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

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Ninniku-Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce Infused Garlic)

During the summer I was given a sack of garlic freshly harvested from the fields surrounding my mum’s village deep in La Mancha. La Mancha (a historic area belonging to Castilla La Mancha) is actually famous for its purple garlic known as Morado de Cuenca from the Allium Sativum L species and it even boasts the coveted Indication of Geographic Protection (IGP) designation. Great stuff!ajo-moradoI shared it out among family and friends but I still had an overwhelming amount of garlic leftover so I made my favourite Spanish Garlic and Parsley Marinade which I always have in my fridge. As I still had loads of garlic left my friend who had lived in Japan recommended me to soak whole garlic cloves in soy sauce and leave to infuse for 3-4 weeks; so that’s what I did. Apparently, it’s a secret weapon used in many Japanese households as it can instantly transform stir-fries without much more seasoning. I was advised to use it in regular egg-fried rice  and am so glad that I did; such a small thing really does make a difference and elevates the dish to new heights!

The soy sauce also transforms into something more complex so feel free to use it too. However make sure the garlic is always covered by the soy sauce; if it runs low you can always top it up with regular light soy.

Ingredients

As much garlic as your heart desires

Enough light soy sauce to completely cover the garlic.

Method

1 Peel garlic and put in a jar. Top up with enough light soy sauce to completely cover the garlic.soy-sauce-infused-garlic2 Store in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. When the garlic has changed into a brownish colour, it is ready to use. If you store it in the fridge it can keep for a long time.soy-sauce-infused-garlic-2

White Bean & Pomegranate “Hummus”

I found half a bag of dried white beans in the pantry and thought to myself what I could do with them; making a wholesome and warming white bean stew was out of the question as we are well and truly in summer weather (urgh it’s so hot and it’s not even August yet…) so I decided to experiment and see if white beans would work well in a hummus instead of using chickpeas.

As hummus in Arabic literally means chickpeas this dish is not really a hummus per se but I have no other name for it; puree just doesn’t sound all that exciting. Also white bean on its own was also quite bland so I pimped it up with pomegranate molasses and sumac. I sometimes use pomegranate molasses in proper hummus too; give it a go if you haven’t tried it before. In fact, pomegranate in anything is always a welcomed addition.

Ingredients

2 cups dried white beans

1 cup white bean stock

2 garlic cloves

1 Tbsp. tahini

3 ½ Tbsp. pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. sumac

Salt, to taste

Method

1 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. Cook in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes.
White Bean & Pomegranate Hummus 1
2 Blitz 3 cups of cooked white beans along with garlic, tahini, sumac and salt. Then gradually add the liquids (stock, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses) according to your own taste and desired consistency.
White Bean & Pomegranate Hummus 2
3 Refrigerate for a couple hours or even overnight as it tastes better cold. To serve, swirl over some more pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with extra sumac and then devour with Lebanese bread.
White Bean & Pomegranate Hummus

Loquat & Ginger Juice (without juicer)

One of the many advantages of living in Spain is that even if you live in a big city you are bound to know someone who either has a second home in the mountains or by the sea, has a village they go back to often or has some patch of land where they grow fruits and vegetables. The plus point of this is that you are more than likely going to receive bulks of homegrown produce for free. On this particular occasion, I received a sack of loquats from some friends who have a beautiful second house in the mountains with a large kitchen garden. Shout out to Isthar & Miguel, thanks ever so much my lovelies! My first idea when confronted with this ridiculous amount of loquats was to make loquat juice because it is not something that is common to find in juice form.

This recipe is aimed at those people (like me) who do not have a juicer. This is what I call the traditional method of making juice which involves a blender and a cheesecloth. If you don’t even have a blender you can squash the fruit with a fork or even a pestle and mortar. There is no need to actually peel the fruits but I find that it is easier to extract the juice from the fruit as there’ll be less “waste” to deal with later.

Loquats are not very common in the UK but they are big in Spain and I hear that they are extremely popular in California. They taste like a cross between a peach and an apricot. The only downside of the fruit is that the season is very short!

If you choose to peel the fruits before making the juice, this is the way I tackle the task:

1 Cut either end off and make an incision from the top to the bottom of the fruit.

2 Pull the fruit apart.

3 Take out the seeds and peel. The peel should come off easily and in one go.How to peel loquatTo make the juice

Ingredients

Loquats, peeled

Large piece fresh ginger (no need to peel)

Method

1 Blend the loquats and ginger into a puree. If you want a loquat smoothie you can leave it like this or add some milk of your choice or yoghurt.Loquat & Ginger Juice 12 Place a fine mesh sieve on top of a jug and line with a cheesecloth. Pour the loquat and ginger puree and using the back of a spoon or a pestle stir the puree. When most juice has filtered into the jug, gather all sides of the cheesecloth and twist into a ball; gently squeeze all the juice out.Loquat & Ginger Juice 23 Once you have extracted as much of the juice, place in refrigerator and chill for a few hours before serving, unless you are partial to warm juice.

Feel free to add sugar, honey or any other sweetener of your choice but I prefer to enjoy the natural sweetness/tartness of the fruit.DSC08794

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_Collage2 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 23 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

Asian Style Gem Lettuce

Ingredients

4 gem lettuces

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Dressing

1 Tbsp gochujang

3 Tbsp light soy sauce

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp water

1 tsp sesame oil

1 garlic clove, minced

2cm fresh ginger, minced

1/2 spring onion, sliced

Method

1 Cut the ends of the gem lettuces and pull apart the individual leaves. Place in a steamer basket and steam for 5 minutes. Once cooked, transfer to a serving dish.Asian Style Gem Lettuce 12 Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together and then pour over the lettuce. Mix well and sprinkle with some sesame seeds.Asian Style Gem Lettuce 2Delicious hot or cold. 

Toum ثوم (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

In Arabic, toum, is the word for garlic and surprisingly (NOT) this sauce’s main ingredient is just that.

This Lebanese garlic sauce is similar to Ajoaceite (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise) but is even more intense. I am always partial to garlic in large amounts but even I need a good rinse of mouthwash after eating this sauce before socialising with other people who haven’t dined on the same.  You can slather it on Lebanese bread to make chicken shawarma but it is just as good for dipping bread-but that may be a step too far for most.

Ingredients

4 garlic cloves

1 pinch coarse sea salt

1 egg white

Few drops of lemon juice

¼ cup of vegetable oil

Method

1 Add garlic and salt into a pestle and mortar and pound into a paste. Apart from taste, the salt also acts as an abrasive and draws out the moisture from the garlic and thus making the process much simpler.

2 In a food processor add the egg white and blitz until it has turned white. Add the garlic paste and blitz again.DSC05225_Fotor_Collage3 Add a steady stream of oil while blitzing until the sauce has thickened.ToumNote: If you have the patience, you can skip the food processor and make it in the pestle and mortar, which is the traditional way after all, but it’s hard work…