Monday, March 23, 2009

29 ~ Puchero Canario

Since this is a blog about Canary Islands I think I could include a local recipe from time to time. Here's what I made for our dinner yesterday:

puchero canario (Click photos to enlarge)


Puchero Canario is a very popular meal in Canary Islands. It is a meat and vegetable stew which is simple to make in one pot. As with most such dishes, the ingredients and quantities vary from kitchen to kitchen.
Here's one I made for two people, with leftovers for the next day or for second helpings.

Total cooking time: around 1 hour


225 grams (1/2 lb) stewing beef
1 chorizo sausage
1 or 2 chicken legs
1 or 2 desalted meaty pork ribs (about 250 grams or 1/2 lb)
1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas (garbanzos) soaked overnight in water with a bit of bicarbonate of soda
1 small cob corn, cut in half
whole green beans - one handful
2 medium carrots cut in half
1 small onion cut in half
1/2 small cabbage
1 courgette or bubango (pale green courgette)
1 piece orange squash - about 120 grams (1/4 lb) cut in half
1 sweet potato or yam - whole
2 medium potatoes - whole
1 pear - halved
saffron, garlic, parsley, cumin, thyme, (optional Italian parsley)


1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. When boiling, add a few drops of oil, some salt and the meat, ribs, chicken and chorizo. Cook for half an hour.

2. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas, and the pieces of corn. When they have started to soften, add green beans and carrots and a bit of thyme.
Let these cook together for around 15 - 20 minutes.

3. Then add whole potatoes, sweet potato, cabbage, squash, bubango (or courgette), and pear and cook another 10 - 15 minutes.

4. In mortar mash together a clove or two of garlic, around 1 teaspoon cumin and a bit of saffron...OR alternately as some people do, mash together garlic, cumin and Italian parsley.

5. When the last vegetables have softened, add this above mash to the boiling pot and stir.

6. Remove meat and vegetables with slotted spoon and serve in a casserole dish at the table.
One of the earthenware cazuelas are ideal for serving as they can be purchased here for a very low price.

7. Liquid and remainder of vegetables in the boiling pot can be served next day as 'tumbo de puchero', a delicious soup.

puchero ingredients Puchero Main Ingredients....missing the pear and herbs

Bubango - the local name for a pale green rounded courgette or type of zucchini, seen in the ingredient photo above, in the bottom left corner of the tray.

carne para puchero The separate meat items for making puchero can also be purchased here grouped together in one package at the supermarkets, which is useful. The same applies to the vegetables, which are sold as 'puchero canario', missing only the pear.

veg for puchero

Thursday, March 19, 2009

28 ~ Driving Up The Teide

red tajinaste Red Tajinaste

(Click photos to enlarge)

One June day I decided it was time to take another drive up to the higher regions of this island. The Teide volcano, at a height of 3718 meters is the third largest volcano on earth and looms over the island landscapes. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June 2007.

wild flowerWild Flowers

The area around the volcano (the caldera), called Las Cañadas del Teide is preserved as a national park with a cable car which travels up the side of the volcano and a government hotel, one of the chain of National Paradores.

by roques de garcia
It used to be possible for hikers to climb to the summit of the crater where the ground is hot and the air is thin.
But access has since been restricted for the sake of preserving the delicate environment and plant life. Now one must apply for a permit (link to how to apply) to go to the summit.

Here is the cable car which runs daily up the side of the volcano except in bad weather. Information and prices are on this link. Access to the crater is not allowed.
cable car

TeideAs this island is shaped roughly like a pyramid, there are curiously several microclimates which one passes through on a drive up to the caldera of the volcano. Here near sea level where we live, we see palm trees and bougainvillae in a subtropical zone. But a few meters higher the vegetation changes, and as we climb we reach a pine forest where we are soon up in sunshine and looking down on what is known here as "the sea of clouds".

pine forest Pine Forest
forest drive 2
sea of clouds Sea of Clouds

At this level there is a trout farm located at a place called Aguamansa. The fish are for sale and can be seen on the menus of local restaurants.
aguamansa Aguamansa Trout Farm

Above the pine forest we come to a sub alpine zone with low scrub vegetation and the beginnings of lava rock and volcanic sands.
barren sands
driving upOne famous area is a group of large rocks called the Roques de Garcia and one of particular interest is called the Roque Cinchado, seen at left here below.
cinchado rock
viewpoint Viewpoint near Roques Garcia
nr roques
One aim of many photographers and tourists alike is to see and photograph the red Tajinaste flower (Echium Wildpretii) which is native to the Teide.

tajinaste 2 It grows up to 3 meters (9 ft) high, is a biennial and flowers in the early summer. I took many photos of these.

tajinaste 3
tajinaste 4
closeup Closeup

The fantastic lunar landscape of lava rock and sand has been the location for the filming of more than one science fiction movie.
lunar landscape
driving Las Canadas We stopped for lunch at one of the little restaurants high above the clouds. Here is an inside view:
inside restaurantThe air was deliciously clear and fresh and the sky was an intense blue so we sat outside on the terrace.
restaurant outside It must be very healthy to live up at this altitude. The clearness of the Canary Island skies is protected by law against light pollution. One reason why Europe's most prestigious telescopes have been built here and on the neighbouring island of La Palma is that they share, along with Hawaii, an especially clear atmosphere for astrophysical studies.

