Salmorejo: the lesser known cousin of Gazpacho

You wouldn’t be in the minority if you think that Gazpacho is just a cold tomato and vegetable soup consumed on hot summer days. However, there is actually more to Gazpacho than meets the eye; its family is far larger and older than most people realise.

It is thought that the primitive Gazpacho was just a mixture of stale bread, olive oil and vinegar consumed in Pre-Roman Spain; to this other ingredients were added and others were changed. Throughout time this Gazpacho evolved especially after the Columbian Exchange when tomatoes were introduced into Spain; can you imagine a gazpacho without tomato? Well, there are actually many that still survive such as Mazamorra (mixture of bread, olive oil, vinegar & almonds) & Ajoblanco (practically identical to Mazamorra but hailing from Malaga instead of Cordoba). On the other side of the spectrum there is Gazpacho Manchego (from La Mancha in central Spain) which may seem totally different as it is more of a hot stew made with meat and unleavened bread (click here for recipe).

The full name of the Gazpacho that most people recognise is Gazpacho Andaluz (Andalusian Gazpacho, from Andalusia in Southern Spain) and as established is a cold tomato and vegetable soup. Salmorejo, from Cordoba (also in Andalusia) is very similar but it uses more bread so it is thicker and only tomato is used instead of other vegetables (yes, I know technically a tomato is a fruit…). Traditionally it is topped off with hardboiled egg and Serrano Ham but if you are vegan you can easily skip the garnish and just enjoy the soup.

N.B. I always use a splash of vinegar in my Salmorejo but many Salmorejo purists believe vinegar has no place in Salmorejo. If you are a hardcore traditionalist, skip the vinegar but if you frankly don’t care, do whatever your heart desires. Remember, there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

Ingredients

Main:

1kg ripe tomatoes, quartered (you can remove the seeds and peel but it’s not necessary)

1 stale baguette, broken into pieces

1 clove garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as much as needed (we Mediterraneans tend to go overboard)

Splash of vinegar

Salt, to taste

1 tsp cumin powder (optional)

Garnish:

Hard boiled eggs, cubed

Serrano Ham, diced and lightly fried

Method

1 Place the quartered tomatoes into a bowl and add the garlic, bread, salt and cumin. Drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Combine well, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour. You can leave it overnight, if you wish. salmorejo12 Using a hand immersion blender (or high-speed blender/food processor such as a Thermomix) blend all the ingredients together and then add more olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Bear in mind that it should be thick. Optionally, you can also strain the Salmorejo is you want it to be more velvety and without any trace of the tomato skins but it’s not necessary. salmorejo2Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and prepare the garnish just before serving. salmorejo34 Pour some Salmorejo into a bowl and top off with the egg and Serrano Ham garnish, if you wish. salmorejo4

 

Samhain: The origins of Halloween & Galician Queimada

Halloween may be big business in America and some may even dislike that these traditions have crossed over to Europe but the reality is actually the other way around. Halloween is a Celtic tradition that was brought over to America by Irish immigrants. The original celebration is known as Samhain (pronounced sah-win) and marks the end of the harvest period and the beginning of winter. On this night the portal between life and death is opened and our passed away loved ones are allowed to return.

Galicia has always has a deep connection with the Celts and is also known as Fogar de Breogan (Home of Breogan). Breogan was a Celtic King of Galicia and ancestor of the Gaels mentioned in the Irish Lebor Gabála Érren (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), a set of medieval manuscripts about the History of Ireland. It is therefore not surprising that Samhain, a Celtic celebration, has always been part of Galicia. I remember my dad (from A Coruña, Galicia) telling me how people used to hollow out and carve turnips and hide in corredoiras (narrow country lanes) and scare passersby with them. If you are used to American Halloween, the use use of turnips may seem like an odd choice (they are also extremely hard to hollow out and carve) but originally that’s what was used back in Europe. The only reason pumpkins became synonymous to Halloween is because the Irish didn’t have easy access to turnips (remember turnips are native to Europe and didn’t exist in America until the Columbine Exchange); they did however have pumpkins which are native to the North America. Samaín in Galicia seemed to lose popularity until quite recently until there was a revival which, ironically, was most probably fuelled by the commercialisation of American Halloween spreading into Spain and also reconnecting with Galicia’s Celtic past.

