Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

It has been part of the islander’s staple diet since guys and gals in furry, but by all accounts fetching, little numbers cavorted around campfires in the hills (I’m sure you can see the faintest trace of it at the corner of Raquel Welch’s mouth in the poster for 1 Million Years BC); it’s handed out at every romería on Tenerife (where I’ve noticed veteran romería goers ignore it in favour of more choice pickings) and it’s used to thicken stews and as a cheap version of a power drink. It’s primitive, but it’s still as popular as ever with Tinerfeños. It’s that Guanche favourite – gofio.

I’ve had a bag of this toasted flour for ages and, apart from trying it mixed with soya milk (the power drink version – which was okay) and adding it to porridge to try to improve the flavour (didn’t work) haven’t done a lot with it.

This week I decided to have an attempt at making gofio amasado. Couldn’t be simpler. Add water to gofio and ingredients of your choice until it reaches a doughy consistency, roll it out into a long sausage like shape and simply slice it into medallions. Almost literally, a piece of cake.

I’ve tried gofio amasado on numerous occasions and most times felt it lacked a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ so my version included crushed nuts, chopped dates and grated padano cheese. But I did forget to add honey. Here’s how it turned out…

Admit it, youre positively salivating.

Admit it, you're positively salivating.

‘How did it taste?’ I hear you cry. I quite like it, but let’s put it this way: Gordon Ramsay isn’t going to be offering me a fortune for my secret recipe.

Come on – what did you think it was going to taste like? This is what cavemen and women ate sitting around their campfires of a night, it was never going to be sophisticated. However, I do have a couple of ideas to improve on the flavour for next time. Watch this space.

Somewhere around 10.30 we woke up. It was a beautiful day and Mount Teide had a surprise for us. It had snowed during the night on the peak, so we officially had a white Christmas to go with the turkey, the blue skies and the 75 degrees temperature.
Most of the day was spent preparing the Xmas dinner, drinking bucks fizz and listening to the sort of music we like – start off with a bit of mellow Miles Davis and eventually built up to some Faithless and Leftfield at the height of the cooking.

The dishevelled invalid on his makeshift hospital bed

The dishevelled invalid recovering on his makeshift hospital bed

We had mulled over whether to invite our neighbour, Jesús to have dinner with us, but there was no sign of life at his house and anyway he’d announced a couple of days previously that he didn’t really ‘do’ Christmas, so it was just us and Whiskas, who wasn’t much company as he’d been in a fight during the night (no peace and goodwill to all creatures in his philosophy then) and had damaged his right paw so that he could hardly put any weight on it. He was in a bit of a sorry state, so feeling sorry for him, we made a hospital bed out of a cushion and left him to sleep off his wounds (which took him coincidentally till almost exactly the point where the turkey was being carved).

The nice thing about when it’s just the two of you is that you can prepare the dinner at your own pace, with no pressure to keep to a strict timetable. By about 16.30 we sat down to roast turkey with mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roasted sweet potato (here’s a tip: parsnips are difficult to get hold off here, but sweet potatoes aren’t and taste quite similar) broccoli, carrot and chestnut and sweet potato puree, chipolatas (in this case small local sausages), home made stuffing and gravy followed by some very light home made meringue with a variety of fruits and crème freche.

Andys homemade dessert - perfect after a heavy dinner

Andy's homemade dessert - perfect after a heavy dinner

We had no sooner scoffed the lot, cleaned up and were looking forward to a fat and happy snooze on the sofa when Jesús appeared on the path limping badly.

For some reason he’d been jumping about in the driving range – he said because he’d felt happy – and had gone over on his ankle (same leg as Whiskas) which was now swollen up like a balloon. He’d also been invited by Sorraya, the receptionist at the golf course, to share Nochebuena dinner with her family, but that hadn’t gone very well. Something to do with Jesús’ inappropriate choice of clothing (looking a bit like a refugee wearing kung fu pants)and some mumbo jumbo about the main dish being lamb and Jesús thinking that it was some sort of a sign connected to him accidentally burning a lamb dinner when he was working as a chef the other week. Anyway to cut a long story short, he didn’t feel that it had been a great success and was looking as sorry for himself as the cat.