Getting back to our trip....we unfortunately missed seeing the great panorama of yellow flowers which I discovered later when talking to friends, is seen on another route leading up to Las Cañadas in early summer. There are several approaches to Las Cañadas and perhaps another day we may be able to repeat the trip using a different route. We drove up from Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava. It was a long and tiring drive as it is a constant winding road, but I'm glad that this time I have a car with automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning....none of which I had in my old car the last times I drove this run. There is so much to see and do here on this island one needs to go out driving every day!
down into mistHere we are driving down through the clouds as we descend the mountain.

Here are some of my photos set to the music of the Canary Island group TABURIENTE.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

27 ~ Out of the Nest

nestling (Click photos to enlarge)

Today we have a strong dose of calima, that hot east wind from the Sahara which brings dust and warm air to the Canary Islands. But at the same time, I saw one of the newly hatched baby blackbirds in the garden, taking its first flying lessons. Here are photos of both events.

I was surprised to learn that once out of the nest, the babies scramble around in the shrubbery, the parents feeding them and showing them how to fly, but never returning to the nest. I somehow had the idea they all went back to the nest to sleep together at night, but apparently that is not the case. One can search them out by listening to the encouraging peeps and scolds from the parents coming from one side or other of the garden, guiding them and warning them of approaching humans or cats. Although, thankfully the old cats are not the slightest bit interested in fresh fish, meat or baby birds and would much rather continue their siesta in a sunny spot on the grass than get up and chase birds.

I was fortunate to be able to see this blackbird and catch a zoomed image while it sat on a bush, almost without tail feathers and with fluffy baby fuzz floating around his spotted body.

But the higher temperature was a lovely surprise this morning. Here is a photo of my little weather station sitting on a table in the shade, registering 27.8°C...about 80°F and 51% humidity. The time was around 10:30 in the morning, although it registers 19:40, as the clock needs resetting. It's one of those simple things made so complicated that I have to find the instruction booklet to figure out the clock setting mode.

thermometer Here is a view of what is normally the snow-covered volcano, now invisible through the suspended dust in the air. A faint outline of the lower level surrounding mountain, Las Cañadas, may be seen.

Calima 1 And here is an old NASA satellite image which shows the Sahara sand blowing westward towards the Canary Islands, to produce this suspended dust, here called calima.

NASA photo Now the garden is really coming to life and the osteospermum is becoming so rampant that we have to pull it away from other plants.

osteospermum And I see the chives are coming out and ready to be put in a salad.

chives And the aloe vera is growing tall and flowering. It's so good to have it in my garden for times when I need to quickly cut open a leaf to extract the gel to sooth a burn or bite.

aloe vera

Saturday, March 7, 2009

26 ~ Fish Dinner in Las Aguas

coastal view (click images to enlarge)

Last January my friend Anne and I planned a morning of shopping followed by a lunch at one of the typical no frills village restaurants which abound here on this island. To find such a place one has to take a drive, either up into the hills or down the seacoast. As she and I both love to try new places, especially the ones which have freshly caught seafood, we made our way south down the coast, and in less than half an hour we arrived at the seaside village of Las Aguas, which has several interesting little restaurants.


Sounds of the Sea & Anne

The day was sunny with a strong wind whipping up the waves over the black volcanic rocks. We chose a place across the street from the crashing waves called The Sotano (The Basement) but we sat in the main room and from there, looking out the door, we felt we were on a boat as the view was of the sea coming in towards us.

seawall & girls
el sotano
In these typical places, before sitting down at a table, it is customary to go up to the front counter where the fresh fish and shellfish are on display and there choose what will be your dinner.

fish trays The fish we contemplated were parrotfish (vieja) and dorado (mahi-mahi.)

vieja The dorado had been caught that morning just a few kilometers away. Both Anne and I chose one of those and ordered the usual accompaniments of salad and wrinkled potatoes with mojo and red wine.

dorado 1 No frills....a paper tablecloth and the bread served in a basket together with the cutlery.

waiter Anne and our waiter.

bread & wine The bread, wine and a simple salad to share.

saladWhat was amusing was the lack of a cruet set on the table, but rather, a whole liter of olive oil was placed beside a container of vinegar.

oil & vinegar I was getting ready for a really good lunch as more people came in and ordered their fish. The kitchen was busy and steaming plates passed us by on their way down to the lower dining room, the sotano.

After the bread, wine and salad had been served, came the potatoes.....papas arrugadas with their two mojos, red and green and then came the fish.....with head and tail on.

papas & mojo
dorado 2 The cooked dorado.

I was always a little disconcerted when presented with the whole thing! I was never very good at dissecting a fish, even though I took some of that in Biology 101 and tend to buy my fish already cleaned and filleted at the market. However with some determination I gave the fish a good slice somewhere around the neck area (do fish have necks?), removed the head and put it on a side plate, and then made another slice somewhere around the lower off with the tail. The fish was delicious! And after working my way down that one side I was able to find the bone and lift it carefully away to reach the white meat on the other side.

fish dinner Fish dinner with the papas & mojo. Getting ready to remove the head and tail.

It is often the custom here.....and especially true when out with take the after-dinner coffee in another place, usually a bar or cafe, rather than in the restaurant where one has just dined. So we took a short walk along the seawall to an outdoor cafe which was alongside the municipal swimming pool.

swimming pool We sat in the sun and had two cafes cortado. On the little tables were menus for their assorted tapas. My favourite ensaladilla (Russian Salad) figured there at the top of the list, as did small tuna and fish tapas and other potato snacks.

cafes cortadoWell that was a lovely way to end our day out. The fresh sea air, sunshine and sound of the waves was a real treat.


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