Mediterranean gastronomy, a universal diet

Its foods make up the most highly praised nutritional pyramid on the planet
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Mediterranean foods make up the most praised nutritional pyramid on the planet. Products such as olive oil, fruit and vegetables, cereals, pulses, nuts, yoghurts, white meat and fish, as well as wine taken in moderation, are the object of admiration for a large number of consumers all over the world.

Morocco is one of the exemplary countries of the Mediterranean diet with Berber, Andalusian, Sephardic, French and Spanish influences, with roots dating back to the Merini dynasty of the 14th century and a clearly distinctive spice-based product, ras el hanout (paprika, turmeric, ginger, saffron, cumin, nutmeg, etc.).

Couscous, made from wheat semolina, is a dish of Berber origin that is extremely popular in all Arab countries. It is usually made with lamb and/or vegetables (pumpkin, courgette, aubergine, cabbage, chickpeas, etc.). Also tajine, a stew made in a clay pot with chicken, lamb, beef or fish, accompanied by vegetables, dates, sultanas, apples, olives, almonds and eggs.

Also important is the pigeon pastry, a delicate puff pastry stuffed with almonds and cinnamon, or harira, a noodle soup with meat, tomato and pulses (beans and chickpeas).

As for sweets, Morocco goes for chebakia, made with flour, egg, butter, almonds, sesame and honey, or briwat, sweet pastries; while the national drink, also in other Arab countries, is green tea with mint, fruit juices and sour milk with honey and thyme, as well as fig liqueur, which is clearly of Sephardic origin.

Tunisia, which also has a wide range of gastronomic offerings, focuses on products such as olive oil, vegetables and meats such as sheep, beef and camel. The ultimate dish is chakchouka, a roast meat, or jelbena, a chicken and pea stew.


Spanish Paella

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Of interest are kamounia, a meat and liver stew with a thick sauce, kefteji, a vegetable stew with olive oil and harissa, mirniz, a lamb and white bean stew with a spicy sauce, and merguez, a grilled lamb sausage.

Kémia (tapas) is very popular throughout the country with fried fish, hard-boiled eggs, broad beans with cumin, anchovies or tuna, tounsya salad with sweet and hot peppers with tomato, olive oil, vinegar and sardines in oil, or kerkenesa prawns cooked in tomato sauce.

In sweets, masfuf with sultanas, pomegranate, dates and almonds and baklawas, cakes made with honey, dried fruit, sugar, butter, eggs, oil, almonds and geranium water, stand out. Drinks include orgeat, an almond drink, and thibarine, a liqueur made from dates and aromatic plants.

Lebanon, a cosmopolitan country, is famous for its tabbuleh, a salad with couscous, cucumber, onion, lemon, olive oil, parsley and mint leaves, as well as mezze (tapas) of hummus, cheeses, fried foods, salads and pita bread.

Other popular dishes include shawarma, chicken, lamb or beef roasted on a turntable, kofta, minced meat in the form of a hamburger or meatball with potatoes and pita bread, fried cauliflower, and chickpea falafel with cumin, vegetables and yoghurt sauce, a traditional dish in the form of a croquette, which due to its importance in the Mediterranean diet and in Middle Eastern cuisine even has its own International Day, celebrated on 12 June. In sweets, ma'amoul, a biscuit filled with nuts and fresh fruit in a round or pyramid shape, stands out.


Arabic sweets

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Turkey's Ottoman splendour is also a clear example of the varied and rich Mediterranean gastronomy with dishes such as dolma, a vine leaf stuffed with rice, minced meat, onion and spices, or the emblematic doner kebab, meat on a rotating grill with vegetables and yoghurt sauce.

The çorba is the Turkish soup par excellence and is made with lentils, yoghurt, tomato, fish, pasta or tripe, while lahmacum is the typical pizza with minced meat, onion, tomato and spices.

Also popular is the testi kebab, meat stewed in a clay pot over charcoal coals, accompanied by vegetables and topped with bread dough that has to be broken. Rahat locum are jelly squares (jelly beans) flavoured with fruit and almonds.

Israel, due to the diaspora, has many influences on its cuisine, although the Mediterranean rules in typical dishes such as chickpea hummus with lemon, garlic, sesame paste and tahini (sesame seeds).

Jraime is fried or baked fish with garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and spices, and shakshuka is poached eggs with tomato, garlic and onion sauce. In sweets, halva is a sesame paste sweetened with honey or sugar and another crunchier variant with sultanas, dates and pistachios, sometimes with coconut and vanilla.

In Europe, Malta is a clear example of Mediterranean cuisine with stuffat tal-fanek, rabbit roasted with tomato, onion and bay leaves and stewed with carrots and potatoes, or timpana, macaroni with chicken liver, sometimes with pork or beef, egg sauce, broth and onion.



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Lampuki is peppered fish with rosemary and wine, and kwarezimal, a sweet dish eaten during Lent, with flour, honey, almonds and spices.

In Croatia, pasticada, a veal stew with vegetables, spices and wine, accompanied by gnocchi; sarma, spiced meat with rice wrapped in cabbage cooked with sauce or cevapi, cylindrical minced meat served with spongy bread, onion, sauce with peppers and aubergines. In sweets, the orehujaca, a puff pastry with walnuts, stands out.

Spain is also a country rich in gastronomy. Its fabulous Mediterranean diet has achieved great prestige, from vegetables from the Murcian market gardens to fruit, not forgetting olive oil, the world-famous "liquid gold" and a fundamental pillar of the Spanish agri-food system. It should be remembered that Spain accounts for 70% of EU production and 45% of world production. Some of its most outstanding dishes include the typical potato omelette, made with olive oil, potatoes, onion and eggs; paella with rice, chicken, rabbit, vegetables and saffron, which can also be served with fish or mixed, depending on individual tastes; and, at this time of year in the summer, the rich, fresh salads with natural products from the garden, such as tomatoes. And to finish off a tasty meal, a good dessert: torrijas (French toast), egg flan, rice pudding or custard.

We can see, therefore, a very varied gastronomy with a common base: healthy and natural foods, which are adapted to the idiosyncrasies of each of the countries bathed by the Mare Nostrum of the Romans.