After Jesús told us all about his Nochebuena he hobbled back to his house and we collapsed into the sofa to slob out and spend what was left of the day watching Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (okay for escapist non-challenging entertainment, which was just about all that we could handle, but not the best of the Indiana Jones movies).

For some reason mussels had dropped off our radar as a semi-regular item on the shopping list. It must be nearly two years since we last bought any, which is an absolute crime.

We’d planned on trying ‘drunken salmon’; a delicious looking recipe I’d noticed on the Tenerife Forum, but when we got to the supermarket, the salmon fillets were a) small and b) expensive, so a rethink was in order. Beside the salmon were bags of beautiful, shiny black mussels – Moules et frites was on the menu.

The tedious thing about mussels is getting the barnacles off. This usually involves me hacking away at them with a small knife which usually presents more of a risk to my digits than the barnacles. These ones, however, were largely barnacle free and their ‘beards’ were little more than bum fluff, so for a change, preparation was a ‘digit losing’ risk free zone.

We tend to use a customised Rick Stein recipe.

So we threw the mussels in a large, heavy bottomed pan – added a couple of ounces butter, chopped onion, generous dollop of white wine, a fistful of chopped fresh parsley and the extra ‘secret’ ingredients, a chopped garlic clove and a chopped chilli.

We whacked the gas hob up to high and covered the pan; lifting the lid to turn the mussels every now and again until they were all open (only a few minutes).

Yummy!

Yummy!

Then we put them into a bowl, sprinkled some more parsley on them and served with home made chips and a dollop of mayonnaise (and the rest of the white wine).

They were quite the tastiest mussels I’ve ever had the pleasure of scoffing…and dead simple to prepare to boot. We’re mad to have denied ourselves such a simple and cheap treat for so long?

We love chillies, the spicier the better, but for a couple of years after we moved here we struggled to buy them on a regular basis. When we mentioned this to a friend, the only surprise she registered was that we’d even bothered to try to buy them.
“There’s no point in supermarkets selling them; by the time you find a supermarket which sells them on Tenerife you could’ve grown enough to keep your mouth tingling for months.”

She was absolutely spot on. A €0.60 pack of seeds and a flower pot and now we’ve got more chillies than we know what to do with. Every day I harvest a few more and the next day, it seems that another five, three-inch long ones have taken their place.

Last week we used them in Moroccan Chicken, Black Bean Charros and Parsi Eggs. This week we’ll use them in Indian Chickpea Salad, Falafal and Hot Pasta Salsa. It’s wonderful to have such a stock of these aggressive little fellows, but we’re running out of ideas for recipes, so if anyone knows any particularly good ones, we’d really appreciate it.

Hot Stuff

Anyone who tells you they’ve done/seen it all probably stopped learning about the world they live in years ago. There’s always something new to discover…something that may change long held perceptions and cause you to view your world in a different light.
All of which is just a long winded and roundabout way of admitting that, for the last four years, I’ve completely been wrong about Tenerife cheese, which I’ve always considered bland and tasteless.

In my defence I blame a restaurant in Los Gigantes for this. It was British owned, but was one of the few places that actually served any Spanish cuisine and they had tapas on the menu, so Andy and I sat at  table and asked if we could order some racions, prompting the waiter to announce, bizarrely:
“Ah, you’re the people who won the radio competition.”
This clearly confused the hell out of us.
“Errr, no…not that I’m aware of,” Andy replied.
 “It’s just that you’ve ordered tapas and we’ve been expecting a couple who won a tapas meal in a radio competition.”
Now he was confused.

We had to insist a couple of times that we definitely weren’t that couple before he believed us and took our order. Looking back, it seems quite dim. He was trying to give us a free meal and we talked him out of it.

What I found strange about the whole exchange was that the restaurant was pretty full. Surely it couldn’t have been that unusual for someone to order tapas. I mean to say, ordering Spanish food in a Spanish province…how radical is that? I looked around at what the other clientele were eating. Burgers and chips, toasties and chips with an extra serving of chips, baguettes with ham and cheese…hmmm.

