Plato said: I like to eat with a ladle (a rather loose rendition and translation, but none the less true). Well, if the first philosopher to form an Akademia had visited the Region of Murcia, he would have really been in his element with so much delicious food.
The thing is that in this Region, cookery is considered the 8th art. An art that is not framed nor set upon a pedestal but served in generous portions on earthenware plates. The land, sea and air provide Murcian cuisine with endless products that fill the area's menus with flavour, colour and aromas. The recipe is always the same: top quality ingredients, centuries of culinary tradition and lots of painstaking care in the preparation.
For that very reason, you shouldn't go home without having spent some time at a good table being served plate after plate of delicious food. Arm yourself with a knife, fork and spoon and get ready for the feast...
But you might have to loosen your belt a notch or two!
WHAT CAN I EAT?
In Valencia, paella; in Madrid, cocido; in Galicia, octopus, but what about the Region of Murcia. Sorry, but here we don't have one typical dish, we have LOADS. Don't worry, if you don't have time to try them all, read a few descriptions and choose the one that most takes your fancy.
01 Ajo cabañil. Not a dish in itself, but a vinegar and garlic marinade added to lamb, rabbit or potatoes once they are cooked. The ace up the sleeve of any cook worth their salt.
02 Arroces. Rice is like a "wild card" that goes with everything and makes a good impression too. Try it with rabbit and snails if you are inland, with vegetables or cauliflower if you are in the vegetable growing areas, or with seafood such as lobster if you are on the coast. Just one thing, be sure it is always Calasparra rice.
03 Arroz con habichuelas or "empedrao". If you are not keen on meat you are in luck. In our region there are many dishes that are entirely vegetable based, like this one, which is typical of the highland villages and is made with beans, rice, tomato, garlic, onion, pepper and potato... sure to leave you with a full stomach and a smile on your face.
04 Asado de cordero or cabrito. Also known as Tartera, this take on roast lamb or goat is an extremely tasty rustic recipe that is very typical in the River Segura valley. Just hearing it sizzle when it comes out of the oven is enough to make you hungry.
05 Caldero. Here cauldrons are used by sailors rather than by witches. This is one of the Region's most typical dishes: rice cooked in a cauldron of rock fish and dried pepper broth. It is usually served in separate dishes, 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.
06 Caldo con pelotas. Chicken or poultry broth with large meatballs. Eaten when steaming hot and sometimes christened with a splash of local red wine.
07 Gachasmigas or migas. When it rains in this Region, there's cause for a double celebration: firstly, because it is not something that happens every day and secondly, because that's when this delicious dish is made. The basic ingredients are flour, oil, water and garlic cloves, although in every district they add their own special touch.
08 Gazpachos. A stew made with game meat and snails served on a wheat flour pancake. Typical from Jumilla and Yecla, this substantial dish should be accompanied by a good local wine.
09 Guiso de caracoles "chupaeros". Particularly typical in summer, this casserole of snails is made with tomato, pepper and almonds. Ask for bread because you are sure to want to mop up the very last bit of the slightly spicy sauce.
10 Guiso de pavo con pelotas. It's your spoon's lucky day with this slow-cooked stew made with potatoes, turkey and cured meats. The secret is not to overdo the fat in the meatballs so they are light and tasty.
11 Guiso de trigo. The recipe is similar to a typical stew with pulses, potatoes and meat, but with an added extra: grains of wheat that have been previously soaked, giving them a pasta-like touch. Mamma mia!
12 Jallullo. As well as being almost a ritual, the slaughtering of a pig brings us many delicacies. Black "morcilla" and white "longaniza" sausages cooked with flour, oil, water and salt give rise to this thick flour purée that is brought to life by the chunks of meat or "tropezones".
13 Olla fresca or Olla de cerdo. Rice, beans, black sausage and different cuts of pork such as the backbone or trotters, make this almost soupy stew really delicious. It is called olla fresca or fresh stew because it is made with fresh meat.
14 Olla gitana. A dish that is sure to win over everyone who tries it with its selection of local garden produce: chickpeas, Totana pumpkin, green beans, pears, ripe tomatoes and onion, seasoned with paprika, saffron and fresh mint. A taste of the Segura river valley on your plate.
15 Pescado a la sal. This dish has a salty tale or two to tell. A whole fish (usually sea bass or gilthead bream) is "buried" in a tray of coarse sea salt and baked in the oven. Very healthy and brings out all the taste. And if the ingredients are from the Mar Menor Sea, so much the better.