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The Vegetarian Expat - Gofio

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I have been a vegetarian for many years. I was a vegetarian when it was seen as cranky, receiving comments such as, “Are you sure you can live without meat?” to the time when vegetarianism became the thing for weight loss, or as a declaration by students, mainly to annoy their parents. It then became fashionable to be vegetarian, later it was definitely for the health conscious and now vegetarianism is seen as the way to conserve the world’s scarce food resources. My personal reason for becoming vegetarian so many years ago was very simple; I like animals and I do not wish to eat my friends.
Living in a remote part of Lincolnshire, with few children of my own age to play with, no doubt encouraged me to develop a friendship with animals in such a way that I could not bear to eat their flesh. I shall always be grateful to my parents for having a very liberal view in allowing me to keep all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and insects as pets. As long as I could demonstrate that I was responsible enough to care for them properly, my parents accepted most of the livestock that I brought home without putting up too much resistance. I have happy memories of my father building hutches for rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as cages, runs and even a large aviary for a multitude of birds that came my way.

My mother was always on duty as chief nurse should one of my furry or feathered friends develop an illness of some kind, and very good at it she was too. However, even she declined to give my hamster the kiss of life, despite my insistence, when I discovered him lifeless in his cage one morning. However, I am pleased to report that with a spot of heart massage and a teaspoonful of brandy, my furry friend was soon up and about again, if a little groggy. Maybe this early encounter explains my love affair with a decent cognac after a good meal.
Moving to Spain was a shock in many ways, including the difficulties in explaining vegetarianism to many waiters. Gone were the days when the flippant comment, “I don’t eat anything with a face or a mother,” was a sufficient explanation as in the UK. Yes, I know all about the egg issue. The problem was that most Spanish and Canarians were, and some still are, convinced that tuna is a vegetable; it does not count as meat or fish. Despite my well practiced explanation of “sin carne, sin pescado” (no meat or fish) I can guarantee that most salads usually arrive with a generous dollop of tuna in the centre, and in some cases, the salad is liberally sprinkled with ham. I blame most of this on the “I’m a vegetarian, but I eat fish and chicken” brigade, who do no service to either themselves or the vegetarian cause.

This part of life when moving to the Costa Blanca was a culinary nightmare for the unsuspecting vegetarian, later eased by the few British supermarkets that had identified a lucrative market. It was now possible to easily obtain soya, tofu, nut roll and my old favourite, Linda McCartney sausages. We even managed to obtain vegetarian dog food via a tortuous route and, judging from the good health of our dogs over the years, this put paid to the ‘special diet’ syndrome that so many vets are forcing on to an unsuspecting public nowadays.

All this changed when we moved to the Canary Islands. Gone once again was the ease of availability of so many products that we had taken for granted in the Costa Blanca. British supermarkets came and went, and the reliability of a regular source of vegetable protein could not be taken for granted. Thankfully, we discovered a Canarian favourite, gofio, flour derived from maize, which is a traditional dish and served in many ways. In days gone by, farmers also used it to feed to their dogs and now we enjoy it too. If you look at the menu of most traditional Canarian restaurants, you will see it as a popular, creamy dessert. However, we bake it, fry it and grill it. We even have it sliced cold, rather like a nut roast and even barbecue it. Prepared carefully, with the right herbs and spices, it is delicious!

You will find a recipe for using gofio below:

Gofio as a main course meal

1 litre of water
1 dried cube of vegetable stock
500 grammes of gofio (maize flour)
1 teaspoon of mint

Use a small or medium sized saucepan and heat the water until it reaches boiling point. Then add the vegetable stock cube and stir until this dissolves. Remove from the heat and place the saucepan on a heat resistant surface, and carefully and slowly add the gofio, and stir continuously with a spoon when you add this until all the gofio is mixed to an even paste. You can add more water or more gofio if needed.

Then cover the saucepan and leave the gofio mixture to cool completely. When cool, use a spatula to remove the gofio from the saucepan and place this on a cutting board.
You can now cut slices of your gofio to shallow fry gently in virgin olive oil, or barbecue for a few minutes on each side to brown slightly, or place into a pre-heated oven with a little virgin olive oil to roast on a high heat for about 10 minutes on each side.
Serve gofio with your favourite sauce, or try a prepared green pepper sauce or a spicy chilli sauce. Serve gofio with roast potatoes and fresh vegetables in season.

Gofio as a dessert

80 grammes of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of self-raising flour
Three quarters of a cup of gofio
2 and half tablespoons of baking powder
Three quarters of a cup of milk
Some drops of vanilla essence

Pre-heat your oven to a moderate temperature.

Use a medium mixing bowl and mix the butter with the sugar, and then add the egg yolks and stir slowly until these ingredients are mixed well. Add the flour, gofio, baking powder and egg whites with a pinch of salt and stir the mixture. Add the vanilla essence to the milk and add this to the mixture, and stir until a smooth paste is formed.

Place the mixture into a greased oven proof dish, and transfer the dish to the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until the surface of the gofio tart is slightly brown. Remove from the oven and serve cool or warm with cream, yoghourt or ice cream.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: and or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions. Protection Status © Barrie Mahoney