(Pic 1. Statue of Breogan in front of Torre de Hercules thought to be the same as that mentioned in the Lebor Gábala Érren. Pic 2. Traditional Galician bagpipes known as Gaita)

When Catholicism came to the Iberian Peninsula (and Europe) there was some sort of religious symbiosis where ancient pagan traditions were kept but their meaning changed to suit Catholicism, basically the same thing that happened with Christmas. Allhallowtide (All Saints’ Day & All Souls’ Day) was created around this day (in Orthodox Christianity it is celebrated on a different day) to take over the original celebration. The name Halloween actually comes from All Hallows’ Eve and is the eve before All Saints’ Day. Allhallowtide is in essence the same as Samhain but it has been replaced with Catholic elements.

There has been a revival of Samaín throughout Galicia but it has always been deeply rooted especially in A Coruña, Cedeira (Province of A Coruña), Narón (Province of A Coruña), Ferrol (Province of A Coruña),  Quiroga (Province of Lugo) and Ribadavia (Province of Ourense). In Ribadavia it is also called Noite Meiga (Meiga Night – meiga is a traditional Galician being similar to a witch. Meigas are always evil but witches known as bruxas can be good or evil). This night is celebrated with a parade, a Haunted Castle Attraction, Witches Sabbath and a Queimada.

A Queimada is a traditional Galician alcoholic beverage made with Augardente (Firewater, similar to Italian Grappa) which is set alight in a traditional earthenware vessel know as pote in Galician. The drink itself has existed since time immemorial (some even believe it to be Celtic) but the show that is put on nowadays is more of a modern invention where a poem in the Galician language was created to recreate something a witch would recite while conjuring a potion in her cauldron. People gather around, lights are switched off so you can see the flames burning the alcohol and people recite a poem (see below, translation provided). It’s a fun event which is used in many Galicians parties and restaurants but most significantly during Samaín and The Bonfires of Saint John the Baptist (San Xoan) marking the beginning of summer (most probably another pagan tradition disguised as Christian lol). Even though the alcohol is burned, it is a very potent drink and people tend to drink it in little cups the size of espresso cups. If you have any left you can bottle it up and use for shots; it’s also good cold.

Conxuro da Queimada (Queimada Spell)

Mouchos, coruxas, sapos e bruxas. Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demos, trasgos e diaños, Demons, goblins and devils,
Espíritos das nevoadas veigas. Spirits of the misty meadows.
   
Corvos, píntigas e meigas, Crows, salamanders and meigas,
Feitizos das manciñeiras. Folk healer’s charms.
Podres cañotas furadas, Rotten pierced canes,
Fogar dos vermes e alimañas. Home of worms and vermin.
Lume das Santas Compañas, Light of the Santa Compaña,
Mal de ollo, negros meigallos, Evil eye, black magic,
Cheiros dos mortos, tronos e raios. Stench of the dead, thunder and lightening.
   
Oubeo de can, pregón da morte; Howl of the dog, omen of death;
Fuciño do sátiro e pé do Coello. Satyr’s snout and rabbit’s foot.
Pecadora lingua de mala muller The cursed tongue of an evil woman
Casado cun home vello. Married to an old man.
   
Averno de Satán e Belcebú, Inferno of Satan and Beelzebub,
Lumes dos cadavers ardentes, Flames of burning corpses,
Peidos dos infernales cús, Farts from hellish asses,
Muxido de mar embravecida. Bellow of the enraged seas.
Barriga inútil da muller solteira, Useless womb of single women,
Falar dos gatos que andan á xaneira, Caterwauling of cats on heat,
Guedella porca da cabra mal parida. Dirty hide of a badly born goat.
   
