Gastronomy

If you come on holiday to Lanzarote don't leave without trying the local dishes. Both if you are a connoisseur or simply an adventurous traveller and wish to try something different, wining and dining on Lanzarote can be a very satisfactory experience.

One of the secrets is, other than studying the menu outside the restaurant, check out how many locals or tourists are sitting at the tables. A don't be afraid to try out restaurants in different parts of the island. The main Tourist areas of Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise have excellent restaurants. But there many places in the villages of the island that can give true gastronomical treasures.

As this is a question of personal taste we don't intend to publish a list of recommended restaurants. Sufficient to say that it is best to ask and for sure you will get an honest answer. However much of what the island offers is not Canarian as such but Spanish. Many of the restaurants on the island serve from Paella Valenciana to Fabada Asturiana.

But there exists a local gastronomy that although is possibly criticizeable for its simplicity, the Canarian food is delicious. After all, the simplest food is often the most tasty. Besides the material poverty that many families have suffered during the centuries caused by drought and famine, the local cuisine has developed in such a way that it has changed the flavours based on the limited food available.

As we have said the lack of resources has with the pass of the time motivated an ingenious culinary focus. Probably the best illustration of this is the 'Mojo'. This sauce come generally in two varieties 'Mojo Rojo' or red sauce also called 'Mojo Picón' and 'Mojo Verde' or green sauce. The red sauce is based on sweet red pepper whilst the green sauce is made with garlic, fresh coriander and/or parsley.

These sauces are made by squashing in a mortar (now often in a modern liquidizer) the oil,vinegar, garlic, sweet red pepper or the fresh herbs and are served as condiments. The Conejeros (locals) put spoonfuls over their fish, meat and potatoes. A typical canarian food can consist of 'Papas Arrugadas' (wrinkled potatoes) , small unpeeled potatoes boiled in sea water until the water has mostly evaporated drained off and left to stand a few minutes, the skin wrinkles and is left with a light frosting of salt, Mojo and boiled fish (the fish is pre conserved in salt - there used to be no refrigerators or freezers at hand - and needs to be soaked overnight to eliminate the excess). this dish is called 'Sancocho' which is a local word for boiled. The local wine is a good accompaniment to this meal. After you have eaten like a king go have a siesta and relax.

The white goats cheese of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura is generally served with olives and is a great aperitif. slices of 'Jamón serrano' brought from the mainland go really well with the cheese as well as the 'Jamon canario' made from slices of ham roasted in a stone oven. The 'Chicharrones' (like crackling but fried instead of roasted) and the 'Ensalada de pulpo' or octopus salad are also local delicacies worthy of a try.

Soups and stews

The three most typical soups of Lanzarote are the 'Caldo de Millo' or sweetcorn soup, 'El Potaje' or stew and 'Sopa de Pescado' or fish soup. The stew is generally made from beans, chick peas or lentils. In Lanzarote as in the rest of the Canary islands, the 'Potaje' is an almost indispensable main course for any meal, made based on potatoes (except for the lentil stew) and different vegetables depending on the season and availability. It is very much like the 'Caldo Gallego' but is very much a local meal and one that the locals are proud of and recommend for its nutritional values.

Another strong traditional food that originates with the Guanches is Gofio which consists of toasted grains of sweetcorn,wheat or barley milled into flour. It is used for sweet and savoury meal alike. One way is to mix this flour with a little olive oil, water, sugar, fresh goats cheese and/or sultanas making a stiff mix and shared out in Puños (fists) or lumps, This is often served along with other soup like dishes or on its own as a snack.

Cooking with sand

Making popcorn in the sand

Yes you read right, the innovative islanders have found a way of cooking with sand and without gritting their teeth. The process is used to toast the grain that makes the local Gofio, traditionally in a large round pan on a log fire about half an inch of white sand is heated, then the grain (sweet corn, wheat or barley) is added and stirred until evenly toasted as the hot sand envelopes the grain, then the entire contents are sieved to separate out the sand from the grain, the last step is to mill the grain like flour and voilà we have Gofio.

In the same way they make popcorn. Could the Guanches have been the first in history to have eaten popcorn? who knows but this has been a traditional treat for the kids, just a paper cone of popcorn (Palomitas) cooked in sand of course, and guess what? no fat or grease and they have been doing this the healthy way for centuries at least.

