The Salmorejo, usually served as a starter or tapa, is closely related to the widely known Gazpacho. In fact, it is well-known by Andalusians and most Spaniards, but not as widely consumed as Gazpacho. It comes from the southern region of Cordoba, known not only for its impressive mosque, but its tasty food. Some might say that the Salmorejo is a simplified Gazpacho, but it is far more than that: a rich, refreshing and spoonable delight -ideal for hot summer days-.
Preparing a salmorejo is a childs-play, but getting it right strongly relies on having the right ingredients available. The key is ripe and very juice tomatoes. If you don’t have them, don’t even get started. Also important is a very good extra virgin olive oil.
A Refreshing Tomato Starter
1 kg juicy tomatoes
1 medium garlic clove
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
100 g white bread (ideally a couple of days old) + extra bread to serve
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 avocado or boiled eggs ((optional))
Wash the tomatoes and chop them. Peel the garlic.
Place the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, bread and sea salt in a blender and blend until smooth. The result should be a thick purée. Taste and add more bread, garlic or salt as necessary.
Serve in bowls, topped with diced avocado or boiled egg and a splash of olive oil.
Lemonade is not something unique to Spain, but you do find plenty of people making it during warm Summer days. After all, Spain has some exquisite lemons! I especially like lemonade with mint. Spanish recipes tend to use a specific type of mint called hierbabuena.
The recipe below is literally addictive and it is designed for people like myself, who do not have a proper blender that is able to crush ice. If you have a good blender, you can also substitute half of the water for ice cubes and then serve the lemonade immediately. I still prefer the option in the recipe, since it allows for the lemonade to infuse with the mint.
Lemonade with Mint
A classic Summer drink. Also in Spain!
120-150 g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1.2 l water
Bunch of mint
Peel the lemons and take seeds out. Ensure there is no white peel remaining, since this will give the lemonade a bitter taste.
If you a have a large blender, mix peeled lemons, sugar, salt and water and blend until smooth. Otherwise take half the ingredients at a time.
Filter the resulting mix through a fine sieve and place in bottles, adding a good amount of mint leaves.
Place bottles in the freezer for 30 minutes and serve cold, with an ice cube or two.
To avoid that the lemonade gets watery, you might want to make ice cubes of lemonade!
What is it that croquetas have that makes Spain adore them? I’m unsure but, as a friend of mine would say, everything that is fried is great. Quite often have I heard that a couple of croquetas with some salad on the side make a light dinner. Not sure what is light about it, but they definitely make a great dinner.
Croquetas are usually a thick flavoured béchamel, buttered in egg and breadcrumbs, and deep fried. In this recipe I have prepared a basic veggie version with mushrooms, which I hope you’re gonna love.
Making croquetas is not the easiest thing. It takes some time to master them. But the effort is worth it! Here are some tips:
Ensure to leave plenty of time (e.g. overnight) for the béchamel to thicken in the fridge.
Don’t use mushrooms (or other veggies) if they still contain lots of water.
Fry with oil that is well hot but not too hot, since it will burn them and leave the inside cold.
Don’t give up.
A classic in Spanish cuisine
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
250 g mushrooms
1.5 tbs olive oil
1.5 tsp sea salt
60 g butter
60 g sauce/plain flour
600 ml whole milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2-3 free range eggs
250 g (roughly) breadcrumbs
Peel and finely chop the onion and the garlic. Clean and finely chop the mushrooms.
Bring a frying pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, fry the garlic for 20-30 seconds and then add the onion. Add ½ tsp salt and leave to fry until well soft.
Add the mushrooms and another ½ tsp salt. Fry until mushrooms are well cooked and no water is remaining. If necessary, turn the heat up to eliminate water. Set aside to cool down.
Place a pot over medium heat and add the butter. Once it is melted, add the flour and use a whisk to stir.
Keep stirring until the flour is well toasted. Then start adding the milk, whilst stirring – allowing it to dissolve the flour –. Add ½ tsp salt, the nutmeg and bring to boil under constant stirring. Mix in the mushrooms.
Pour béchamel and mushroom mixture into a glass bowl. Leave to cool down to room temperature, cover with stretch film and leave in fridge overnight.
Prepare two bowls, one with 2-3 well beaten eggs and another one with breadcrumbs.
Use a spoon to take a good portion of the béchamel mix prepared the day before. Give it a round/rectangular shape.
Dip portion into breadcrumbs first, quickly into the egg and then finish with breadcrumbs again. Set aside on a plate. Repeat to create roughly 16 croquetas.
Ideally, leave plate with croquetas for another 10-20 minutes to cool down in the fridge.
Pour sunflower oil in a medium-sized frying pan and bring to medium-high heat. It should be enough oil to cover half of the croquetas. Once well hot, fry just a few croquetas at a time, turning them as they get brown on one side.
Once fried, take croquetas out of the frying pan and place over a plate with kitchen towel to take away excess oil.
You can freeze the croquetas just before frying. To defreeze, fry immediately in medium hot oil.