Food secrets of the Canary Islands Andy Montgomery | Posted: 10 August 2016

We got chatting to our Canary Island experts recently, Jack and Andy from Buzz Trips. They were full of practical advice about making the most of the local food and beer, so we thought we’d share some of their tips here...

Getting to Grips with Prickly Pear Cactus
The flesh of a ripe prickly pear cactus fruit, known as la tuna, is fat with juice and tastes like watermelon. It's a satisfyingly refreshing drink on a long, hot, walk provided you can get at it without injury. Armando, a walking guide and expert on all things Gran Canaria, shares his methodology.

Gingerly removing one of the long spikes from the body of a prickly pear cactus and taking hold of the small, ruby red fruit as if it were a live grenade, Armando gently rolls the fruit in the dirt to remove most of the needles from its flesh. Then, using the spike as if it were a sharp knife, he carves a skin-deep spiral round and round, unpeeling the skin to reveal the succulent flesh, and takes a bite. Juice runs down his chin and he sticks out his crimson tongue for us to see.

Then it's our turn.

Here's a really useful piece of can get prickly pear cactus needles out of your fingers by running them through your hair. The ones embedded in your tongue, gums and lips are more tricky.

The Art of Barraquito
Every day, a man walks into The Imperial bar in Santa Cruz and asks the bar man to prepare him a coffee with condensed milk; piping hot espresso; hot milk; a shot of Licor 43; a small piece of lemon skin and freshly grated cinnamon. Beginning with the condensed milk on the bottom, the final creation is a layered work of art. After a while, the bar man starts to prepare the coffee the minute he sees the guy walking through the doors and, as the guy's nickname is Barraco, christens the coffee barraquito. Thus, one of Tenerife's secret specialities is born.

That was more than 40 years ago. Nowadays you can now order a barraquito in all the Canary Islands. If you want the shot of alcohol (highly recommended), ask for a barraquito completo or con todo; drink it right away as many of the ingredients are cold; and stir well before drinking.

Coffee will never taste this good again.

The Best Octopus
Don't you just hate it when people make extravagant claims like ”the best steak in Texas,” like they've tried every one and that is, without question, the best? It's nonsense.

Occupying a corner spot in the picturesque old quarter of Los Llanos de Aridane on the island of La Palma, Don Escaldón has three individually styled dining rooms and a roof terrace with views to the Caldera de Taburiente. The menu is a blend of Iberian and Canarian traditional dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients, including pulpo (octopus) which is so tender that it simply melts in the mouth in a fusion of flavour.

When asked to reveal the secret of its preparation, Don Escaldón himself is vehemently tight lipped.

It's a secret,” he says.

I'm not saying Don Escaldón's octopus is the best in Spain, or even the best in the Canary Islands. How could I claim that? I'm just saying, it's the best I've ever eaten.

Ordering Local Beer in the Canary Islands
To avoid a cultural faux pas when it comes to ordering local beer on Tenerife and Gran Canaria it's worth noting Dorada is the preferred amber nectar of Tenerife, whereas in Gran Canaria it's Tropical. A good natured, inter-island rivalry which stretches back centuries seeps into various aspects of daily life, ranging from favourite football teams and politics to which brand of locally produced cerveza is stocked in bars on different islands. Neither beers are a hardship to drink as both Dorada and Tropical are light, thirst-quenching lagers perfectly suited to the warm climate in the Canary Islands; although Tropical's sparkling disposition just shades it in terms of taste for me.

It's not going to cause an international incident if you ask for the 'wrong' beer on Tenerife or Gran Canaria; however, there may be a sharp intake of breath and a raised eyebrow from bar staff. The funny thing is both beers are brewed by exactly the same company, but that little fact tends to get ignored.

The Big Cheese on Fuerteventura
On an island where there are far more goats than people it's hardly surprising to learn goat's cheese on Fuerteventura is rather flavoursome. In fact queso Majorero, as it's known, is renowned throughout the Canary Islands and beyond, regularly picking up international awards. Although you can pick some up in most supermarkets on the island, it's not quite the same as purchasing a round of sublimely smoked cheese directly from one of the island's queserías.

There are two good goat farms, with shops open to the public, located on the same country road just outside the former capital of Betancuria. My personal preference is for stocking up on queso Majorero at La Villa where the postman arrives with letters and leaves with a chunky wedge of savoury semi-cured cheese coated with paprika. For anyone feeling particularly adventurous, La Villa is also the place to try an unusual local speciality, Bernado's licor leche de cabra (goat milk liqueur).

Related Holidays

The Canary Islands

Lying off the coast of north Africa, the Canary Islands are Spain’s southernmost outpost, each with its own allure and character. From contrasting landscapes to a rich colonial history – and some rather delicious cuisine to be savoured, especially if you know where to look – each is a joy to explore on foot.

More about our walking holidays in the Canary Islands >

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