On the sunny terrace of Bodega Monje, in El Sauzal, we learn to make the delicious green and red mojo sauces that Canarians enjoy with their famous papas arrugadas, yellow-fleshed boiled potatoes.
These special potatoes originate from Ecuador, brought over from South America 400 years ago by the Spanish conquistadores. The red mojo sauce is served mostly with meat dishes, and is made from red peppers, chili, paprika, garlic, cumin and olive oil, whereas the green mojo is for fish and vegetable dishes, and uses green peppers instead, with the addition of fresh coriander.
A simple meal of local wreckfish, or parrotfish, with papas arrugadas and green mojo, or cochino negro, the local ‘black pork’, with red mojo sauce, is a taste sensation and totally unique to the island.
Paired with a selection of local vegetables, such as avocados and tomatoes, and some local goats’ cheeses, it is truly special.
Island cuisine is by necessity exclusive, limited to the best local produce prepared with time-honoured techniques. Tenerife’s food and wine benefits from its isolated geographical position in the sub-tropics, with plentiful sunshine, fresh breezes and a long growing season. Fruit and vegetables grow beautifully in Tenerife, and a visit can be a gastronomic pilgrimage.
The top secret to great gastronomy on the island? Eat in a guachinche, a pop-up family-run eatery offering a simple menu of home-cooked dishes and their own wine at an affordable price, from as little as 10-12 euros. The best are known by word of mouth, and the most authentic are found in the north of the island.
Or go direct to the fincas and bodega swhere the food and wine is produced, take a tour, discover the history and production techniques, then enjoy a meal yards away from where the ingredients were grown.
But probably the most interesting place to stay for gastronomes is the north of the island, in or around the charming town of Puerto de la Cruz. There are several wineries around here and banana and avocado plantations too. The local restaurants will startle you with the freshness of their produce and the unique style of Tenerifean cooking.
Possibly the most enjoyable gourmet experience is to visit an ecological fruit plantation, for example the Finca Calabacera in Guia de Isora, which has beautiful views over the turquoise ocean to the tiny island of La Gomera.
Here they specialise in growing fruit such as bananas, avocados, mangos, papayas and tamarind, and making delicious produce such as jams, fruit drinks, kefir and kombucha. The farm has been fully organic since 2006 and their produce is excellent. They put on banquets for special occasions, and supply baskets of fruit and vegetables for you to take away.
Wine and dine
Did I mention the wine? Tenerife produces 10 million litres of wine per year, but not much is exported, so it’s a good idea to indulge whilst on the island. Some of the grape varieties have long histories, with Malvasia the original ‘cup of Canary’ mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays.
Listan Blanco is a white wine produced from the Palomino variety, and Listan Negro is one of the oldest, and a must-taste for red wine buffs, as it is seldom encountered anywhere else.
The best way to learn about Tenerifean wine is to visit a bodega, a wine shop or wine cellar. At the Casa del Vino in El Sauzal, you can sample a range of delicious, unusual high-altitude wines.
This is best combined with a local cheese tasting, where you will learn the art of ageing cheese for different flavours.
Fine wine must be paired with fine food. Luckily, the combination of great local produce and culinary skills has led to the award of seven Michelin Stars shared by five restaurants, unsurprisingly in the busy tourist area around Adeje, in the southwest. MB Ritz Carlton Abama, El Rincón de Juan Carlos, Kabuki Abama, San-Hô and NUB* are at the cutting edge of modern cooking, and their exquisite dishes delight diners who visit them.
In Puerto de la Cruz itself, there is a huge selection of cafes and restaurants to explore. At sunset, go to the unassuming Cafe Bellamar, with the best view in town overlooking the Playa Martianez. Try a barraquito, a local five-layered coffee with cream, Licor 43 and syrup, or a zaperoco – the same with an extra shot!
La Cofradia de Pescadores, overlooking the old fishing port, promises a feast of fresh tuna steaks with grilled vegetables, plus papas arrugadas with red mojo sauce. Restaurante Cumai, Restaurante Magnolia and El Taller de Seve Diaz are all recommended. If clients like simple tapas, suggest the sharing platter at El Patio, just off the harbour. Buen provecho!
Book it with… Bodegas Monje
Bodegas Monje offer guided tours of its vineyard and winery as well as tastings and food pairings. For something special, premium gastronomy tours are available such as Underwater Tastings, Tasting with Helicopter and Tasting with the Stars. bodegasmonje.com