CANARIAN FOOD – TÍPICA CANARIA
Fuerteventura is a predominantly Catholic Island and although nowadays people of many different religious beliefs mix and mingle happily together, the Roman Catholic faith does dominate and the locals take the Saints’ traditional feast days very seriously. And you can’t have a feast without food, so what is considered Typical Canarian Food or Típica Canaria?
Típica Canaria roughly translates to ‘Typically Canarian’ and is used to describe something that you would usually associate with the Canary Islands, rather than mainland Spain which is roughly 2,000km away. Típica Canaria could be almost anything from a traditional dress to a quaint little white-washed finca, but the most popular use of the phase is where food is concerned – and in the Canary Islands Típica Canaria and especially Comida Tipica (typical food ) is serious business.
Fiestas and Food
There are loads of Saints’ Days and religious events to enjoy in Fuerteventura, and most of them are known as a ‘Fiesta’ or public holiday. They are scattered all the way through the year, so the chances of you coming across one when you visit, is pretty high. They range in popularity, location and content, but the one thing that they all have in common is some kind of Típica Canaria or Traditional Canarian Food.
One of the largest and most popular fiestas across Fuerteventura and the whole of the Canary Islands, is ‘Carnaval’ or, as we call it – Carnival. It is thought that the word ‘Carnaval’ comes from the Latin Carne Vale which means “farewell to meat” and during the Holy Week or “Semana Santa’ as it is known in the Canaries, many households will avoid eating meat altogether and will switch to enjoying fish and vegetables instead.
Avoiding eating meat during certain times of the year has led to some interesting and deliciously different dishes being created. And because traditionally many of them were supposed to be shared as part of a communal feast, they are usually wholesome, hearty meals that all the family can enjoy. One such dish, which is always popular around Holy Week is Sancocho, which when loosely translated means parboiled. It is a traditional and very simple dish which was so popular during the seafaring days of the past, that it is now eaten on many of the Caribbean islands and South American countries too, as visiting travelers took the recipe back to their homelands with them. The base of the dish is still pretty much the same, but in countries like the Dominican Republic or Columbia but they have adapted the recipe to incorporate additional easy-to-source, local ingredients too.
The original dish that is enjoyed here in Fuerteventura, has become a staple part of the local Canarian diet and is usually made with locally-caught salted fish, such as grouper or dorada, and accompanied with a red mojo sauce and a gofio slice. The ingredients are easy to source and are inexpensive to buy today, which adds to the many reasons as to why this dish is so popular. You can almost imagine the locals enjoying this dish during the great droughts, when the islanders were really struggling and many moved away to South America. Water was scarce but ocean fish would have been plentiful and the islands staple grain ‘Gofio’ would likely have been the go-to food, formed into a biscuit to add additional sustenance to the dish. With memories such as these and traditional recipes being passed down through the ages, it is easy to see why this dish still has a firm place in the hearts of the local Majorero’s and is considered comfort food. It is a simple, yet tasty and filling dish which all the family can enjoy together and a tipica canaria that is still eaten and enjoyed today, especially on Good Friday.
If you fancy trying real Canarian Sancocho, made with traditional recipes and by real local’s, then there are many tapas bars and restaurants here that offer it. It is usually included into their ‘Menu Del Dia’ ( set menu of the day ) which gives you a great reason to try it and some other local dishes at the same time – and all for just a few euros! But if you don’t fancy going out, then why not make your own version at home instead? You will be surprised at how easy it is to make and how deliciously hearty and flavorsome is tastes. And if you want to recreate the real Sancocho experience at home, complete with the usual accompaniments, then I have included the recipes for the gofio biscuit and Mojo Rojo too. ENJOY!
Sancocho Canario Recipe
1kg of salted fish (grouper, sea bass or bream)
4 or 5 Kg of big potatoes
1 large sweet potato (peeled and chopped into large chunks)
3 Corn on the Cobs (sliced into big chunks)
A Bunch of fresh parsley.
The day before cooking, clean and desalinate the fish by placing it in a bowl of water in the fridge. Allow it to soak and change the water every four or five hours or so. When cooking day arrives, take a big cooking pot and place it on the hob. Wash the potatoes and chop into wedges or chunks. Leave the peel on the potatoes as this adds to both the texture and the rustic feel of the dish. Add the sweet potato and corn on the cob. Add them to the pot and cover with water. Parboil for about 10 minutes. When they are almost cooked, add in the chunks of desalinated fish and cook for a further fifteen minutes. Once everything is nicely cooked through, serve by either placing in a large serving bowl or, if you are going for a more contemporary look, remove the elements of the dish and arrange nicely on a plate. Place the gofio biscuit on the side and pour a small amount of the liquid over the fish and vegetables. Serve with a swirl of Mojo Rojo on the side.
Pella De Gofio
Gofio is the Canarian name for flour made from roasted grains. It is endemic to the Canary Islands and was the one of the original foods eaten by the first settlers on the islands, the Guanches. The Gofio that they used to enjoy was made from fern roots, however kinds of gofio that you will find in the supermarkets nowadays are more likely ground maize, wheat or beans. Making a pella or lump of gofio to accompany your Sancocho is easy and only takes a couple of minutes.
1/2 Kg of gofio
1/2 cup of water (or stock from the sancocho)
1/2 cup oil
Salt to taste
In a large bowl, mix the gofio with the water, table salt, a little sugar and the oil and knead together. One it forms a nice, dense mass, simply shape into a fat sausage and cut into thick slices. It is now ready to be added to the plate.
Mojo Rojo or Picón
The last part of this traditional Easter meal is the Mojo. Again this is a typical Canarian creation and is a sort of salsa that accompanies many Canarian dishes. When dining out you will often be presented with a red mojo (Mojo Rojo or Picón) and a green one (Mojo Verde). They are a popular accompaniment, usually enjoyed with Canarian wrinkled potatoes or traditional tapas, and are made with paprika (red) or cilantro (green). For this recipe, the red and slightly spicier mojo works best.
1 Head of garlic (Ajo)
2 Chili peppers (piconas)
1 teaspoon cumin (Comino)
1 teaspoon paprika (Paprika)
4 tablespoons vinegar.
12- 15 tablespoons olive oil.
Coarse salt to taste.
In a mortar and pestle, mash the chopped and peeled garlic, cumin, peppers, clean seeds and coarse salt until they form a smooth paste. Next, slowly add the paprika, vinegar and oil until it forms a thick paste. Continue adding the wet ingredients and mix well. Now you are ready to plate up your meal and serve.
This is a very popular dish and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as the local islanders do. Let me known by leaving a comment below and if you have made this yourself, then we would love to see the photos. You can send them into us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org