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The Canary Islands have vast and varied landscapes which lend to fantastic backdrops for movies such as Moby Dick, Clash of the Titans, Fast & Furious 6, and Wild Oats. The beautiful beaches, volcanic parks, and lush forests are popular sites for holiday makers and travelers alike. But, what really stood out to us when we visited was the Rancho Canario Soup!
What is Rancho Canario
Rancho Canario is a traditional Canarian soup, with a stew-like consistency, from the Canary Islands. We visited four of the Canary Islands – Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, and Lanzarote. If you’re lucky enough to visit one these Spanish islands off of the coast of West Africa, definitely try the traditional Rancho Canario soup.
In fact, you may have tried this soup without knowing it! In the Canary Islands it is customary to “prepare the stomach for the main meal” by beginning a traditional Canarian meal with a soup. Rancho Canario - a soup made with meat, potatoes, chick peas, thick noodles, and lard - is among the most known soups that are served prior to your main course.
However, each island and restaurant made their Rancho Canary soup slightly different, and I imagine it must vary from family to family as well. For us, the taste was a little similar to Portuguese Bean Soup from Hawaii except instead of kidney beans there were chick peas.
As a quick note, it was helpful for us to have brought along our Lonely Planet Canary Islands travel guide, as it quickly helped fill in all the intricate details of each location that we visited - as well as explain some of the customs, culture, and etiquette of the Canary Islands as we traveled around. We recommend picking up a copy (or digital copy) before you head out to the Canary Islands - but we recommend waiting for thir sales (a 3 for 2 deal pops up on occasion) to save a bit of money. We found the information in this book, in particular, to be of expert quality and we couldn’t have done better with an actual tour guide as most people in the Canary Islands speak only Spanish (for that we got by with the Google Translate app)!
It is good to have a little background of Canarian food before you travel to the Canary Islands, as it tends to be a little more important to the locals than you might gather at first. Each restaurant that we tried the local Canarian foods at - including Rancho Canario soup - it seemed as though the servers and chefs were quite pleased that we picked their local cuisines and were genuinely interested in how we responded to the taste. We felt as though our opinion of it actually gave them a sense of pride.
“Canarian cuisine refers to the typical dishes and ingredients in the cuisine of the Canary Islands, and it constitutes an important element in the culture of its inhabitants. Its main features are its freshness, variety, simplicity, and the richness of its ingredients (which may be a result of the long geographical isolation the islands suffered), the mix of seafood and meat dishes, its cultural influences and the low knowledge of it by the rest of the world. Canarian cuisine is influenced by other cultures, specially the aboriginal inhabitants of the islands (Guanches) and Latin American cuisine (specially after the 20th-century Canarian migration to Latin America). Some African influences still prevail as well.” - Wikipedia
A Full Meal Appetizer
The soup is usually thick, hearty, and very filling. In restaurants it's in the appetizer section, but it could easily be a main dish because it can have you feeling full before the meal even starts - as you will end up eating every bit of it - it is so good!
It generally comes with chicken and sausage (occasionally salted or smoked ribs and/or chorizo), onions, carrots, potatoes, noodles, and chick peas (occasionally tomatoes as well). Additionally, most use saffron and paprika, and occasionally others also add in garlic and/or cumin. Each place really does have its own variation. We enjoyed all of the variations that we tried, but our favorites were the ones with beef, potatoes, and noodles.
Whether in Tenerife or La Palma, the soup was always delicious! It's definitely a dish you should try when visiting the Canary Islands. With the recipe here, it should also be an easy dish to make at home as well.
Rancho Canario Recipe
Without further ado, here is our favorite Rancho Canario recipe!
20 oz of chickpeas / garbanzo beans (we substitute these with butter beans (white lima beans) or white kidney beans (cannellini beans) due to allergy reasons)
1/2 lb of beef chuck or shank, salted ribs, smoked ribs or a combination
1/2 lb of mixed white/dark meat chicken (optional: replace some with chunks of ham)
3.5 oz of thick fideo noodles (or similar sized broken #5 or larger spaghetti)
1 lb of diced potatoes (3 medium sized russet potatoes or 10 white potatoes)
1 bulb of garlic (less for lower strength)
1 yellow onion
1 tomato (recommended: a large pink or Montserrat tomato, but the more common Big Beef tomato or Big Boy tomato work as well)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3-4 tbsp of olive oil
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp table salt (to your preferred taste)
1 tbsp ground black pepper
2 L of hot water (2 liters of water)
2 sprigs of parsley
1 small cup of white wine
1 tsp saffron
1 tsp thyme
If using caned chickpeas, they will already be softened. However, if they are bagged dry chickpeas, you will need to leave them to soak and soften overnight.
Rinse chickpeas thoroughly, then add to a large pot. Add in the hot water and all of the meat (or substitutes). Boil, then cover and let continue boiling for at least 1 hour (do not remove the lid as you do not want to let much water / steam escape from the pot while cooking).
While the pot is boiling, use a frying pan to cook the soup base. First, lightly fry the onion in the oil until it is softened, then add in the garlic and tomato. Stir until everything is softened. Last, add in the paprika and mix well over low heat for an additional 1-2 minutes.
After the full hour of boiling has elapsed for the pot, add the frying base along with the diced potatoes, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and the optional items of chorizo, parsley, saffron, thyme, cabbage and/or white wine. Boil for an additional ten minutes.
Lastly, add the noodles to the pot and let boil for an additional five minutes.
Did you enjoy your Rancho Canario soup?
Let us know in the comments below if you enjoyed this recipe! Additionally, we have put together a video of the Canary Islands for your enjoyment below. And have fun exploring the Canary Islands!
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