Con este fol levantarei, With this ladle I will raise,
As chamas deste lume, The flames of this fire,
Que asemella ao do Inferno, Resembling those in hell,
E fuxirán as bruxas, And witches will flee,
A cabalo das súas escobas, Straddling their brooms,
Índose bañar na praia das areas gordas. To bathe in beaches of thick sand.
   
Oíde, oíde! os ruxidos, Hear ye, hear ye, the roars,
Que dan as que non poden, Of those who cannot,
Deixar de queimarse no augardente, Escape from the burning flames of this firewater,
Quedando así purificadas. And thus, becoming purified.
E cando este brebaxe, When this concoction,
Baixe polas nosas gorxas, Slithers down our throats,
Quedaremos libres dos males, We shall be freed from all evil,
Da nosa ialma e todo embruxamento. Our soul and all enchantment.
   
Forzas do ar, terra, mar e lume, Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,
A vós fago esta chamada: I invoke thee:
Si é verdade que tendes máis poder, If it is true that you are more powerful,
Que a humana xente, Than mere mortals,
Eiquí e agora, facede cós espiritos, Here and now, force the spirits,
Dos amigos que están fora, Of our friends who are no longer with us,
Participen con nós desta Queimada. To participate with us in this Queimada.

Traditionally the drink is made in an earthenware pot and ladle and served in earthenware little cups. Most non-Galicians won’t have one of these pots but it is possible to make it in a large saucepan and use a metal ladle; it won’t be as visually impressive but it will suit just fine.

queimada-1

Ingredients

1 litre bottle Augardente/Aguardiente (or Italian Grappa)

Peel of one lemon

4 Tbsp white sugar

A few coffee beans (optional)

Method

1  Put all ingredients into the earthenware pot or a saucepan.

2 Fill the ladle with aguardiente and some extra sugar and set alight. Once you see that it is on fire (patience is needed) move the ladle to the top of the alcohol in the pot and set it all on fire. Once it is fully alight, you can then submerge the ladle and stir gently to dissolve the sugar.

queimada-1-step

At this point, the lights are switched off and the conxuro (spell) is read aloud. Once all the sugar has dissolved you can either leave it until all the alcohol burns off or just blow it out; it depends on how strong or weak you want the alcohol.

queimada-2nd-step

The best part of the queimada is the theatre that is involved in switching off the lights and reciting the conxuro (spell). If you want to see this in action look here:

 

Feliz Samaín! Oíche Shamhna shona daoibh! Happy Samhain!

trisquel-celta

 


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This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Annika at We Must Be Dreamers and the theme is HALLOWEEN.


Conejo al ajillo (Spanish Garlic Rabbit)

If you don’t like garlic, look away as this dish is packed with garlic; just remember to have some mints handy if you need to socialize afterwards. This is probably one of the most popular and traditional ways to make rabbit in Spain but fear not if you are squeamish about rabbit as you can easily substitute it with chicken; in fact Pollo al ajillo (Garlic Chicken) is also very popular.

Ingredients

1/2 rabbit, cut into pieces

Salt & pepper, to taste

1 whole head garlic

4 garlic cloves, medium-thickly sliced

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. dried thyme (or stick of fresh thyme)

2 tsp. dried rosemary

2 small parsley stalks

1 glass white wine

1 glass water

Method

1 Season rabbit with salt and pepper and then fry along with the whole garlic head until the garlic head is soft and the rabbit has browned on both sides. When the rabbit is half cooked, add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme.

Conejo al ajillo 1

2 Once the garlic head is soft, remove and peel (or squeeze out the flesh). Place garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar along with the fresh parsley and pound. Add white wine and mix well.

Conejo al ajillo 2

3 Add garlic slices to the rabbit and then add the pounded garlic and parsley mix along with a glass of water.

4 Cook on a medium heat until the liquid has practically evaporated.

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Calçotada & Salsa Romesco (Calçots with Romesco Sauce)

This sauce originates from Tarragona in the Autonomous Community of Catalonia in northeast Spain. It goes excellent with a wide range of meats and vegetables but it is also central to a Catalonian tradition known as Calçotada. Calçotada is a large gathering of people who get together to gorge on barbecued calçots dipped in this sauce or Salvitxada, a close relative to Romesco.

