Sardinia is a large island that lies off the western coast of the Italian mainland and north of Sicily. Unlike Sicily, though, Sardinian cuisine was not traditionally focussed on the bounty of the Mediterranean in the form of fish. Instead, the Sardinian natives traditionally used the land itself to farm pigs and sheep and catch rabbit and game. Myrtle grows in abundance and is used extensively in Sardinian cuisine.
Sardinian Cuisine Includes Suckling Pig, Spring Lamb and Game
D.H. Lawrence described the island, in his book Sea and Sardinia, as “Lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere” and this seems to be historically true of Sardinia. For centuries, until the tourist trade took off in the late 20th century, the Sardinians were viewed as a distant, uncommunicative and serious people who built their remote villages in the hills and farmed the land rather than caught fish from the Med.
The national dish of Sardinia is sucking (or suckling) pig (a piglet that is up to six weeks old which is still taking milk from its mother) cooked on a spit over an open fire and flavoured with myrtle. A close contender to this national dish is baby lamb cooked in the same, simple way. This game recipe for partridge with lentils is Sardinian simplicity at its best.
Sardinian Myrtle – Used in Cooking and to Make a Delicious Liqueur
The evergreen myrtle, from the same family as that of cloves and all spice, is omnipresent in Sardinia and used extensively in cooking. Myrtle berries can be used in recipes in place of juniper berries such as the recipe for pork and sauerkraut casserole given in this article on the tenth day of Christmas. Myrtle berries will also add an extra dimension to a casserole of game such as pheasant or partridge.
Pecorino Sardo – Sardinian Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Sardinia is famous for its pecorino cheese made from locally produced sheep’s milk. This cheese comes in a soft or hard variety and received Protected Designation of Origin from the EEC in 1996 meaning only the cheese produced on Sardinia can be called pecorino Sardo. This recipe for Sardinian ravioli with spinach and pecorino is typical of the cuisine of this Italian region.