Salmorejo, Tapas, Manzanilla and Madrid

‘How do the Spanish stay slim with all the delicious tapas?’ asked my husband as we were tucking into yet another appetiser. Tapas are small dishes eaten with a drink before a meal. They can be as simple as a plate of olives (aceitunas), ham (jamón) or cheese (queso) and as elaborate as a saucy dish such as meatballs in sauce (albóndigas).

The history of tapas is believed to go back to King Alfonso 10th known as the Wise king, who had decreed that no wine was to be served without food. A culture in itself, tapas titillate the taste buds and define the moment as convivial and informal.  These tiny dishes are addictive. It is almost impossible not to eat chopitos -fried baby squid in batter- or fried Chistorra, a meter long thin sausage which has its origins in the  Basque country. Made with a mixture of pork, beef, garlic and paprika, chistorra is also served with scrambled eggs and potatoes - huevos rotos con chistorra y patatas.

Morcillo, a blood sausage with contains rice, is mixed with onions and spices. As a tapa it is cut, fried and served with bread. The rice becomes crunchy on contact with hot oil adding a pleasing texture to this spicy and flavoursome sausage.

Our appetisers were accompanied with ‘Manzanilla’ a variety of fino sherry from Andalucia which is not to be confused with ‘Manzanilla’, a drink of chamomile tea.

At lunchtime, I went to the food market of San Miguel near Plaza Mayor. I was mesmerised by the variety of Pinchos, (sliced bread with toppings such as sardines, or tuna and piquillos). I started with  freshly poached asparagus from Aranjuez and went on to try Salmorejo a type of Gazpacho with eggs and jamón. At another stall, a man cooked lentil and pork stew in a large cast iron pot and in another he stewed  Bacala a la Madrilena; the air was filled with the delicious aromas of garlic and herbs.  If this does not still curb your appetite you can go on and try pulpo alla parilla con cebolla, chargrilled octopus served with mushroom sauce.

A little stroll down the road near Plaza del Sol, I went to  La Mallorquina’ one of Madrid’s oldest patisseries, and ordered a sugar covered Rosquilla (a type of biscuit coated with icing sugar). From the 1st floor window I slowly enjoyed a cup of coffee and watched the world go by.

Pimientos de Padron; fried green peppers, sprinkled with coarse sea salt were definitely not spicy.

Salmorejo Recipe

Salmorejo is perfect in summer when tomatoes are abundant and ripe.

75 g stale white bread, crusts removed
1 kg ripe vine tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
300ml water
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
3 slices of jam on Serrano

Serves 6
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Chill and serve

  1. Skin the tomatoes by placing them in a bowl with boiling water. Leave for one minute, discard the water and transfer to another bowl containing ice water. 
  2. Make a cross incision on the base of each tomato and skin. 
  3. Cut into quarter and remove pips.
  4. Soak the bread in water and leave for 10 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and put the bread in a blender or processor. 
  5. Add the tomatoes together with garlic and salt. Process to a puréed consistency. (In two or more batches if necessary). With the motor running, add the oil in a slow stream and finally add vinegar. The mixture will thicken and change colour as the oil emulsifies. Add a little water until you get the desired consistency.  Re-adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl or pitcher.
  6. Chill until serving time. Serve Salmorejo in individual glasses . 
  7. At the last minutes, top with boiled egg and ham.

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