Calçots are old onions that are planted in soil and continuously covered with extra soil each time it sprouts until the stem of the onion reaches a length of around 20 cm. They are only available towards the end of winter. These calçots are barbecued until they are completely charred. To eat them you need to remove the charred outer layer, dip in Romesco or Salvitxada sauce and then shoved in one’s hungry and salivating mouth. Fun and delicious! Calçots are quite hard to find if you don’t live in Spain but you could try substituting for thick spring onions which are cheaper and more widely available across the world.

Calçotada1

The sauce that goes with these calçots was traditionally made with a variety of pepper/chilli known as Cuerno de Cabra (Goat Horn) but nowadays ñoras are more common. I am not too sure what they are called in English but I think they may be Red Ball Chillies. It might be hard to track down ñoras where you live but you can substitute it for Spanish Pimenton. If you can get your hands on Pimenton de Murcia instead of Pimenton de la Vera it would be better as the Pimenton from Murcia is made from these peppers instead of the ones from La Vera which use a combination of different peppers. However, if you can only find Pimentón de la Vera (which is widely available abroad) make sure you chose the dulce (sweet) variety as it does actually contain ñoras). And if worse comes to worst, you can always use whatever paprika you can get your hands on. Ñoras come dried and therefore you need to soak them in water before using. The skins and pips are discarded and only the miniscule amount of flesh is used.

Ingredients

8 tomatoes

100g toasted almonds (without skins)

80g toasted hazelnuts (without skins)

1 large garlic head

1 garlic clove

1 slice fried white bread

3 ñora peppers

1 dried cayenne chili (optional)

Regular olive oil (do not use Extra Virgen as it will overpower the sauce), at least 2 cups

½ cup vinegar, to taste

Salt, to taste

Method

1 Roast tomatoes and whole head of garlic in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked. Leave to cool and then remove the skins from both the tomatoes and the garlic head.

DSC05767_Fotor_Collage

2 Open the ñora peppers and discard the seeds. Soak in tepid water for 4 hours or if in a rush soak in boiling water for 5 minutes, however you will loose some of the flavour. Once soaked, the flesh should be plump; using the back of a knife (or spoon) scrape the inside of the pepper against the skin to remove the flesh.

Salsa Romesco 2

3 In a large mortar and pestle (or food processor), grind the almonds, hazelnut, raw garlic clove and fried bread.

4 In a bowl add the skinned tomatoes, peeled roasted garlic, ñora pepper flesh, cayenne chilli, salt and the ingredients from step 3. Using a blender mix into a homogenous sauce.

5 Add a good glug of olive oil and continue blending. Add the vinegar and more olive oil so the sauce emulsifies. The amount of vinegar and oil is to one’s taste and desired thickness but don’t be scared to use loads of oil.

Salsa Romesco 3

Leche Frita (Spanish “Fried Milk”)

I don’t think there is any other country in the world that has as many festivals as in Spain. We are quite known for our party lifestyle and most wonder when we actually get down to business as it always seems that we are constantly having days off in honour of some random Saint or Virgin (every city, town, village has their own one). I’m pretty sure that on most days of the year there is a at least one festival going on somewhere around the country.

At the moment we are in Carnival mode. In Valencia, where I live, Carnival isn’t a public holiday as there isn’t as much of a tradition to celebrate it, probably because a few weeks later we blow all our budget on Las Fallas, Valencia’s main festival. It is however, big business in my dad’s area (Galicia) where it is known as “entroido”, Cadiz, Tenerife and countless other areas around Spain.

As with most festivals, we have many recipes associated to these days, particularly sweets such as this one. Leche Frita, literally means fried milk, and is very popular in Northern Spain (the exact origin is disputed) during this time of the year and also Easter, which follows. The only way I can describe it is as fried custard squares.

