Salmorejo is a cold tomato soup. Wait, stop there. That’s enough. That’s all I need to hear. The three words ‘cold tomato soup’ make me shiver a bit, and not with heady anticipation. The thought of cold soups in general gives me the willies. I’d snatch your hand off for a hot bowl of leek and potato, but chill the same soup down, and I’m suddenly not so interested. Vichyssoise, gazpacho, ajoblanco: although I know them to be good in theory, there’s something that makes me nervous, reluctant when they’re actually on the menu.
I’m just not very good at cold dishes: I’m a cold weather girl, not a cold soup girl. Pies and puddings are my comfort zone, and I’m not very good at switching when the weather gets hot. I’m firmly of the belief that drinking a cup of tea is more likely to cool me down than a glass of icy lemonade. I make faces and start muttering about what happened to Black Beauty when he was made to drink cold water when he was hot (spoiler: it wasn’t good). As the temperature rises outside, I wrinkle my nose at my husband’s offer of salads for lunch, and defiantly turn the oven on even in the highest heatwave.
But when I get over myself, and face my irrational cold soup aversion and make one, I am reminded once again that I’m an idiot. Chilled soups are a joy, and a godsend in hot weather: unsurprisingly cooling, but unexpectedly rich, complex and compulsive. Chilled soups aren’t reduced for hours on a stove; in fact, they’re not cooked at all, which means that you’re able to capture and almost literally bottle the aroma and freshness of those fresh, ripe, ingredients that made you buy them in the first place. And it’s so speedy to pull together: 10 minutes start to finish, and you never have to turn a hob on (I will make you boil the kettle though).
Salmorejo comes from Córdoba in Spain where, during the long, hot summers, they know how to eat well and keep cool. Salmorejo is similar to its more famous Spanish cold tomato soup brother, gazpacho, but of the two, salmorejo is my hands down favourite. It’s thicker than gazpacho – it has oil and more bread in it, and the bread tends not to be stale – and it’s richer and creamier too. As the oil emulsifies into the soup, it transforms the texture from something slightly grainy into something creamy and glossy (and also turns the soup a delightful pinky orange).
I don’t want to say that the garnishes are my favourite bit when the soup itself is so beautiful, but it’s hard not to be charmed by the traditional toppings that are used in salmorejo. They’re a little like a savoury pick ‘n’ mix, and I am at heart a child. Often I simply plump for diced hard boiled egg and little shards of Serrano ham, the most commonly found additions, but you’ll also find sliced black olives, golden-fried croutons, finely diced red onion and, in some parts of Spain, tuna fish. Those little bits and bobs of flavour, spooned into the middle of the soup, make every mouthful different and delicious.
Makes: Lunch for four
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: No time at all
100g white bread, crusts removed
700g large, ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove
100ml extra virgin olive oil
A handful of Serrano ham, sliced small
1 hard boiled egg, diced
- Place the bread in 100ml of water, and leave to soak.
- Boil the kettle and cut a cross into the base of each tomato, and place all the tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, leave them in the water for two minutes, then drain them and place them in a bowl of cold water . The skin will have begun to peel away from where you cut the cross, use this as a starting point to completely skin the tomatoes.
- Remove the cores from the tomatoes, and place the flesh in a food processor. Blitz the tomatoes briefly, then add the soaked bread. Add the garlic cloves, the sherry vinegar and a generous pinch of salt, and blitz again until the mixture is smooth.
- With the food processor on, add the oil slowly. Taste, and add extra salt or sherry vinegar as needed.
- To serve, spoon into bowls, and top with chopped egg, sliced ham, and an extra drizzle of olive oil.