Someone recently asked me, what was the one thing – if there could possibly be just one thing – that shouts to me, Mallorca?
It was both easy yet difficult to choose in equal measure, as there are so many things that simply shout Mallorca, instantly reminding me of our beautiful island shores. Yet, when cornered to pick just one, it was ‘frito mallorquin’ that shone through. If I was blindfolded in a locked room and someone held a steaming plate of freshly prepared ‘frito’ under my nose, I would immediately be transported to Mallorca.
Wherever I have travelled around the globe, there is absolutely nothing even remotely similar to that peppery, earthy savour with its multi layered flavours that only ever come from liver notes and her various, unmentionable cousins, which present themselves as Majorca’s prince of platters. The onions, the potatoes, the garlic, the peppers and of course the ‘offal’ which a lot of people don’t even like to think about, let alone say; so we shall concentrate on the signature herbal presence found in ‘fonoll’ (wild fennel), which grows native here in the country lanes which criss-cross our verdant island. It’s those tender stems and feathery anise fronds which gives frito mallorquin its totally unique and unmistakable flavour.
Wild fennel grows prolifically throughout the winter months, so ‘frito’ is usually regarded as a winter warming dish, although it can be appreciated at any time of the year thanks to the benefits of owning a freezer. Chopped and stored in ziplock bags this signature gourmet note can be available all year round.
With Covid repressing and overshadowing regular restaurant outings I recently found myself craving this Mallorcan classic; and nostalgia quickly reminded of the first time I made its exquisite acquaintance.
On one of our first visits to Mallorca, simply decades ago, we wandered into one of those traditional back street restaurant/bars in Muro. It was only around 2pm in the afternoon, but we were naïve and unaccustomed to Mallorcan ways, so thought it might be a little late for lunch!
We asked for the menu, also not realizing that here in Mallorca ‘the menu’ means their daily prepared ‘menu del dia’ (menu of the day) and not the restaurant menu which is called ‘la carta’. As with most ‘menus del dia’ it’s a verbal offering and not usually printed on paper.
Sometimes a blackboard if you are lucky! So we thought, due to the late hour, we were limited to this local yet limited choice. Three courses with bread, olives, wine and water! We expected to be charged a small fortune, but were gobsmacked when the bill turned up demanding 14E for the two! I can’t remember the main and the pudding, but the starter was frito mallorquin and its milestone memory has remained with me to this day.
Frito mallorquin is a dish made from lamb’s liver, heart, kidney and all the other bits and bobs dangling in between. It’s absolutely delectable, yet if offal is a bridge too far, you can always make the crossing with an alternative version using chicken livers; a played down affair which hopefully won’t give you nightmares, yet still delivers a very passable frito with all the signature notes and flavours in place.
Frito mallorquin is a great dish to include at any tapa feast as it can be prepared ahead of time and finished off at the very last minute. There are no shortcuts to this dish, and like many Majorcan specialities it does takes time. But cooking frito is not a stressful encounter, and given some real patience along with heaps of love, the results are well worth the trouble. I promise!
All ingredients in this recipe are approximate, so you can freestyle and not worry too much about exact quantities. This style of rustic cooking doesn’t need rigid accuracy as far as the scales are concerned. It’s that local confidence acquired by cooking something time and time again, knowing exactly how the dish should look and taste.
Pre-prepared frito mallorquin ingredients can be purchased in most Mallorcan supermarkets. For this recipe you need around 125g, with everything diced smallish to about the size of your thumbnail as it tends to swell when cooking.
In the absence of authentic frito mix, substitute with a small tub of fresh chicken livers. Some tubs include a few chicken hearts which is a huge bonus. Add a little lamb’s liver for a stronger taste. Don’t squirm, just get on with it, and dice everything roughly to a thumbnail size. In my version, as Other Half shies at too much offal, I like to add a nice big spicy sausage, skin removed and filling pinched out into small nuggets.
In the absence of wild fennel, substitute with ½ small regular fennel bulb using both white and green part of stalk along with fronds and a goodly pinch of dried tarragon.
- 1 large or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into roughly 1cm cubes.
- Half a small aubergine diced into roughly 1cm cubes.
- Half a courgette diced into roughly 1cm cubes.
- ½ red and ½ green pepper, seeded and diced into roughly 1cm pieces.
- 1 onion roughly chopped.
- ½ small bulb of fresh fennel, diced including fronds (If you can find wild fennel, then use a good handful of chopped young stems and fronds to taste)
- 2 spring onions (scallions), roughly chopped including green stems.
- 3 large garlic cloves crushed and chopped, plus 4-6 of those teeny baby cloves you find clinging to the big guys inside the bulb. Leave these babies unpeeled and whole.
- 3 bay leaves.
- ½ cup of frozen peas.
- Dried chilli flakes to taste or two chopped, pickled green guindillas.
- A goodly amount of virgin olive oil. At least 150 ml
1 Heat a generous amount of virgin olive oil in a large wok or frying pan.
2 Start by sizzling your authentic frito mix, or chicken livers, and little sausage nuggets in that order, removing each ingredient when cooked (around three minutes) Drain with a slotted spoon before placing in a nice, terracotta serving dish.
3 In the flavoured oil, sauté potato cubes for 10 mins until cooked and slightly coloured while you prepare the next ingredient. Remove potato with slotted spoon and add to sautéed offal in the terracotta dish.
4 Add more oil and sauté courgette cubes until cooked, moving around frequently to prevent burning. Around 5 mins. Remove to join other ingredients in terracotta dish.
5 Add more oil and sauté aubergine cubes until golden, then drain, remove and add to rest of frito mix. This is traditionally an oily dish designed to leave the kiss of olive on your lips when you eat it so don’t worry about the amount used.
6 Add more oil if necessary and sauté chopped onion, with diced spring onions, diced fennel plus fronds (wild fennel if using) and whole baby garlic cloves for 10 mins until softened. Add diced peppers and chopped garlic. Season with plenty of black pepper, chilli flakes and salt to taste. Add chopped guindillas if using, along with a generous pinch of dried tarragon, bay leaves. Cook for further ten minutes, add frozen peas then transfer all the vegetables to the big terracotta serving dish with the other ingredients and combine well.
7 The frito can be made up to this stage, refrigerated, and simply reheated in a hot wok or frying pan for a few minutes before serving sprinkled generously with parsley. It looks authentically Mallorcan, and tastes divine. It also makes the house smell like a Mediterranean restaurant. Like I said before, for me it’s number one, and always shouts – Majorca!