Ingredients

1 litre milk

70g plain flour

70g cornflour (or cornstarch in US)

40g white sugar

1 lemon rind

1 cinnamon stick

4 eggs

Extras

Cinnamon sugar (white sugar mixed with cinnamon powder)

1 egg, beaten

Melted butter, to grease

Method

1 Heat 800ml of milk with lemon rind and cinnamon. Once it comes to a boil, remove from the heat and combine the sugar til it dissolves. Leave for 20 minutes to become warm and then remove the lemon rind and cinnamon stick.

2 Meanwhile, in a bowl add 200ml of cold milk and gradually beat in the flour, cornflour and eggs. Beat well and make sure there are no bumps. Gradually whisk this cold milk mixture to the warm milk mixture.

3 Return the pan to the heat and whisk until the mixture becomes thick. If for some reason the mixture splits you can use a hand immersion blender to fix it.

4 Grease a square/rectangle container (the size depends on the thickness you want the final product) with melted butter and pour in the leche frita mixture. Spread and bang on a surface to get rid of any air bubbles. Leave to cool and then chill in the fridge till it sets (at least 2 hours).

5 Run a knife around the edges of the container of leche frita mixture and turn it out. Cut into square or rectangles. Coat with flour, dip in beaten egg and fry in plenty hot oil.

6 Once fried, coat in cinnamon sugar.

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Eat warm or cold. Personally, I prefer them cold especially if there is a bit of vanilla ice-cream thrown into the mix. 

Caldo Gallego (Traditional Galician Broth)

Caldo Gallego is one of the quintessential dishes of Galicia (northwest tip of Spain) consisting of a broth made with all sorts of meats and leafy greens. It is a proper winter warmer and packed with nutrients!

It is so popular that, as with many traditional dishes in Spain, it has left its mark in the Collection of Traditional Proverbs, Sayings and Folk Music. Here are a few examples in the Galician language:

“A quen caldo non quera, cunca chea.” (Whoever doesn’t want caldo, gets a bowlful). This is used when one bad thing happens after another.

“Miña sogra morreu onte, deixoume o pote a ferver, deixame comer o caldo, que eu tamen eu de morrer.”(Yesterday my mother-in-law died, and left a pot boiling away. Let me eat the caldo, because I too will die someday).

“Se queres ter ao teu home gordiño dispois do caldo dalle un gotiño sempre que sexa de viño.” (If you want your man to be nice and fat, give him a drop after caldo; as long as it’s wine).

There are a few ingredients which are key to this recipe and unfortunately are not easily found if there isn’t a large Galician community where you live. These ingredients are unto and grelos.

Unto is a layer of pig fat which is rolled, salted and cured. It is very potent and therefore you only need a small amount. You can make caldo without it BUT in my eyes it will no longer be authentic caldo gallego.

unto

Grelos are a leafy green from the turnip family.  They are also so important that they also have proverbs about them, such as:

“Do nabo sal a nabiza, da nabiza sal o grelo, son tres persoas distintas, e un solo Dios verdadeiro.” (Nabizas come from a turnip, grelos comes from the nabiza, they are 3 distinct things, but one true God).

“Nabo, nabiza e grelo, trindade do galego.” (Turnip, nabiza and grelo: the Galician holy trinity).

If you can’t find grelos you can substitute them for nabizas (which if you can’t find grelos, you probably won’t find nabizas either), collard greens or cabbage. Personally, I only ever make it with grelos and detest the cabbage version even though it is also quite popular in some Galician towns.

Caldo Gallego, like many broths and stews, is best eaten the day after it is made. This is even reflected in another Galician saying:

“O caldo, ben cocido e ben repousado.”(Caldo: well boiled and well rested).

Anyways, enough talk and more action.

Before making caldo gallego there are a few steps which you may need to do in advance. The first is to blanch the grelos to get rid of its bitterness. The second is to make carne salada (salted meat). If you are lucky enough to find carne salada in your area, you don’t have to bother but in the part of Spain where I live it isn’t very traditional so is quite hard to track down. And lastly, you need to soak the dried beans in cold water overnight.

