Whenever we are in Spain to visit family and friends, we always spend several weeks in the ancient city of Cordoba, where Salvelio’s brother, Stephanus, has a language school called Meyer’s School of English.
Stephanus and his lovely wife, Maria del Mar Gascueña Gahete (above), get every bit as carried away about good food as we do, and any time spent with them is likely to include plenty of cooking, sampling and scoffing. Last time round, Salvelio came back to South Africa with six kilos of extra ‘baggage’, while I picked up four … in the middle of the Andalusian summer we looked like two cheeky chipmunks with chubby cheeks and bulging bellies.
Cordoba, which has a strong Arabic heritage, has a wealth of fantastic restaurants, some of which have truly stood the test of time. One famous landmark is Bodegas Campos, in the oldest part of the city, where we spent a fabulous evening trying out fine wines while sampling traditional Cordobes favourites like salmorejo – an upscale, typically Cordobes version of gazpacho – and sweet, fat grapes stuffed with blue cheese.
Bodegas Campos began in 1908 as a wine cellar for wines from the Montilla-Moriles area. Today it’s an award-winning restaurant patronised over the years by famous Spaniards like dancer Joaquin Cortez; actress Carmen Sevilla and singer Lola Flores; even Spain’s Queen Sofia has dined here while famous international visitors, who’ve written their names on oak wine barrels in the restaurant, include Britain’s Tony Blair and former supermodel turned actress and TV personality Heidi Klum. The sprawling premises, parts of which date back to the early 1700s, has many tucked-away dining areas. Characteristic of all of them is a powerful sense of history, such as in the venues pictured above, where the walls are adorned by photographs and other authentic memorabilia of famous bull-fighters like Manolete and El Cordobes.
Salmorejo Cordobes – The recipe
Salmorejo is a famous Cordobes dish traditionally served as a starter. It’s a salmon-coloured cold soup not dissimilar to gazpacho, but much smoother, denser and somehow more distinguished than it’s humble cousin. It’s served with chopped boiled egg and bits of jamon, traditional salt-cured ham which has been aged for up to two years. Our Spanish friends will kill me for saying so, but if you can’t find jamon outside of Spain, then use Parma ham. Some people also add
Here’s one of Stephanus and Maria del Mar’s favourite recipes for salmorejo:
About 1kg of stale rustic white bread, preferably home-made or bought from a decent bakery; 125ml (half a cup) of good extra-virgin olive oil; 1kg of very ripe, juicy tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped; 2 fat cloves of garlic; sliced; salt to taste; 3 to 4 tbsp of white wine vinegar, or to taste. For serving: Spanish jamon; 2 hard-boiled eggs.
Cut the bread into smallish chunks and sprinkle it with water; set aside to soften. Puree the tomatoes and garlic in a food processor or blender, adding the bread as you go along. Add the oil, slowly pouring it in while the motor is running. Add vinegar and salt to taste. Keep blending until you have a very smooth, creamy mixture. Chill. Decorate with a swirl of olive oil and some chopped egg and jamon.