The food was fine, but the only tapas dish I remember from that day was the local goat’s cheese. It was Mr Bland of 62 Bland Avenue, Blandsville. It was the Orlando Bloom of cheeses and since then I’ve avoided Tinerfeño cheeses like the proverbial plague. Even in my local supermarket when an assistant stuck a platter of cheese under my nose and asked me if I wanted to try some. I dismissed her with a snooty ‘I prefer to eat cheese with stronger flavours’.
It was insensitive and a mistake on so many levels. I’d rejected her and dissed her homeland’s cheeses. She was understandably miffed and has never forgotten it. Since then whilst other customers are offered free brandies, albóndigas, cakes, choccy donuts etc, I get diddly squat, but I know the shape of her back pretty well. All thanks to that place in Los Gigantes.

Arico cheese, the perfect accompaniment to Serrano hamRecently, I was carrying out research for a short article about Tenerife’s cheeses and figured if I was going to write about it, I’d better remind myself what it tasted like. I bought a wheel of smoked goat’s cheese from Arico and, expecting another trip into Blandtown, hoped that my poetic licence was up to date.

What a dolt. For four years I’ve been denying myself some of the best goat’s cheese that I’ve ever tasted. It was smooth and smoky with a flavour that was fresh, yet full of subtle flavours. Its aroma transported me to a small clearing in a tropical forest where there was a wood-smoke fire liberally sprinkled with herbs.
I’ve seen the wheel off in less than a week. I’ve put it in salads, drizzled honey over it, wrapped it in Serrano ham and simply just nibbled on it like a mouse who’s just discovered nirvana.  All accompanied with a sigh and a: “Wow; that is good…this is great cheese.”

It’s probably just as well that this revelation has eluded me for the last four years, my cholesterol levels would probably be through the roof by now (even if goat’s cheese has less cholesterol than cow’s). And I’ve learned a valuable lesson. One bad experience doesn’t make something fact.

The last time we took Andy’s stepmother, Marge, to La Laguna it didn’t so much rain cats and dogs, as lions and hyenas. So her impression of it wasn’t the most favourable.
During her visit this year we took her again when the sun was shining, determined that she would get to see its beautifully preserved old town at its best.
La Laguna's colourful old streetsWe wandered around cobbled streets, explored hidden courtyards and atmospheric old churches, crossed Tiananmen sized squares and strolled around the farmer’s market where rows of stalls displayed the salted fish and the most perfect vegetables; some, like the green and purple cauliflowers, I’d never seen before.
It was all going well until it was time for lunch. On our meandering we’d passed the most alluring tapas bars, but Marge is of the generation where adventurous cuisine means trying a brand of cheddar that’s unfamiliar, so we had to forego the trendy tapas bars for somewhere which had ‘toasties’ on the menu.
As a compromise we picked the rather oddly named ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ café on Plaza del Adelantado which seemed to have a menu to cover all persuasions. To be fair, it wasn’t a hardship, the plaza’s a lovely place for a leisurely lunch.

The waiter handed us some menus, but before we had a chance to peruse them, recommended that we try the house speciality, the arepas.
These are corn pancakes which are filled, then fried; a speciality from Venezuela. Andy and I hadn’t tried them for a long time, so decided to go with his suggestion. The waiter turned his attention to Marge.
Without even glancing in his direction, she said to Andy. “Tell him I want a cheese and ham toastie.”
When the waiter heard this, he rolled his eyes and started lecturing Marge about being typically British, wanting the same food abroad as she has at home. All done good-naturedly of course, and with a smile on his face.

This didn’t endear him to Marge for a couple of reasons:

  • He had the audacity to speak to her in Spanish.
  • Although she didn’t have a clue what he was saying, she got the gist that he was mocking her and she doesn’t like the idea of her choice of a toastie lunch being questioned.

She also felt that we’d been bullied into having arepas despite our reassurances that, as the place did actually specialise in arepas, we did actually fancy trying them.

There was another Venezuelan dish on the menu, cachapas. I hadn’t tried them before, so I asked the waiter what they were like.
“You don’t want to try them, too much fat. Eat a lot of them…or toasted sandwiches,” he added; another dig at Marge. “And you’ll end up fat. Stick to arepas and you’ll be like me.” He was whip thin.
I liked this guy. The cachapas were double the price of the arepas, yet here he was, pushing what was probably the cheapest thing on the menu. You’ve got to trust someone’s judgement when they do something like that.

That’s La Laguna for you; a town with bags of old fashioned charm and honest waiters. Although, if you asked Marge she’d probably tell you it was the place where it rained a lot and waiters tried to bully you into having something you didn’t want.

