Visit many restaurants on the Canary Islands and you will find a small dish or bowl of pale finely ground flour in the centre. This is gofio, roasted and milled, made from wheat or varieties of maize. Just occasionally it is made from other plants such as barley or even beans. Gofio is a good quality carbohydrate, and quite high in protein and fibre. It is low in fat and sugar and high in minerals.
The word Gofio was used by the original inhabitants of Gran Canaria for roasted and ground barley and the original natives of Tenerife, the Guanches, called this ahoren, where it became a staple food. Eventually gofio became standard across the archipelago for a flour made with any cereal or legume. That found on Tenerife is most usually derived from wheat with a little added salt. Fuerteventura favours ground chickpeas. All of them are a great source of carbohydrate.
Gofio is wholemeal, all parts of the cereal are utilised. Roasting prior to milling is common to all gofio, which has the benefit of killing mould and parasites, increasing shelf life and purportedly improving flavour. This process also has the welcome effect of making the flour easily digestible, suiting those with delicate digestive systems, the elderly, children and fortuitously, hikers!
So, if looking for suitable hiking foods while traversing the Canary Islands, perhaps on the GR131 long distance trail, keep gofio in mind. It has satiating powers meaning that hunger does not appear for some time due to its slow absorption, so is also suited for diabetics. It is not an unpleasant taste but Three Points of the Compass finds its distinctive smell the most noticeable characteristic.
Gofio is not a dish in itself, it is more usually an ingredient to be added to other dishes. Gofio can be sprinkled on a breakfast cereal or simply mixed with milk. Tins or tubes of condensed milk make a handy and tasty addition too.
Gofio can be added to fish and meat stews to thicken these. Adding thick fish stock (or occasionally meat stock) to gofio results in the dish Escaldón, found as a starter in some restaurants. Probably the best approximation of this that could be achieved on trail would be using a fish stock cube or fish stock pot, which would likely see a native canarian throw their arms up in horror. Three Points of the Compass does like to finish a days hiking with an Oxo cube in boiled water prior to an evening meal, not a particularly healthy option unless carrying out strenuous activity as these beef stock cubes are pretty high in sodium. But on trail I find this both refreshing and rehydrating while replacing some lost salts, it was time to see what resulted from adding gofio to the mix…
Gofio is, or was, almost a staple for many Canary Island children- a bowl of gofio mixed with milk being consumed before school. Many older inhabitants will share fond memories of growing up with it and it remains a favourite. It would make a good alternative to porridge/oatmeal if backpacking in the Canaries. Or seek out Gofio de Avena which is made from milled roasted oats so not far removed from porridge itself. Milk powder or a tube of condensed milk could easily be packed along, and the dish supplemented with nuts or dried fruits.
Gofio de Millo (roasted maize/corn) provides around 387Kcal, 8.6g protein and 73g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Trigo (roasted wheat) provides some 371Kcal, 10.8g protein and 81.6g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Avena (roasted oats) provides 400kcal, 13.1g protein and 70.6g carbohydrate per 100g.
Gofio can be easily found in almost all Canary Island supermarkets in bags of various sizes. The 25g individual serving size are convenient as a single breakfast. Condensed milk is usually found on adjacent shelves. While a little difficult to find away from the Canaries, should you come across gofio, do try it.