuts are expensive and that ups the retail price. But this recipe contains only 50 grs, so it’s worth splashing out and doing it right.
You will need: 4 bunches of spinach (bags of supermarket spinach aren’t as suitable), 1 plump clove of garlic, 100 grs raisins (pasas de Málaga), 50 grs pinenuts (piñones), 1 tsp sweet paprika (pimentón dulce), 6 spring onions, a little olive oil and salt to taste.
Wash the spinach and shake off all excess water, and slice into broadish shreds.
Finely chop the garlic and the spring onions, wash the raisins and take off any stalks.
Put everything into a bowl and add the pinenuts. Season with the paprika and sprinkle on salt to taste. Pour over some olive oil and mix as for a salad. Roll the pastry thinly and cut out rounds about the size of a tea plate, or smaller.
Pack the centre with the filling, fold over into a crescent shape and, if you’re a dab hand at this kind of thing, seal the edges by doubling the pastry over on itself to get a rope-like effect. Bake them in a hottish oven for about 30 minutes.
They can be eaten hot or cold. I prefer them when they have been left for 10 minutes or so and the filling is warm and at its most succulent. When they have been left for a longish time, some Mallorcans like to cut them in half and drizzle a thread of olive oil into the filling.
The best cocarroi I know of in Palma is at the Bar Frau in one of the corners of the Santa Catalina market. They have a good selection of tapas which I never try because I always want to have one of their cocarrois, which are of a generous size with a rich pastry and a succulent filling. The meat-filled empanadas are also worth trying.
The crescent-shaped turnover with a savoury filling is found all over Spain. They are sometimes called empanadillas or pastelitos, words that mean little pies.
They are often deep-fried rather than baked, particularly in Andalusia where there is an abundance of olive oil and deep-frying is a speciality. Empanadillas in Murcia are unusual in that the pastry contains yeast as well as a glass of white wine.
In Cataluña they have an empanadilla called ‘panadons de espinacs’ whose filling is almost an exact replica of Mallorca’s cocarroi: fresh spinach, raisins, pinenuts, garlic and olive oil.
But unlike the cocarroi, the filling ingredients are cooked before being wrapped up in the rolled out
pastry, which is ordinary bread dough, just like the original pizza.The panadons are baked, not fried.
An empanadilla can be so small it is a mere mouthful. Others are slightly larger but can still be finished off in a couple of bites. They are eaten as a tapa, a mid-morning snack and are served at buffets.
You can buy frozen empanadillas at the supermarket but I don’t recommend them. The filling is microscopic and unidentifiable. They are deep-fried and turn out to be a high calorie nibble and not at all nutritious.