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Tuesday, 26 July 2016 15:35

Good Canarian Mojo Sauce Looks Like Molten Rock

Good mojo sauce  looks like lava and has never been in a blender Good mojo sauce looks like lava and has never been in a blender www.photosgrancanaria.com

There are more 'grandma's secret' red mojo recipes in Gran Canaria than there are little old ladies. In most cases, the only secret is which supermarket the sauce comes from. 

You see, mojo may only have a few ingredients but it's a pain to make the right way. Most people don't have the time to make it right. 

Bad mojo and how to recognise it

All mojo served in hotels and most restaurant mojo come in bottles or big plastic catering jars. It tends to be thin and smooth because it's made with a blender. And it's slightly sour with an overpowering taste of cumin. That's because it's got too much vinegar and not enough olive oil and because the fresh garlic loses its pungency when it's pasteurised.

Good mojo looks like lava

It's not so much the ingredients that make a mojo (although quality oil and vinegar help) but the effort that goes into mixing and grinding them. Proper mojo is made in a pestle & mortar rather than in a machine. 

It's easy to recognise because the oil separates slightly from the garlic and chilli paste. It looks like a bowl of lava rather than a bowl of orange ketchup.

How to make red mojo the right way

First, you toast your cumin seeds until they start to smell like a Mexican kitchen. Then you grind them up coarse sea salt. Then you add more garlic cloves than you can imagine and keep grinding away. Add a bit of extra-virgin olive oil to loosen things up and keep grinding until you have a thick, pungent paste. 

Then add pimentón for colour and taste (paprika is fine). At this point, if you want your mojo to be picón, throw in some hot chilli powder or a dried red chilli that's soaked in warm water to soften. Back to the grinding.

Don't stop until your arm aches.

At this point, you can add a bit of smoked paprika for a deeper flavour, or even a roasted tomato. It's not traditional, but then this is all about your mojo. 

Drizzle in olive oil until your mojo starts to loosen; you want it to sit up on a spoon rather than flow. 

Lastly, add a glug of good quality Spanish vinagre de Jerez. vinegar aged in wood. 

Lex says: Vinagre de Jerez is like Italian balsamic vinger but isn't as sweet. It's fantastic.

You can eat your mojo straight away but it's better if you leave it to mellow for a couple of days. 

Alex says: Authentic mojo uses pimientas de la puta madre (mother fucker chillis). They are a local variety of bird's-eye chilli but aren't actually that spicy.

Where to find great red mojo

It's not easy these days because most people either buy their mojo or chuck everything in the blender.

Your best bet is to look for small, local restaurants up in the hills. If there's a granny in the kitchen or the mojo looks like molten rock, you're onto a winner. 

When we find the perfect mojo, we'll let you know. 

More on Canarian mojo sauce

Mojo sauce is a raw food with lots of garlic and red pepper. It's healthy as well as delicious.

Nobody is quite sure where mojo sauce came from. The history and origins of Canarian mojo sauce.

Here's an excellent red mojo recipe.

And a delicious green mojo recipe.

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    Mojo sauce is either red or green (mojo rojo and mojo verde) depending on whether it is flavoured with paprika or fresh coriander. Both types also contain oil, vinegar, cumin, garlic and chili. The red form is served with small, salted potatoes while the green form is traditionally served with fish.

    The name mojo probably comes from the Portuguese word molho, which means sauce: A reminder that many early Canarian settlers came from the nearby Portuguese island of Madeira. They migrated to the Canary Islands to start off its sugar cane industry.

    Red Mojo Recipe

    Makes enough for a good portion of mojo sauce for papas arrugadas for four people.


    5 garlic of cloves
    A teaspoon of cumin seeds
    2 or 3 dried birds eye chilies, more for Mojo Picon
    A good pinch of salt
    A teaspoon of smoky paprika or pimentón
    3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    5 tablespoons olive oil

    3 or 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs to thicken 

    A splash of water to loosen the sauce, or a couple of roasted tomatoes.


    Dry fry the cumin until it starts to pop to release its flavours. Grind it up in a pestle and mortar along with the dried chilies, salt, pimentón and the garlic cloves until you get an even paste. Add the olive oil and vinegar and mix well. Add breadcrumbs to thicken and water to loosen. Mojo should be thick enough to stick to the potatoes but not be lumpy.

    Mojo Rojo is almost always served with papas arrugadas: Small potatoes cooked in sea water or very salty water. The salt sucks water out of the potatoes, leaving them with wrinkled skin. 

    To make papas arrugadas boil small potatoes in just enough sea water or salty water to cover them. Leave the pan uncovered and cook until the water is almost all gone. Leave them in the open pan until they are dry and the skin is covered with a fine white crust of salt.

    To make proper papas con mojo pour the sauce generously over the potatoes rather than in a separate dish. Squash each potato before removing it from the sauce for maximum absorption. Papas con mojo goes brilliantly with good Canarian goat's cheese. 

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