Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jambalaya in November: un peu de soleil dans l'eau froide

aving lived 7 years with a Southerner, you would think I must have had jambalaya more than half a thousand times. Far from that, it is my first time ever I laid my spoon and fork on one.

America's answer to paella, jambalaya combines West African cooking methods with the ingredients of the New World. I am too lazy to post the recipe, you can find it in one of the following books.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dulceria Nublo@Tejeda. Gran Canaria

It is amazing how businesses survive in the Canarian interior, with sparse population separated by mountains, the toe-twirlingly windy roads making travel slow, and most tourists staying in the mass-vacation resorts on the coast.

The Dulceria Nublo bakery in Gran Canaria's lofty Tejeda seems to flourish. The local specialty is almonds, so every cake there has them in some kind or way. They are rustically inexpensive and baked to perfection, so that partly explains its popularity.

We had a whole try of them - "Uno de cada, por favor!" and had a nice sweet-tooth picnic next to the Roque Nublo, after which the bakery is apparently named.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pejines salados: maternity ward's most wanted

n Russia, conventional wisdom has it that if you have a craving for salted fish, you must be preggers. I must be permanently knocked up then, because the craving never goes away. If allowed, I could eat a pack an evening. Luckily, it is not that widely available in London because African dried fish that they sell in Brixton needs to be cooked before consumption. Not your beer snack, in other words.

However, God is faithful, God provides. Just when I had run out of cured tyulka that Victoria brought me from Moscow, most serendipitously, I stumbled upon these beauties called pejines. It took a 4-hour flight from London and a trip to Tenerife's Auchan (called there Alcampo) to get hold of it, but serendipity tends to happen to those on the move.

Much saltier and somewhat leaner than Russian tyulka, pejines should be given out for free in pubs to make people drink inordinate amounts of beer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rincon del Marinero: Tenerife's freshest

- Corbin!
- Korbin?
- Corvin!

Local names for regional varieties of sea fish are clearly not part of my Spanish vocabulary. But I trust our waiter and order a whole grilled fish by that unpronounceable name.

Whilst waiting for it to arrive, we break bread and dab into the saucers with dip. One is creamy coriander-based green (cilantro), the other zesty chilli-based red (rojo picante). It tastes exactly comme-il-faut, with just enough zing to underscore the taste of the fish, and not a wee dram more. People, who know how to make such dips, can't possibly spoil fish, but Floyd is still not persuaded.

Nearly two decades of extensive dining out all over the world have taught me to pick up on subtlest hints to help you determine whether the restaurant is good or not, even before you order. The truth is never on the surface, but in the invisible structure of things (bow to Lévi-Strauss!). Most decrepit eateries often churn out most fantabulous delicacies, while the chicest of the chic may simply specialize in overpriced culinary drab. Glossy menus are hardly a proof of the chef's skills. Plastic tables can be used to serve world's finest seafood. Here, the horrible fluorescent lighting and surly jeans-clad waiters do not deter me from divining our tonight's glorious gastronomic fate in the delicate flavour combinations of the dips.

Before I get down to deciphering their ingredients, our main and only course makes a grand appearance on a rickety trolley. The fish looks grilled to perfection, but even before I sink my teeth in to make sure, I can see by how the waiter deftly is filleting it that this is a proper seafood establishment, not one of those wannabe tourist rip-offs that line the seafront.

We have seen a lot of those while walking up and down Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas, on the southern tip of Tenerife. When we were nearly ready to give up and go back to the car, we stumbled upon this one, El Rincon del Marinero, tucked away in a quiet, highly unmarketable corner (hence the name, I reckon), yet brimming with people. We were lucky enough to snatch the last available table.

Mais revenons à notre poisson. Its white flesh flaking in succulent chunks betrays its complete ignorance of refrigerators. It is, in fact, so fresh that I am tucking in my favourite part, the head. It can be a risky affair, as my night-on-the-toilet experience in Essaouira can confirm, but here I have no reservations.

A mixed salad and local papas arrugadas (jacket potatoes boiled in very salty water until they become wrinkly, arrugadas) are all we need for the sides. This must be the original way of cooking the tuber: the Canaries were the traditionally first stopover for Spanish caravels plying to the newly "discovered" America, so it was here where potatoes made their début in the Old World.

Pro's: Expertly cooked freshly caught fish, just as it should be on an island.
Con's: Fluorescent lights and cafe-like seating.
In a nutshell: Totally worth the wait and expense.