vegetarian dishes with love. from Lanzarote, canary islands
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
I think someone has taken a pair of scissors and snipped off pieces of the North African Sahara to make Lanzarote. It is one of 7 oddly shaped islands in the Atlantic with an almost year-round sunny climate. You can fly there from the UK in the time it takes to watch a couple of MasterChef reruns and stock up on duty frees.
The Greeks used to call the 7 Canary Islands the Fortunate Islands. From the air, Lanzarote looks as stark and bare as the Sahara after a camel stampede. Yet the appeal of the island is soon apparent with its fringes of golden sandy beaches and its interior, of 360 volcanoes.
But, you might ask, exotic travel destination apart, what has Lanzarote got to offer the vegetarian?
Well, a cornucopia of succulent island-grown fruits and vegetables await the discerning visitor. The food market in Arrecife or Haria on a Saturday morning, or the fruit and vegetable stalls at the Teguise Sunday market show off the island’s colorful bounties. There are also a number of other smaller markets on the island. I have bought local mangoes, bananas, lemons, fat cloves of garlic, sweet onions, plump moist figs, sweet potatoes, avocado, olives, and capsicums. I have also tasted the spiky cactus fruits when in season and nibbled on cactus burgers made on the hot grill in the Teguise market.
The recipes I have created using local ingredients are for Garlic Soup and Stuffed Red Peppers. You may speed up the cooking time of the Stuffed peppers, by buying ready-cooked brown lentils in jars from the supermarket.
The first time I ate garlic soup on the island was in the village of La Santa. It is possibly a dish from Castilla-La Mancha in mainland Spain, famous for its garlic. I turned it into a vegetarian revelation; it is a rich stock containing slices of roasted garlic, paprika, and cumin, with poached eggs hiding underneath finger-lickin garlic bread sprinkled with parsley. This soup is not traditionally vegetarian as it can contain chorizo sausages and meat stock. However, it is easily made at home in 15 minutes, using vegetarian ingredients.
The tortilla is another vegetarian favorite, famous throughout the whole of Spain. Most café bars in Lanzarote have a freshly-made one every day. When ordering Spanish omelet or tortilla, usually made with eggs, onions, and potatoes, it is always worth asking for it sin carne, without meat. Some makers use chicken, tuna, bacon or even garlic sausage.
Many villages on the island have their own bakery or panaderia, which opens every day of the year. This delicious white bread, though not famous for the pretty Celtic knots, plaits and twirls of France and Italy, does not usually contain preservatives. A sprinkling of health food shops (or Herbalarios) and organic growers also serve the health-conscious population.
And if you are not averse to dairy, the goat cheeses, milk and yogurts from the queserias artesanals (or cheese-makers) are divine.
If you visit the Canary Islands and eat out, try papas arugadas. These are small mouthfuls of deliciously tasty, potatoes, served in their skins. They can be eaten as a first course, or they can be served with the main course. They often come with a variety of slightly spicy, garlicky sauces, known as mojo. Mojo sauces have an olive oil and garlic base and are the colours of the Spanish flag. That is, green made with coriander; red made with red bell peppers, (sometimes with added chili’s); or white mojo made with garlic mayonnaise and parsley.
Lanzarote folk, or Conejo´s as they are known to other islanders, make great culinary use of local pulses. This includes the large chickpea, (garbanzos extra) and the dark brown Lanzarote lentils. I use the lentils and local chickpeas to make vegetarian burgers, rich soups, and stews, curries, and hummus. I also soak the lentils in water overnight, rinse, and allow them to sprout for a couple of days. I used them in a salad or as a garnish for many of my dishes.
The recipe of stuffed red peppers uses local brown lentils, but you can use any lentils. They are also delicious eaten cold with a succulent salad, as a first course or something in the fridge to snack on. They will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
For the easy garlic soup, I have replaced the traditional beef stock with vegetable stock. Egg and garlic bread are added at the last minute, these can either be omitted or served separately. As many people suffer from wheat or gluten intolerance, I often use a scoop of cooked chickpeas or cooked lentils in place of the bread. The chickpeas and lentils, do not compete with the full rich flavor of the soup. I often find it is so filling, I eat it as a main course on my sun terrace with a glass of the local El Grifo wine of course! Buen approvecho.
Easy Garlic Soup
(serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main courseTime: 15 minutes. 15 simple steps.
4 tablespoons of olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 liter of vegetable stock
4 -8 eggs
¼ kilo of cooked chickpeas or
4-8 slices of garlic bread
Set oven to Gas 8, or 200°C/ 400°F
In a large saucepan heat the oil and cook the garlic until golden, but not burned remove garlic & set aside on a plate to cool
Fry the paprika and cumin in the same pan, using the garlicky oil, for a couple of seconds only
Remove from heat & add vegetable bouillon and stir with a wooden spoon
Crush the garlic slices with a back of a spoon to open up their flavour and add to the soup
Add the cooked chickpeas or lentils now, if using as an alternative to garlic bread.
Simmer for 5 minutes
If using garlic bread, put it in the oven for 8-10 minutes
Check the seasoning of soup: add salt and pepper if necessary
Pour soup into 4 large ovenproof serving dishes
crack the eggs into the soup, 1-2 eggs to each dish, depending on portion size
Place in the oven for 3-5 minutes. (In the perfect dish the egg yolks should remain runny).
Remove garlic bread from oven and cut into cubes.
Place them floating on top of the soup and eggs.
Sprinkle with parsley & serve
Another tip that uses a whole bulb of garlic is to throw it into roast potatoes as they are baking. Peel before eating! A delicious pairing with the sweetness of the roast potato.
Stuffed Red Peppers
(makes 4 portions) Time: 15 minutes. 10 simple steps
4 red and yellow peppers, deseeded, cut in half and stalk removed
1 onion, diced
6 tablespoons virgin olive oil
400g cooked lentils
150g spinach, cut in thin slices across the grain
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic crushed
3 tablespoons tamari
shake of Tabasco
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
150 ml plain yogurt or local goat yogurt
salt and pepper
Turn oven to Gas 8 or 200°C/ 400°F
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, for the peppers
Put the peppers in boiling water for ten minutes, strain & cool slightly.
Sauté the onions until translucent, add 3 cloves of crushed garlic at the last minute, until transparent
Remove & add tamari, Tabasco and balsamic vinegar, stir
Add the cooked lentils, stir and reheat
Add the spinach
When the spinach has started to go limp, stir to blend all ingredients together and spoon the mixture into the cooked peppers
Place stuffed peppers in the oven for 10 minutes to bake
To serve, add a spoon of yogurt in the center of the mixture and sprinkle with chopped parsley or place a walnut on top