Córdoba – salmorejo and more

The last stop on our trip through Andalucia’s Golden Triangle was Córdoba, a small, beautiful town with the mind-boggling Mezquita – a cathedral, turned into a mosque, and back into a cathedral. The Muslim architecture combined with Christian symbols was a sight to behold, and as with the Alhambra, I could have spent hours and hours simply wandering around and staring at all the beauty!

Arches in the Mezquita

Arches in the Mezquita

We arrived in Córdoba rather late after a picturesque drive from Granada. One of my sister’s colleagues had given us a long list of recommendations for our stay, and this is the list we stuck to. The first suggestion we took up was dinner at Taberna Montillana, a cosy tavern with the most entertaining service I’ve ever experienced!

Our waiter Felix was an amazing man. When we first arrived, there was no table available, but he promised us one within a few minutes and then simply cocked his finger and winked at us when it was ready. He chatted to us as though he had known us for years, clapping us on the shoulders and explaining every dish in minute detail. The wine choices were a particular delight, as he insisted on ‘inviting’ us to try his recommendations, with the promise to replace them if we didn’t approve. He was true to his word, bringing us two, more preferable options when we declined the first, with no extra charge!

Now, to the food. The highlight of the evening (for me, at least), was the salmorejo. My sister had told us about this beforehand, and that we needed to try it, as it is typical of the region. It is comparable to gazpacho, but not really… it’s a cold tomato soup (although Felix refused to refer to it as such, preferring to call it a ‘cream’), blended with bread and garnished with bits of hard-boiled egg and jamón. Why was it the highlight?

I don’t like tomatoes in anything. I don’t even eat pizza. And yet I absolutely love salmorejo.

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Salmorejo of destiny

Nobody in my family, including myself, could explain it. How can I hate tomato, yet love a tomato-based dish? After a while I decided it didn’t matter. We stopped questioning it, and simply ordered another portion…

The other dishes were also typical of the region: cochifrito (the most deep-fried and delicious pig ever) and flamenquin, another deep fried pork dish, where pork was wrapped in more pork and deep-fried. Felix topped it all off with a free chupito (shot), which was very good of him, even if it did taste a bit like cough medicine…

Flamenquin

Flamenquin

On day 2, after seeing the wonderful Mezquita, we popped into a little tea house called La Caña d’España, where I introduced my sister to the wonders of Pai Mu Tan white tea and we enjoyed some tasty, cheap tostadas (only EUR 1.10, a bargain!).

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My tostada with sobrasada – spreadable spicy sausage

Later that day, we wandered down to the river and then all the way to the Mercado Victoria, which is a closed-space gourmet market. It had everything from frozen yogurt to Wagyu beef, fresh seafood, gourmet tapas, pintxos AND… a salmorejo bar. You can imagine where I steered to first! There were many different flavours available, including a black one made of squid ink, and we tried quite a few before choosing a mushroom version with truffle oil, topped with the usual egg and jamon. We also got some croquetas from another stall which ended up being the best ones of our trip, filled with spinach and rabo de toro (oxtail – another specialty of the region). The croquetas were creamy on the inside but crispy on the outside – a perfect combination.

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Gourmet pintxos with chorizo and egg (top) and baby eels (bottom)

And then, all too soon, the time had come for our last meal in Andalucia. We decided to have a nice sit-down meal, and so we took another recommendation off the list: Casa Pepe de la Juderia. The food was fantastic, and it was a wonderful evening, despite the fact that we were sat near the kitchen and waiters kept squeezing past us.

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Cochinillo – suckling pig

As we still hadn’t tried rabo de toro (the oxtail stew), we were keen to taste it, but none of us wanted to commit to a main course. Luckily, our waiter was happy to bring us a tasting portion ‘just for you!’ (‘you’ being Mummy Swindian, of course). It was quite heavy and strongly flavoured, and we all decided that tasting portion was enough! My sister and I chose the solomillo (beef steak), which was wonderfully tender and much better than the steak I’d had at MASH last month. My parents both chose the cochinillo (suckling pig), which was sweet, succulent and scrumptious.

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Solomillo (steak)

We also ordered aubergine with honey, which is a typical dish and slightly Arabic-influenced. It was slightly disappointing though, as none of us expected it to be deep-fried and it mainly just tasted like crispy batter.

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Left: aubergine with honey; Right: pimientos de padron 

And so ended our trip. I will always remember Andalucia fondly, with stars in my eyes and salmorejo in my belly!

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