Sea-scented gold dust.
Amber-coloured nectar gifted to food lovers by Neptune, or by Mother Nature, often so generous with unexpected gifts. Because Bottarga, one of Sardinia’s most delicious gastronomic delicacies, is made of thousands of eggs produced by every female grey mullet. Salted, pressed and dried roe.
The eggs can only come from Mugil Cephalus, also known as the flathead grey mullet. It is the only species that has an egg sac that is strong enough to resist salt rubbing, resulting in a product that is a worthy rival to caviar.
Between the end of the summer and the start of autumn, the fishermen go out to sea to search for grey mullet. They only catch the largest of the silver-flanked female fish with their characteristic fatty eyelids whose bellies they cut open to extract the egg-laden sacs. This is the start of the preparation of bottarga.
Although this prized delicacy is produced in Europe, as it is in Japan, or along the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, Sardinian bottarga is unequalled in both reputation and quality.
It is amber in colour like old gold. It is firm and compact to the touch, and while tuna bottarga has a more pronounced ‘fishy’ flavour, it is grey mullet that has the fine, delicate taste that makes all the difference at the table.
At the first taste, you either love it or hate it, but you cannot remain indifferent. Don’t worry though if you don’t fall head over heels in love with slices of Bottarga served with celery as an aperitif. All it takes is a drizzle of olive oil, a drop of lemon and a sliced cherry tomato for it to turn into everlasting love. And there is no shortage of recipes and surprises for fuelling this love affair: whether thinly sliced or grated, Bottarga is a true delicacy on spaghetti, risotto or ‘malloreddus’ pasta with garlic and parsley. And let’s not forget main courses and side dishes… truly mouthwatering.
In Sardinia, the main production takes place in the Gulfs of Oristano and Cagliari, Ogliastra and Sarrabus.
Food with very humble origins.
Never absent from Sardinia’s tables on grand occasions, it brings with it an age-old flavour conjuring up the distant past.
What’s the secret?
The centuries-old processing method handed down from one generation to the next. Always the same and never changing. The same one enjoyed with every morsel.