A small rock in the Atlantic

All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

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Friday, 11 April 2008

Fish on La Palma is usually delicious because its very fresh. Well it should be, given the amount of ocean surrounding the island.

I once went with friends to a shack on the beach at Punta Larga (since closed) where we had to wait, because the cook was having her own lunch. As we sipped our beer, a man came up out of the sea with two fish on a hook and disappeared into the kitchen. We had the same fish for lunch.

The Canaries are well off the continental shelf, so most of the fish you get here are from deep water. You can get cod (bacalao), hake (merluza) and sometimes salmon (salmon, but pronounce the "l"), but they've come a long way. If there's no translation for the varieties of fish on the menu, they're probably local, not available in England, and fresh.

The catch is that they gut the fish, but they don't cut the heads off, and the eyes do rather stare at you accusingly. If you don't want an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with lunch, it's best to order a slice of a large fish. Medregal is a white fish. Rabil and bonito are oily fish. In fact bonito is a close relative of tuna.

If you've never had a tuna steak before, the taste is pretty much what you'd expect, but the texture and appearance is very much like a pork chop. In fact the first time I had one, I wanted to tell the waiter that he'd made a mistake. I'm glad my friend stopped me before I caught the waiter's eye.

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