Salmorejo is a cold tomato soup from Córdoba in Spain. The soup is thought to date back to the time of the Romans. Roman soldiers drank a mixture of water and wine vinegar flavoured with herbs (and sometimes salt or honey), called posca. Stale bread and garlic were often added to posca to produce a porridge like soup. This porridge is probably the origin of ajoblanco, gazpacho and salmorejo. After the Romans, the Moors in Adalucía definitely ate a bread soup of vinegar, water, garlic, oil and salt, ground to a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle. Obviously salmorejo started off as a white soup, since tomatoes didn’t arrive in Europe until after Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492.
Salmorejo is a perfect cold soup for a hot and humid day. No cooking is required and the dish contains a minimum of ingredients. In Spain tomatoes practically grow like weeds and in the hot weather bread goes stale in a couple of hours. It’s normal to buy a barra de pan (baguette) in the morning and another in the evening – the first one turns to stone by about 5pm, hence there’s always stale bread needing to be used up. I’ve looked through lots of recipes and almost all of them seem to be identical, so there can be no doubts about how to make it.
Salmorejo recipe (makes 1 litre):
1kg soft ripe tomatoes
200g stale bread
1 clove garlic (finely chopped and crushed with the back of the knife)
200ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
virutas de jamón (shavings of Spanish air dried ham)
hard boiled egg (chopped)
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
The bread to use for salmorejo is pan de telera, but since this comes from Córdoba, a stale white baguette would be the next best thing. As you can see, I used stale wholemeal sourdough – which might perhaps be more like the bread of the Romans, but regardless it worked well.
Remove the crusts, break up or cube the bread.
Soak in water, with a pinch of salt, for half an hour.
Salmorejo is a smooth and creamy soup in texture,
so there should be no tomato seeds or skin. I’ve tried blanching, peeling and de-seeding, but it’s actually far easier to liquidise the tomatoes and then put the liquid through a sieve.
Push the juice through a strainer or chinois with the back of a wooden spoon.
Within a minute or two you’ll have all the pulp separated out. Do use it for stock.
Return the tomato to the liquidiser with the bread (water squeezed out), a pinch of salt (to taste), garlic and sherry vinegar. Blend and when the liquid looks smooth, drizzle in the olive oil. Chill before serving.
Decorate the salmorejo with chopped, hard boiled egg, virutas de jamón, croutons, a trickle of olive oil and a few basil leaves (optional). Virutas de jamón are shavings of air dried ham – it’s normal to have a leg of ham in a Spanish family kitchen. The finest cuts are served as a starter in their own right and the end pieces can be chopped up for cooking or shaved for soups. A chopped slice of jamón serrano or Prosciutto is equally good. The silky smooth soup cools you down on a hot day, while the salty ham melts in your mouth.
Serve with a glass of chilled Fino sherry.