The islanders swear by the healthiness of the Gofio like the Scott's do their porridge.

A very special dish similar to the 'Sancocho' mentioned earlier is called 'Caldo de Pescado' which is basically a fish soup made by boiling potatoes, onions, garlic, food colouring and a little salt until the potatoes a nearly done then sliding into this large pieces of fresh fish (Sama, Jurel, Medregal) and just a few minutes later the fish is done. It is served in a deep plate with some of the liquid but another part of the juice is used to make a soft dough with 'Gofio' and placed in a bowl for everyone to serve themselves along with the sliced deliciously sweet fresh Lanzarote onions. This time it is definitely time for a siesta.

The 'Puchero Canario' is a stew that puts hairs on your chest (don't let this put you off ladies). The ingredients include once again potatoes, food colouring, corn on the cob, chick peas, cabbage, chunks of meat (normally pig but beef is also used) and chorizo. This stew like many is a complete meal and is sufficient on its own. It is quite cheap to make, very healthy and can be found at most village restaurants on the island.

Both meat and fish can be excellent on Lanzarote, but it is a good idea to ask the waiter what is good and fresh. There is a large variety of meat on the island, among the local delicacies is 'Conejo' (rabbit) and 'Cabrito en salmorejo' (young goat in sauce), cooked with garlic and herbs these are two that are well worth trying. Generally lamb is very tasty and pork as chops or fillets cooked in 'adobo' is one of the favourite dishes, For those that would like a straight steak the 'Solomillo' or rump steak is also a good choice in the majority of restaurants.

Fish can be a splendid choice, although fresh fish availability can sometimes be surprisingly limited. Some days there will be an abundant Atlantic variety and others the choice can be scarce. It all depends on the catch of the day. The most common fish is the 'Sama' or 'Dorada' (sea bream) which is also bred at the floating fish farms off the coast of Playa Quemada. The fish can be cooked any many ways, fried in batter on the hob or in the oven but one of the most delicious and interesting ways is 'A la Sal' (baked in salt), the process is simple, the fish is laid on a baking tray and totally covered with a sea salt and egg-white mix, then baked until the salt forms a hard crust which when served the salt has to be broken off like a rock hard crust leaving the steamed flesh behind, of course the fish is perfect to taste and amazingly not salty. A worth while experience for any fish lover.

Other very tasty local fish are Cherne/Mero (black grouper) and Corvina (bluefish). If you have never tasted 'La Morena' or conga eel you will discover how tasty they are when fried and despite their scary appearance, their delicate white meat melts in your mouth especially accompanied with a cool white wine.

A favourite amongst the locals is 'La Vieja'. The 'Vieja' is only found in waters of the Canary islands and cooked 'A la Plancha' (on the hob) or 'A la Sal' as mentioned above with papas arrugadas and mojo is irresistible, the flesh is soft almost like some fresh water fish, the most common is the dark grey male but sometimes you will get the brightly coloured red, yellow and green female of the species.

Besides what many waiters say, there is little to no fresh shellfish on the island. The traditional limpets and sea urchins are not to be seen in any restaurant simply because it is against the law to pick them from the shores although some bars will serve fresh octopus but even the octopus is generally imported from the African coast but this does not mean you cant sit down to decent plateful of oysters, clams, 'Centollo' (spider crab) 'Buey de mar' (sea calf),or 'langostinos' (king prawns) which all come from the most select fishing areas in Europe and Africa. The 'Gambas al ajillo' (prawns and garlic) is a very popular choice for starters or even you typical prawn cocktail or better still avocado pear with prawns.

Once again, it is worth asking the waiter before ordering they are normally very frank about the quality and freshness of the fish and shellfish.

Sweets

Generally the afters in Lanzarote are nothing to shout about, especially if you are used to good bakery, even so some restaurant break this tradition and include some home made sweets like home made flan, 'Bienmesabe' (translated literally 'I like this') which is a mix of honey and almonds maybe with a ball of ice cream and is for the sweeter toothed, some mouses if home made are a good choice too. Rarely in a restaurant you will find 'Torrijas' a small pancake made with flour, aneese and sometimes additional luxuries like sweet wine etc. although this delight hardly ever steps outside the canarian home and the recipe varies as many times as there are family lineages on the island.


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