Salento is an area that’s all about simplicity
Salento is an area that’s all about simplicity, shaped by sea and wind, kissed by the sun, smoothed by the indefatigable work of its people, who through their daily toil have dug and hoed and planted and harvested, to gift to posterity a veritable Garden of Eden on Earth. Salento cuisine has humble roots and is fruit of the modest yet noble resources of our land. Were you to list all the typical specialties of our culinary tradition, you’d discover simple ingredients and easy recipes that allow the freshness of the products to really shine through. Olive oil is the only fat we allow and it’s superb quality, extra-virgin. And our vegetable gardens overflow with tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes, aubergines and lots of others that are difficult to translate from Italian. Then there’s our fruit – queen over all, like our figs, typical of the Mediterranean coast, and that grow wild. From every single vegetable, and every fruit you can taste the sunshine that nurtured it and the soil that it grew in.
There are many tens of cultivated traditional Salento food products listed by the Ministry of Agriculture, some of which also carry the DOC, DOP and IGT marks of authenticity.
Many of these products undergo simple oven cooking or are left to dry in the sun, slowly, in their own time, which makes them all the more special. Other products are prepared using recipes with few ingredients, a witness to our ancestors’ great culinary know-how. Slow-cooking, time, and simplicity all make our cuisine unique. Tomatoes and figs taste even better when left to dry in the sun, and our bottling vegetables are our best loved and most eaten. We always have an abundance of fruit which we use to make delicious preserves and jams. Nothing is thrown away and anything left over is given away to friends and neighbours.
Salento sausage, for example, is made with lean pork and beef and generally cooked in the oven with onions, or with wild hyacinth bulbs, strictly locally-grown, or with potatoes – better still if they are Galatina ones.
No single list could contain all our Salento specialities but just reading the names of lots of our products you’ll develop a love for the ancient towns that give them their names. Galatina potatoes, Pecorino cheese from Maglie, Galatone apricots, the really sweet Presidio Slow Food, chicory from Otranto, olives and petits pois from Nardó, quatara fish soup from Porto Cesareo, scapece marinade from Gallipoli and many more delights .. one bite and you already get the true flavour of Salento!
There’s plenty of everything which means we can eat fresh products all seasons of the year. Here we are a long way from globalisation. We may be in the third millennium but we haven’t stopped dancing to nature’s rhythms. You’ll see for yourselves when you taste all our great, traditional, locally-grown produce, all the love and hard work that goes into a simple piece of bread and how much sunshine there is in every sun-dried tomato. Eating in Salento is altogether magical.