How to prepare grelos:

1 Cut off the root end of the grelos. Roughly chop the grelos and add to a large stockpot with water.

2 Wash the grelos by rubbing them together in the water. Rinse thoroughly.

3 In a large stock pot add grelos and top up with cold water. Once it comes to a rolling boil, drain and rinse with cold water.

4 At this stage you can either pack into freezer bags and freeze or use directly in the recipe.

Preparing grelos

How to prepare carne salada (salted meat), if using:

500g pork loin/pork shoulder

3 handfuls coarse salt

Coat the pork loin/shoulder in salt and leave in a covered container in the fridge for at least 3 days. It can keep for at least 2 weeks as the salt acts a preservative. After a few days, the meat will release water; it’s best to remove this water from the container.

Preparing carne salada

How to prepare dried white beans

Soak dried white beans in plenty cold water and leave to soak overnight on a countertop.

After time has elapsed, wash in cold water and rinse.

DSC05647_Fotor

Ingredients

Plenty cold water

3cm unto

6 cooking chorizos

500g carne salada, prepared in advance

½ rack of pork ribs

500g beef chuck

2 pigs ears (optional), washed and whole

2 pig tails (optional), washed and whole

2 slices Spanish cured ham bone (optional)

3 handfuls dried broad beans, soaked overnight in cold water

4 large potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced medium-thick

1 large potato, thinly sliced

3 bunches grelos, prepared in advance (defrosted if frozen)

Salt, if necessary

Method

Fill a large stock pot with cold water and add unto, carne salada, pork ribs, beef chuck, pigs ears, pigs tails, Spanish cured ham bone and soaked beans. Cook on high.

N.B. You can add the chorizos at this stage but depending on the type of chorizo you use it may ruin the characteristic white colour of the liquid. I prefer to boil the chorizos in a separate saucepan towards the final 30 minutes of cooking all the other meats.

When the water comes to boil, skim the froth with a slotted spoon. Then add 1 glass of cold water. My mum says that this is so that the beans are “shocked” and will therefore cook better (gotta love the old wives tales). Lower the heat to medium and leave for 1 hour 15/30 minutes.

Caldo Gallego 1

When the time has elapsed and the meat is cooked remove it from the broth and leave it to rest on a serving dish.

Caldo Gallego 2

Add the thinly sliced potatoes (these will disintegrate and help to thicken the broth) and the medium thick potatoes. When the potatoes are nearly cooked (10-15 minutes) add the grelos. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Season with salt if needed; normally the salt that is released from the carne salada, ham bones and chorizos is more than enough.

Caldo Gallego 3

To serve: ladle the broth into bowls (traditionally in cuncas which are earthenware bowls) and serve alongside the dish with all the meats. You can eat the broth and meats separately or add the meat into the bowl; I prefer the latter, but each to his own.

Caldo Gallego 4

As they say in the Galician language: “Xa vai sendo hora de xantar, bo proveito.” (It’s about time to eat, bon appetite)

Mexunxe de bonito (Galician Tuna with Red Peppers and Onion)

Mexunxe (pronounced meshunshe) de bonito is the most popular and traditional filling of Empanada Gallega (Galician turnover). I love it so much that when I can’t be bothered to make the actual dish it was invented for, I just make the filling and eat it with some nice crusty Galician bread. It ends up tasting more of the less the same, albeit completely different.

It is best served cold but feel free to warm up if that is what your heart desires; there is no right or wrong way!

Ingredients

1 onion, halved and sliced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 tomatoes, grated

2 small tins tuna (80g each)

1 tsp pimenton

Pinch salt

Pinch sugar

Method

1 Fry the onion in olive oil and add a pinch of salt.

2 Add the peppers and fry for 1 minute.

Mexunxe de bonito1

3 Make a well in the centre and add the pimenton for a few seconds before adding the tomato and sugar. Fry on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Halfway cooking add some water to keep the mixture moist.

4 Once the mixture is nicely cooked add the tuna and cook for circa 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dry add some water to loosen it up slightly.

Mexunxe de bonito2

5 Leave it to cool completely and enjoy with bread.

Mexunxe de bonito