Apart from its idyllic natural landscapes, Formentera also has a plenty to offer lovers of fine food and drink. The main traditional dish is 'peix sec’, a famous and very popular gourmet dish on the island.
It dates back to ancient times, when the fishermen of Formentera used to dry fish to preserve it and be able to eat it all year round. ‘Peix sec’ is normally made using cartilaginous fish, with tough skin and no scales, with the most popular being skate, common smooth-hound and dogfish.
To prepare ‘peix sec’ properly, the first thing to do is cut the clean fish into fillets. Once filleted it is placed in brine for 30 to 60 minutes and then left to dry in the sun for four days. Traditionally, the fillets of ‘peix sec’ are hung from the branches of young savin juniper trees. When the fish is dry it is roasted over the fire, flaked and packaged in olive oil. This is the secret for preserving it for months.
‘Peix sec’ is the most common ingredient in traditional Formentera dishes and has a hard texture as well as a strong smell and flavour of the sea.
In terms of the island's gastronomy, by far the most popular dishes are rices, fresh fish, charcoal grilled meats and traditional recipes, including (in addition to country style salad with ‘peix sec’), ‘frit de polp’ (fried octopus), country style stir-fry with meat and potatoes, squid in their ink with sausage and sobrasada, and fish stew with potatoes.
The island's most traditional dessert is ‘Flaó’, a round cake made with eggs and fresh cheese. Not forgetting ‘greixonera’, a kind of pudding with cinnamon that was invented to use up leftover ensaimadas, and ‘orelletes’, little flour tarts sprinkled with sugar that usually put in an appearance at big celebrations.
Wine is the island's hidden ‘treasure’, with more than a hundred years of wine-producing tradition. Formentera has around 80 hectares of vineyards and its wines are highly appreciated due to the great age of the vines, the same ones that avoided the phylloxera epidemic that devastated most European vineyards in the 19th century. Country folk have traditionally produced home-made wine for their own use. In fact, only two wineries produce wine for sale: Terramoll in La Mola and Cap de Barbaria in the village after which the lighthouse at Cap de Barbaria is named.
Other top products in Formentera's gastronomy include ‘Es Morer’ honey whose great quality is thanks to dry land flowers (rosemary or thyme, depending on the time of year) and the absence of chemical products during the production process; dried figs, with an intense flavour and perfumed with aniseed and bay leaf; the island's fresh cheese made from goat and sheep milk; plus ‘bescuit’, a slow-cooked bread with a texture similar to toasted bread that needs to be soaked before eating.
This Balearic island can also boast a Michelin star. In 2014, Can Dani restaurant received the award given by the renowned guide, making it a world famous gastronomic venue. Chef Ana Jiménez García's cooking captivated the strict food critics. Since then, this restaurant, based at kilometre 8.5 of the road to La Mola, has become a top foodie destination in Formentera with its sophisticated cuisine inspired by first-class ingredients, handled to offer a gourmet experience with no rules, no holding back, that's sincere, honest and fun... according to Dani Serra on the restaurant web site.
RECIPE FOR COUNTRY STYLE SALAD WITH ‘PEIX SEC’, Formentera's most traditional dish.
Country style salad with Peix Sec
Ingredients: tomato, onion, green pepper, roasted red pepper, boiled potatoes in their skins, 'peix sec' (dried fish), oil, salt, pepper and ‘bescuit’.
Peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks, then do the same with the green pepper and the onion, Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
Add the roasted red pepper and the flaked dried fish.
Break up the ‘bescuit’; as it's very dry, this product needs to be wrapped in a dry cloth and placed under running water from the tap to moisten it a little. If there isn't any ‘bescuit’ available, you can do without it. Mix in with the other ingredients, adding salt and pepper. Lastly, add the oil from the ‘peix sec’, which has rather a strong flavour but is delicious with the salad.