A SPANISH CHEF RECOMMENDED A RESTAURANT JUST OUTSIDE CORDOBA’S OLD TOWN. HE TOLD ME TO TRY THE EGGPLANT (AUBERGINE) AND SALMOREJO— NORMALLY A COLD VEGETABLE SOUP, BUT HERE SERVED MORE LIKE PURÉE TO GO WITH ASTONISHINGLY GOOD FRIED EGGPLANT. THE RESTAURANT WASN’T OPEN WHEN I ARRIVED, SO I WAITED IN THE SHADE OUTSIDE A BAR ACROSS THE STREET. SEVERAL HOURS LATER THE DOORS OPENED AND I HALF STUMBLED IN. THE RESTAURANT WAS UNASSUMING, WITH SOME ANTIQUE TOOLS AND BULLFIGHTING MEMORABILIA TO SOFTEN THE HARD TILED ROOM, WHICH WAS TO BECOME THE SET IN WHICH THE WAITERS WOULD PERFORM THEIR SCHTICK. THE CHEF WAS TURNING OUT SOME GREAT STANDARDS — CROQUETAS DEBACALAO AND LESS COMMON SUPER-SAVOURY DEEP-FRIED SEA ANEMONES. BUT WHAT REALLY MADE ME SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE WERE THE CRUNCHY EGGPLANT STICKS WITH THEIR SUCCULENT SOFT, SWEET INTERIORS, AND A RANGE OF SALMOREJOS THAT HE WAS SERVING LIKE DIPS. AFTER A LITTLE PLEADING, THE CHEF CAME OUT TO SPEAK TO ME. THESE BERENJENAS FRITAS WERE AN ACCIDENT,’ HE SAID. ONE DAY WE WERE VERY BUSY AND I KNOCKED A CAN OF LEMONADE INTO THE EGGPLANT AND FORGOT ABOUT IT. LATER I FRIED THEM AND THEY WERE WONDERFUL. THEY HAVE BEEN ON THE MENU EVER SINCE.’
Cut the eggplants into long strips about
Meanwhile, to make the cauliflower salmorejo, put the bread in a shallow bowl and cover with water. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat, add the cauliflower, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower has cooked down and browned slightly. Place the cauliflower in a blender with the olive oil, garlic,
To make the hazelnut salmorejo, put the bread in a shallow bowl, cover with water and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze the water from the bread, then place the bread in a blender with the hazelnuts, olive oil, garlic,
To make the tomato salmorejo, purée the tomatoes and garlic in a food processor for 1 minute, or until smooth. Strain through a sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids. Break the bread into golf ball-sized pieces and place in a large stainless steel bowl. Pour the strained tomato mixture and olive oil over the bread and sprinkle with the sea salt. Using very clean hands, squish the tomato mixture into the bread, really working the liquid through. Leave to stand for 15 minutes, then purée the mixture again until smooth and velvety, adding a little chilled water if necessary. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry on a clean cloth. Soak the eggplant in the lemonade for 5 minutes, then drain, shaking off the excess.
Meanwhile, fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan one-third full of oil and heat to 190°C (375°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 10 seconds.
Dust the eggplant in the flour and deep-fry for 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Serve hot, with the chilled salmorejos.
© 2009 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.