Oh Palma, it’s impossible not to fall in love with your charm.
Tiny cobbled streets bursting with cafes, a rich history present in every corner, yachts gently bobbing in the distance, blue skies and welcoming locals. Quite simply, perfect.
It’s 9.00 p.m now, the light is starting to fall and the crickets are beginning their boisterous call.
Day one of the cooking course has been a success. The school is located upstairs in Mercat De L’Olivar, a large indoor market split on two levels with escalators.
This week there are 8 keen chefs and 3 teachers including the school’s founder Manuel. Manuel gives us a brief introduction about the school and his goal to make veganism mainstream. The course is a tour through 21 countries that touch the Mediterranean Sea. We are invited to introduce ourselves. There is a huge age range between us and we have come from all over the world. Some have been vegan for years and are looking to be more creative in the kitchen. Others are parents, keen to introduce more plant-based cooking into their repertoire, and a few are aspiring cafe owners.
We are assigned into groups and I am paired with a friendly German mother of 3. We are given our recipe for the day: Moroccan Spicy Cilantro Salad. I have a lot of fun here. We get straight to work preparing the salad which contains dates, orange slices, spinach, pistachios and harrissa as its core ingredients. My fellow chef is entertaining to talk to and has a wealth of nutrition knowledge from 5 years of training at University.
The other pairs make Israel Charoset, Algeria Chicken Tajine, Bosnia Filanova and Egyptian dates. We are given interesting facts about our dishes and the countries. For example, the Israeli Charoset is a sweet paste made of fruit and nuts and meant to remind us of the mortar the Israelite slaves used in their building. It is one of the symbolic foods eaten over Passover Seder. Israel also has the highest percentage of vegans per capita in the world (an estimated 400,000).
Once all the food is prepared we are invited to serve ourselves a plate and sit down to share lunch together.
The Algerian Chikun dish (you cannot call vegan chicken, chicken in Europe) is absolutely delicious. The Chikun is actually mushrooms torn and then seasoned with the Academy’s own CHIXN yeast (the yeast is inactive). It gives the mushrooms an amazing flavour.
The Bosnia Filanova is traditionally stuffed with meat but here it is made with textured soy. This was my favourite dish. The potatoes, soy and rice give an interesting mix of textures and the pepper sauce was very aromatic.
The Egyptian dates were also divine. The girls did an amazing job with presentation on this one. They looked so pretty, with dried flowers sprinkled over them, and the Harissa giving an interesting kick. I can’t wait to try making these at home.
After class I decide to take a walk to Santa Catalina and stop at two places that Manuel recommends.
Simply delicious is a new fresh healthy Eastern Mediterranean cafe with a range of fresh juices, vegan/vegetarian friendly breakfasts and lunches. I duck in to escape the searing heat outside. The space is light, with white washed walls and beautiful mosaic tiles on the floor. A cool, ambient soundtrack plays quietly in the background and a largely international crowd are seated.
Then I head to Cream Crew, a vegan ice cream shop set up by an Australian couple. They do unusual flavour pairings and their Salted Coffee ice-cream is amazing. You would never be able to tell it’s dairy-free.
Santa Catalina is en-route to my villa so I attempt the walk home, but the beating sun is punishing and when I reach the bottom of a great big hill, I give up. Hailing a taxi, this turns out to be the first time I really get to use my Spanish. There are a lot of English speakers in Palma, which is useful but I miss the adventure of trying to speak Spanish.
After calling in at the villa I take a short bus ride to a small cove further on called Illetes.
Here you can find beautiful white sand and clear blue waters. But the beach is packed and after a quick dip, I head back to the tranquillity of my accommodation, enjoying a relaxing swim in their shady pool.