The arepas, by the way, were delish. Although, admittedly I could have managed two, but I didn’t dare tell the waiter that.

Our neighbour regularly leaves little ‘gifts’ from her garden at our gate; enormous juicy lemons, glossy avocados which are so perfect that they look as though they’ve been touched up for a photo shoot and the bizarre, but appropriately named custard apples.
The other day she brought something quite different; a little jar of orange salsa called mojo rojo.
Mojo rojo (a spicy sauce made from chillies) is one of two sauces that are invariably served with a popular local dish, papas arrugadas (literally wrinkled potatoes), in restaurants around Tenerife. The other is mojo verde which is quite similar to pesto.

Hot stuff“Do you like spicy sauces?” She asked, handing me the jar.
“Love em,” I replied.
“Well be careful with this one; it’s pretty piquant.”
“No problem, thanks,”

And not for the first time I should have taken note of the warning. The ‘be careful, this is very hot,’ ‘don’t worry, I’m used to hot food’ exchange has reared its head a number of times over the years:

On Jamaica in a restaurant called the Hungry Lion, ignoring the big red cross and warning on a bottle of ‘Hellfire Sauce’ I poured it over my red snapper like it was ketchup. The Rastafarian waiter, spotting this, ran to the table arms outstretched, but it was too late. Even gallons of Red Stripe couldn’t extinguish the flames in my mouth.

In Bangkok, my green curry was served with little pyramids of spices all around my plate.
“What do I do with this?” I asked the waitress.
“Mix it to your tastes,” she replied.
So I did. I mixed the whole lot together and spooned some into my mouth.
This time a whole gang of waitresses ran toward the table with the one who’d served me shouting “You’re not supposed to eat all of the spices.”
I think they had to bandage my tongue after that one.

On Krabi, an innocuous little dip with a silly name ‘nam prik’ was the culprit. A generous dollop on a stick of celery and somebody set off a nuclear device in my head, bringing on a bout of hiccups that had the other diners sniggering and which lasted so long that I was sure I’d get a mention in the Guinness Book of Records.

So when my neighbour passed me the jar of mojo rojo with a warning about its potency did it trigger alarm bells in my head? Did it buggery.

The sauce was delicious, savoury and perked up my plate of papas arrugadas no end, but it had a kick that could raise the dead from the grave; I don’t think I’ll be able to put anything else in my mouth for at least another week.

Last night I must have bumped into someone dressed as Sylvester Stallone, cos I feel as though I’ve been pummelled by Rocky Balboa for 15 rounds. Mind you, it isn’t all down to over indulgence at Carnaval’s opening party.

It was one of those days when everything seemed to be happening. A deadline for a regular walking feature was looming close and calima and high clouds on Tenerife for the last couple of weeks had ruled out the chance of any decent photos, until yesterday. So the day started with a three hour hike along an old merchant’s trail on the island’s northern coast. Trouble was Spanish TV was screening the Tottenham v Man Utd game, so we had to hot foot it home for that; the sweat barely had time to dry under the rucksack straps.

Man Utd had hardly managed their last gasp escape when it was time for an early dinner of Mediterranean pitta pockets (a semi home made concoction of flat breads filled with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, red onion, sweet pepper, fresh basil and oregano which is lightly fried in olive oil). Delicious and quick; essential given that Carnaval’s opening parade was due to start at 20.00 (or so it said in the official guide).

Andy and I work on the basis that nothing, but nothing starts on time here – it’s a pretty sound principle, so we didn’t drive to Puerto until nearly 20.30. Unfortunately, by that time, there wasn’t a parking space to be found in, or near the town. The nearest spot we could find was in the La Paz district above the town, a 15 – 20 minute walk to the centre, most of which is down stairs; it’s okay going down, but a killer on the thighs on the way back up. We eventually reached the town centre about ten to nine and guess what? The parade had only just started.

a taste of Rio in Puerto de la CruzThere were about 1500 people in the parade; dancing troupes in wildly colourful costumes, cute kids in even cuter costumes and the stars of the show, the Carnaval Dames and Carnaval Queen wearing…a smile and not much more.
The only problem was that the drivers of the floats carrying the queens seemed to think they were in the Daytona 500 (I suspect because they started late and were trying to make up lost time). Each one sped past the spot where we were standing, giving me just about enough time to take one photo per float before they were gone.

