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Canarian cuisine refers to the typical dishes and ingredients in the cuisine of the Canary Islands, and it constitutes an important element in the culture of its inhabitants. Its main features are its freshness, variety, simplicity, and the richness of its ingredients (which may be a result of the long geographical isolation the islands suffered), the mix of seafood and meat dishes, its cultural influences and the low knowledge of it by the rest of the world. Canarian cuisine is influenced by other cultures, specially the aboriginal inhabitants of the islands (Guanches) and Latin American cuisine (specially after the 20th-century Canarian migration to Latin America). Some African influences still prevail as well.
Sauces and appetizers
Many small dishes are presented in the Canary Islands as appetizers, or snacks (tapas), which are known locally as enyesques.
Mojo (pronounced mO-ho) is a sauce served with many dishes, which is made mainly of oil, garlic, vinegar, salt, red pepper, thyme, cumin, coriander and several other spices. The two main kinds of mojo are rojo (red, often served with meat) and verde (green, often served with fish), though both can be served with potatoes. Spicy red mojo is called mojo picón. This recipe is the base of the mojos of Latin America, especially Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, due to heavy Canarian emigration, and have also influenced the cuisines of the non-Hispanic Caribbean islands.
One very typical Canarian product is gofio, a flour created by grinding roasted sweetcorn, which used to be the staple food for the local population for centuries. Gofio is produced locally and is added to many foods. For instance, it can be mixed with warm milk to be drank in the morning, as well as made into a dough-like food called pella that can be eaten alongside meals. Gofio can also be stirred with fish broth and onions to create a dish called gofio escaldado or escaldón de gofio.
Local varieties of cheese are popular and numerous, specially goat cheese. Both cheese from La Palma and Fuerteventura are protected by the Denominación de Origen label. Other notable cheeses are the Flor de Guía cheese and the queso tierno (tender cheese). Hard cheese is made into a paste called Almogrote in La Gomera island. Grilled cheese with mojo is sometimes served as a starter.
Traditional canarian meals usually start with a soup, in order to prepare the stomach for the meal. Among the most known soups are:
- Potajes are chunky vegetable soups with potatoes, and they're one of the main ways Canarian people consume vegetables. Their ingredients can vary largely, depending on the island. One of the most popular is the potage de berros (watercress soup). They can be machine blended into purees, more suitable for children.
- Caldo de papas (potatoes soup) is a humble soup made mainly of potatoes and coriander.
- Caldo de pescado (fish soup) usually features popular fish of the islands, like the mero (grouper), sama (common dentex) and cherne (wreckfish).
- Rancho canario is a soup with chick peas, lard, thick noodles, potatoes and meat.
Waters around the Canary Islands are rich with a great variety of autochthonous fish. These can be prepared in many ways, including oven roasted (sometimes covered in a salt bed), fried, marinated in various sauces, etc. Some preparations include:
- Sancocho canario, which is a meal consisting in boiled fish with potatoes, sweet potatoes, gofio and mojo. In Tenerife, it's served in a pot.
- Pescado seco (dry fish), that can include tollos (school shark strips served with sauce) and jareas (open and dried fish, similar to bacalhau, that are often eaten roasted).
- Puchero canario is a meat-rich soup which is the Canarian equivalent to Spanish cocidos. In it; chicken, beef and pork meat are combined with chick peas, corn cobs, sweet potatoes, potatoes and other vegetables (carrot, cabbage).
- Goat meat has been eaten in the islands since pre-Spanish times.
- Ropa vieja (literally, old clothes), is a dish consisting of chicken and beef mixed with potatoes and garbanzos (chickpeas). Canarian ropa vieja is the father to Cuban ropa vieja through Canarian emigration.
- Conejo en salmorejo is a traditional rabbit stew marinated in coriander sauce (not to be confused with mainland Spain's salmorejo).
- Pork is the main ingredient of dishes such as Carne fiesta (literally, party meat), costillas con piña (ribs with corn cobs), etc.
Sweets and desserts
Canarian desserts often use simple ingredients, such as cane sugar, honey, matalahuga or matalauva (anise), almonds and traditional miel de palma (specially in the island of La Palma). Among the desserts we find bienmesabe (literally, a contraction of the Spanish phrase that means tastes good to me), which is a paste of almonds, honey and sugar often served with ice cream or cream. Frangollo is a mix of corn flour, sugar, almonds and raisins, while truchas are pastries (filled with sweet potatoes paste or cabell d'angel, for instance) that are cooked specially at Christmas time. Bienmesabe is a popular dessert in Canarian cuisine, and is served with cat's tongue cookies.
In El Hierro there is a cake named quesadilla which is made with cheese. Other specialities include rosquetes (ring-shaped fried pastries), quesillo (tender cheese cake), rapaduras (cane sugar candy), Príncipe Alberto (chocolate cake from La Palma) and leche asada (milk cake). Gofio is also employed in some desserts such as huevos mole, pella de gofio (milk and gofio patty) and mousse de gofio (gofio cream).
Tropical fruits, specially bananas, are widely grown and consumed in the islands, even if they are not native species.
Wines and liquors
The wine from the malvasia grape was a product of Canarian export since the 17th century, immediately after the decline of sugar plantations and until its commerce was blocked by the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century. Nowadays the islands produce ten protected geographical indications. Canarian Denominación de Origen wines are:
- Abona (Tenerife)
- Tacoronte-Acentejo (Tenerife)
- Valle de Güímar (Tenerife)
- Valle de La Orotava (Tenerife)
- Ycoden-Daute-Isora (Tenerife)
- El Hierro
- La Palma
- La Gomera
- Gran Canaria
- Juan Carlos, Rosario Molina (2007). La alimentación: el dominio invisible de las mujeres canarias en Cuba [Food, the invisible domain of Canarian women in Cuba] (in Spanish). Ediciones IDEA. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
- Islands Magazine. Vol. 14, No. 3. May-Jun 1994. p. 178. ISSN 0745-7847
- Daft, R. (2008). Menu Del Dia: More Than 100 Classic, Authentic Recipes From Across Spain. Simon & Schuster. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-4165-7961-8.