Eating On The Shores Of The Mediterranean

There is much talk these days about the benefits of what is referred to as The Mediterranean Diet, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, pulses and oil, especially olive oil; by contrast it is a diet low in dairy products and low in meat. It is broadly the diet which we follow here, not out of any particular health concerns, though I have my Type 2 Diabetes to bear in mind, and I had my little run-in with cancer last year, but because it tastes so good. In this we are helped by the fact that there are many things we can get here that either would not be available in England, or would be prohibitively expensive. Here, for instance, we can easily pop artichokes, avocados and a whole variety of different types of tomatoes into the trolley, not to mention large, gnarled and beautifully tasty red and green bell peppers which would be rejected by British supermarkets. In the summer we can add to the list Pimientos de Padrón, small peppers that look like green chillies, but are actually mild (apart from the odd one that catches you unawares and rocks you back on your heels, but that’s part of the fun) and are shallow fried in oil until the skins are charred, then tipped out into a dish and sprinkled with a generous dose of coarse sea salt. You then sit around and eat them chatting with friends with good fresh bread to accompany them and mop up the juices. Fruit, too, has its novelties - chirimoyas and paraguayos being two. The chirimoya is a strange fruit which looks as if it is covered in scales, a bit like an artichoke and the skin is the same colour. In fact the skin is faceted with brown lines. To eat it, you simply slice it in half vertically and eat it with a spoon, discreeetlyy spitting out the large black stones that are the only drawback. In English they are often called custard apples because their flavour tastes a bit like both. The paraguayo looks just like a small peach squashed down into a hopeless doughnut, and indeed it belongs to the peach family. These fruits, along with apricots, nectarines and several varieties of peach, are seasonal and one of the pleasures is seeing them reappear on the supermarket shelves each year. Mangos are also grown locally, but are also imported and so are available all year round, but the price is a fraction of what we used to pay in the UK, so a typical weeks shopping would include at least a couple. Of course, there are also apples, pears, bananas, strawberries and raspberries, but we tend to favour the more tropical fruits. Spain is also a major producer of citrus fruits, which are both plentiful and cheap, so much so that each week we pick up a couple of 2kg nets of oranges for juicing each morning as part of breakfast, and there are always limes and lemons on hand at home for adding to a G & T, or juicing into a salsa or tagine. As I read this back, I realise that actually there is an awful lot to be said about the Mediterranean diet. I allowed myself several posts to introduce you to the world of Spanish wine. I shall now do the same for the food of the Mediterranean. It is so much more than just Spanish, Italian or Greek!

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