Published On: August 14th, 2013
4.7 min read

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Canarian potatoes

Do you know much about the Canary Islands, the volcanic archipelago off the west African coast but oddly belonging to Spain?

I certainly knew very little about this collection of seven little isles up until about two weeks ago. But when a long-awaited trip to Egypt planned by my mother and I was abruptly cancelled last month amid growing unrest in the region, we had to make alternative plans, fast.

That’s how we found ourselves on Gran Canaria, the most populous of the Canary Islands and aptly known as a “continent in miniature”.

So mountainous is this little island that many of the roads marked on the map look more like the amateur squiggles of a child’s drawing. To drive here is to become an expert at hairpin turns, as the bitumen twists and turns and doubles back on itself to scale each new great peak.

This is not a journey for those who suffer carsickness or fear heights.

The barren and desert-like landscape of the south, dotted by cactuses and buffeted relentlessly by strong trade winds, gives way to fertile green growing lands just a few dozen kilometres to the north – yet so drastic is the scenery change that it could be a different country altogether.

To the west lies a great escarpment plunging sharply to the sea below, a rugged country almost devoid of inhabitants.

Then there are the densely populated beach centres of the north and south coasts, stretches of sand filled with sunbathing tourists there only to relax and lap up the island’s near-perpetual summer climate.

It’s an astounding place. And then there’s the food.

Freshly caught seafood reigns supreme here, along with the usual Spanish obsession with pork. But there’s plenty on offer for vegetarians, too.

Mum and I quickly developed an obsession with papas arrugadas, simply boiled baby potatoes topped with green or red mojo, a sauce that pays tribute to the island’s African influences with the use of aromatic spices such as paprika and cumin.

Thanks to the wonderfully helpful Gran Canaria Tourism Office and their free little cookbook, I can share the recipe for this excellent so-called side dish (we ate it as a main with salad plenty of times).

Even better, both types of mojo can be kept in the fridge for several months, meaning you always have a yummy extra on hand to adorn your potatoes.

Papas arrugadas (boiled baby potatoes)

What goes in:

1kg baby potatoes (yellow is best)
¼kg sea salt
3 or 4 glasses of water

How you do it:

Wash the potatoes thoroughly without removing their jackets. Pop them in a pot, add the salt and just enough water to barely cover them. Boil gently until cooked.

Next, remove the water and heat the potatoes once again, shaking well for about two minutes to dry them off. This will also give their jackets that tasty powdery look.

Remove the potatoes from the heat and leave them to sit for a few minutes, covered with a kitchen towel.

Serve atop a warmed ceramic bowl if you have one, as this will keep them piping hot. Splash the mojo over the top or serve separately in little bowls.

Canarian potatoes with mojo sauce

Mojo picon or red mojo

What goes in:
1 garlic bulb, chopped
2 capsicums or picona chilli peppers (for a spicier mojo), chopped with seeds removed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
4 tbsp vinegar
15 tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt

How you do it:

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, cumin, peppers and sea salt to a smooth paste. Add the paprika and then slowly add the oil and vinegar to create a thick mix. You can thin the paste a little with water if needed. 

Green mojo

What goes in:
1 garlic bulb, chopped
3 green peppers
1 tsp ground cumin
1 handful coriander or parsley, chopped
4 tbsp vinegar
15 tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt

How you do it:

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, cumin, peppers and sea salt to a smooth paste. Add the peppers and coriander, crushing all the time.

Slowly add the oil and vinegar to create a thick mix, plus a little water if needed. Done!

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I’ll not ashamed to admit that we indulged in these creamy balls of wonder almost every day. I’ll leave you with some more pictures from our week’s sojourn.

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This is a barraquito con licor, otherwise known as the best coffee on the planet. It combines three
of my favourite things – an alcoholic shot, espresso and a healthy dose of condensed milk. Heaven.

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Yeah. It was pretty windy.

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More coffee with condensed milk. Yuuuum.

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Gran Canaria

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2 Comments

  1. ken wolf May 11, 2017 at 1:16 am - Reply

    Ty bought some(red).. am about to try with sweet potatoes. also made a paste using my smoothie maker with olives added mojo and garlic very nice ty again for the recipe I always enjoy food that bites me back

  2. Niall March 10, 2018 at 5:43 am - Reply

    Just tried the red mojo recipe. Very nice but maybe a bit too much vinegar? Suggest half that amount? Potatoes were delish! Cheers. Niall

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