The other day, a colleague asked me what my "favorite carbohydrate" was. What was meant was: Which food with a lot of carbohydrates would I put at the top of a hit list – pasta, rice, bread? I love them all, yes. But a modest brown tuber has always conquered my potato-shaped heart. There are just too many good ways to prepare a potato!

From West to East, it is eaten almost everywhere in the world, but prepared completely differently: whether doused with cheese and gravy in Canada, transformed into gnocchi in Italy or cooked with soy sauce and honey in South Korea. Carrying the potato (and also the corn, pumpkin, tomatoes...) from South America into the world was probably the one perhaps really good deed done by the dubious European "discoverers".

Today I prepare the potatoes in the Canarian way, in a fine salt crust. Served with spicy, red mojo. Traditionally, these "papas arrugadas" (German: wrinkled potatoes) were boiled in seawater, which is reduced several times until the salt content is high enough. Normal seawater contains only about 35 grams of salt per liter, but we need at least three to four times as much. Fortunately, we can whistle on the seawater and shamelessly help with the salt shaker.

The high salt content in the cooking water removes liquid from the potatoes, causing them to shrink a little and the skin to become wrinkled. The texture is then more reminiscent of baked potatoes than average boiled potatoes. When the liquid finally evaporates, the beautiful salt crust is also created on the shell. This method of preparation is of course ideal for sailors and islanders, who otherwise cannot necessarily conjure up much edible with the seawater around them.

So it's no wonder that this brilliant idea was just come up with in the remote Canary Islands. The salty wrinkled potatoes are accompanied by a simple dip that really packs a punch: Mojo Picòn, a spicy version of Mojo Rojo. Translated, the two are called "hot sauce" or "red sauce". At its core, it is a mix of chilies, paprika, garlic, vinegar and oil, sometimes thickened with bread or almonds. Depending on your taste, you can also add tomatoes in any form. My version is slightly modified with a dash of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes, so not necessarily "authentic", but a bit fruitier.

This is what you need for two servings:

For the potatoes:

  • 1 kilogram of small potatoes

  • 150 g sea salt

  • 2-3 bay leaves

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic

For the Mojo Rojo / Mojo Picón:

  • 2-4 tbsp dried chili flakes or a few dried chili peppers, to taste

  • 3-6 cloves garlic, to taste

  • 50 g tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes

  • 50 ml of vegetable oil

  • 50 ml apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice

  • 50 ml of hot water

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder

  • 1 teaspoon paprika powder, rose-hot or smoked

  • Some salt and sugar

    Optional: 1/2 red bell pepper

How much does it cost? For the ingredients consumed, you have to pay about four euros at the discounter, which is about 2 euros per serving. If you buy branded spices, you get away more expensive.
How long does it take? About 30 to 40 minutes.

How to make papas arrugadas and mojo picón

  • Wash the potatoes thoroughly, but do not peel them, then place them in a large saucepan.

  • Add just enough water to cover them. Add salt, unpeeled garlic cloves and bay leaf.

  • Bring to a boil over high heat, clamping a tea towel between the pot and the lid so that the water vapor can slowly escape. Cook like this for 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the dip. To do this, simply put all the ingredients together in a blender or mix finely with a hand blender. Let the dried chillies rehydrate briefly in hot water beforehand. If you have a problem with a lot of heat, you can remove the seeds of the chilies beforehand or replace them with grilled peppers. Season with salt and sugar to taste.

  • If the dip is too firm, just add some water and oil. If it is too runny, it is traditionally bound with bread or almonds.

  • Back to the potatoes. After the 20 minutes of cooking, drain about 90 percent of the water, then let the potatoes evaporate for another ten to 20 minutes on the stove top that is switched off or set very low without a lid. This creates the salt crust and wrinkled skin. Be careful that nothing burns – just shake the pot every now and then.

And now it's time to serve. The Papas arrugadas go well as a side dish for almost all grilled dishes, whether vegan, vegetarian with meat or fish. They also cut a fine figure as a main course, but I would serve them with a fresh salad – as a counterbalance to all the salt. Just a few slices of tomato with oil and pepper awaken holiday feelings. The dads also taste cold and are easy to prepare, for example for barbecues or buffets.

The mojo will keep in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for two weeks. If you boil it once, you'll get even more out of it. I wish you a lot of fun cooking!

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