It did mean, however, that the parade finished quickly. We legged it backed to La Paz, drove home (now about 22.00), stuck on some Ministry of Sound, poured a vodka sprite, laid out all our potential fancy dress clothing and decided it was time to think about what we were going to wear to the opening street party.

Two hours later, two ghoul/witch/monster thingys were striding through the banana plantation next to our house on the three kilometre walk into town.

It was near one in the morning by the time we hit Plaza del Charco; probably still a bit early for seasoned Carnaval veterans, the streets hadn’t filled to the point where it takes an aeon to move anywhere (that happens about 03.00).

Anyone not in fancy dress is the odd one outAfter that, we salsa’d our way (or, in my case, a stiff legged, British version of it) around the three streets where the partying takes place, checking out the weird, wonderful and occasionally, lewd, rude and highly amusing costumes all around.
The thing about Carnaval is that it’s such an incredible high. Even when it reaches its peak and you’re jostled and bumped by the swaying mass of friendly beaming creatures around you (at one point I became far more intimate with a trumpet around someone’s waist than I was comfortable with) it’s impossible not to be swept away, almost literally, by sheer wave of joy that engulfs the place.

Somewhere at very-early-in-the morning o’clock, my legs screamed that enough was enough and we decided that it was time to wend our weary, but ecstatic way back home.

As always, the first night of Carnaval exceeded all expectations. It was hard work and, at this point, I’m not sure I’ll survive the week, but it was great fun, honest, despite what my body’s telling me today.

I’ve just seen the strangest thing in my local supermarket; black tomatoes. At first I thought that they were just some dodgy looking normal tomatoes which had the black death, or something, but closer inspection identified them as something called a ‘kumato’.

Now these guys aren’t the most appetising looking of fruits; in fact they looked like something that had been dreamt up in some mad scientist’s lab, but hey, I’m all for trying new foods so I bought one (one might seem a bit measly, but the cost of one was about the same price as a kilo of the normal ruby red ones).

With some trepidation, I bit into it expecting to taste something that was a cross between a tomato and a kiwi fruit – that’s what I’d decided it was. I’ve since checked on the internet and found that the black tomato has been around for a long time, apparently it was discovered in the Ukraine and brought to Russia by soldiers after the Crimean War.

So what did it taste like? After much rolling it around in my mouth, nibbling it and sucking it I came to the conclusion that it had the flavour of… a tomato.

Bit of a disappointment really; however, I’ve got big hopes for next week when I’m planning to try the cauli-tato.

Learning to Love the Olive

Posted: August 13, 2007 in Food, Recipes, Travel

Supermarkets here have aisles full of olives of different flavours, pitted and unpitted; we can choose from plain black or green to olives flavoured and, or, filled with apples, peppers, anchovies…etc.

Olives seem to be one of those foods that people either love or detest. My wife, Andy can’t eat an olive without it leaving her feeling queasy for hours and hasn’t attempted to eat one since  a disasterous attempt during a Greek holiday in 1995.

However, a wise old woman once told me a technique for eating olives which she guaranteed would convert those who tried it out from hating its bitter flavour  to positively loving it. It’s simple, but it takes a bit of faith.

The Technique for Learning to Love the Olive

To begin the convertee needs five olives. Pitted would be best, it would be unfair to expect a convertee to deal with a stone as well.

1: Okay, this is the hardest step, pop the first olive in your mouth and get it down your throat as quickly as possible-yes it will make you want to heave and will leave a disgusting taste in your mouth (good things don’t come without a price).

2: It’ll go against all your instincts (especially after step 1), but pop number two in and do the same. Yes it will still taste digusting, but the urge to heave won’t be as strong (you’ve passed the hardest part).

3: Number three; you still won’t like it, but it won’t leave you feeling that your taste buds have been ruined for life.

4: You’re coming out of the woods. By the time this one goes down you’ll be thinking, ‘Hmmm, not bad. I don’t know why I’ve always made a fuss about these little fellows.’

5: Simple, as you’re munching on number five your hand will be instinctively reaching out for olive number 6…7…8…9… (well done, you’ve learned to love the olive).

Does this work? I haven’t a clue. I’ve always liked them anyway and I’ve never met anybody (including Andy) who can’t stomach the taste of olives, who would trust me enough to try it out!!