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A Melting Pot of Cultural Cuisine on the Canary Islands

Published: Wed 15 Aug 2012 at 10:22

Updated: Wed 15 Aug 2012 at 10:23

Food and drink in the Canary Islands is a mouth watering mixture of the very best Spanish, African and Latin American cuisine.

Just like the scenery in the Canaries, the food here is unique. Due to the constantly warm climate, fertile volcanic soils and  colourful heritage of the islands, few other places offers such a melting pot of taste and culture. On most traditional menus, you’ll find in one form or another a basic called Gofio. It’s a roasted maize or wheat flour that was first invented by the islands’ original inhabitants, the Guanches. As such, it’s one of the oldest recipes in the Canaries. Gofio can be served in a variety of ways, as a breakfast accompaniment, added to stews, desserts, sauces or even as a special variety of local nougat. Also you’ll find it served with another local delicacy, sweet blood sausages with almonds and raisins. If you want a real taste of island life, Gofio is a must! 

Next, you can’t help but notice the mighty Mojo. Although there are lots of variations, these savoury sauces fall into two types: the Mojo Picon, a hot sauce of oil, garlic, chilli peppers and paprika; and the Mojo Verde, a milder variety based on parsley and coriander. A staple in most homes and restaurants, Mojo recipes can be a closely guarded secret between chefs as they form a key part in many fish and meat dishes. Get your Mojo working and check out the different types on offer almost everywhere you eat out.

If you love fish, you’ll love dining in the Canaries. Of exceptional quality, it’s a million miles from the cod and chips we’re used to at home. Just check out some of these names – wreckfish, damselfish, dentex, white sea bream, bogue and let’s not forget the local favourite, parrotfish. They’re all regulars on Canarian menus and typically cooked in one of three ways - in a casing of salt; lightly fried and baked; or ‘jareado’ style, which is sun dried and seasoned. A special mention to the abundant shellfish too, including delicious grilled limpets and the ‘burgado’ a type of sea snail.

Vegetarians are well catered for with plentiful local produce. Potaje de Berros, a well known hot pot of chick peas, is worth  looking out for. When it comes to dessert, try ‘bienmesabes’ - meaning ‘it tastes good to me’. These simple small cakes are made from a mouth-watering blend of honey and ground almonds. Or you may prefer ‘truchas navidenas’ small pastries filled with sweet potato. For a more savoury end to the meal several of the islands have their own speciality cheeses, including the Flor de Guia in Gran Canaria, a soft buttery tasting blend of cow’s and goat’s milk.

Naturally, fruit is bountiful too - so make the most of tropical delights such as fresh papaya, melon pear, peach, mango, avocado and pineapple. All locally grown and picked. The islands have a long and proud tradition of wine-making too. May we  recommend the Malvasia from Lanzarote and the Tranconte in Tenerife? Or you can’t go to far wrong with any of the house wines, as all round standards tend to be pretty high. For those feeling a little braver, other local drinks worth trying include banana liquor and honey-rum.  Cheers!

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