Saturday, June 16, 2018


Córdoba, capital of the 10th century Moorish caliphate, is known for the dish of salmorejo, a thick tomato-based gazpacho cream. Once a meal for field hands working in the olive groves, wheat fields and vineyards of Andalusia, salmorejo today is served in tapa bars and restaurants with garnishes such as exquisite ibérico ham or chunks of tuna. 

The origins of salmorejo are Moorish. But, hang on. There weren’t any tomatoes back then. Tomatoes, “discovered” in the New World after Columbus, did not become widely cultivated in Spain until the 18th century. Indeed, the original salmorejo contained no tomatoes. It was probably first a simple gruel made by Roman legionnaires, of bread crushed with olive oil and garlic. The Moors, who introduced almond trees to the Iberian peninsula, added ground almonds to the bread, creating a dish far more appetizing and nourishing.

Mazamorra is a savory almond cream, chilled and garnished with ham, egg and olives.
Known as mazamorra, this white almond cream is to salmorejo as the white cold soup with almonds, ajo blanco (“white garlic”), is to tomato gazpacho—its precursor.

Green almonds, before the fibrous shells have hardened. The nut kernel can be used in place of shelled almonds.

Mazamorra was originally made in a wooden bowl by pounding the almonds with a mallet or pestle (the maza). Nowadays it is easily confected in a blender or food processor. It can be made with “green” almonds where available. Or, in place of almonds, pine nuts, dried fava beans, carob, lupin beans or vetch. Originally poor folks’ food, mazamorra was made with whatever was available in season.

Because it is a Cordoban dish, I recommend that you use extra virgin olive oil from Córdoba. The Picual variety has a fresh, fruity flavor with just a little bite. By the same reasoning, vinegar from the Córdoba wine region of Montilla-Moriles would be the preferred choice, although Sherry or other wine vinegar can be used. Unlike ajo blanco, which has “garlic” right in its name, mazamorra has a very gentle hint of garlic. The bread should be a dense crumb country loaf. How much water is needed to convert the bread and almonds to a thick cream depends on the bread and the power of your blender. The consistency of the mixture should be a thick cream or stiff mayonnaise.

Serve the mazamorra in shallow bowls or ramekins.
Variations on the garnish, clockwise from the top, sliced apple, vegetable crisps, and diced ham and melon balls.

Serve the almond cream as a party dip with vegetable dippers.

Vegetable crisps (carrot, kale, beet) add crunch to the smooth cream.

Use the mazamorra as a sauce or salad dressing. Delicious on this salad of diced chicken, nectarines, toasted almonds, chives and salad greens.

Serve mazamorra very cold as a starter in small bowls garnished with chopped ham, hard-cooked eggs and olives. Like ajo blanco which is served garnished with Málaga muscatel grapes, mazamorra also goes nicely with sweet fruits. Try melon, mango or ripe figs. Or turn it into a dip accompanied by vegetable dippers. Or, use it as a sauce or salad dressing.

Cold Almond Cream, Córdoba Style
Mazamorra Cordobesa

Serves 6 as a starter.

Almonds, garlic, bread and oil.
4 cups (8 ounces) fresh bread crumbs
1 ½ cups cold water plus additional as needed
1 cup blanched and skinned almonds (see below)
1 large clove garlic
1 ½ tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus additional to finish
Garnishes: chopped serrano ham, hard-boiled egg and black olives

Place the bread crumbs in a bowl and add the water. Stir to moisten the bread and let it set 10 minutes to soften. Add the almonds, garlic, vinegar and salt. Process in a blender or food processor until almonds are ground and the mixture is a thick paste. Blend in the oil. Add additional water, a spoonful at a time, to make a thick cream. Refrigerate the cream.

Serve the almond cream in shallow bowls or ramekins garnished with chopped ham, egg and olives. Drizzle with additional olive oil.

Two ways to blanch and skin almonds: Soak the shelled almonds in water to cover overnight OR drop them in boiling water for 1 minute. Pinch off the brown skins leaving the white almonds.

Green almonds in June. Earlier in the spring the whole almond is edible--outer pod, immature shell and gelatinous kernel. I used a handful of the kernels with regular shelled almonds to make the mazamorra.

Related recipes for salmorejo, porra and ajo blanco:

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