Along with Seville and Granada, Córdoba is the third great city of Andalucia. The three cities share a unique Moorish heritage that can be seen in the awe-inspiring architecture of mosques, places and gardens and also in the delicious food and recipes that local people love to share with visitors.
The province of Córdoba is divided in two by the Guadalquivir River that winds through the centre of Andalucía and neatly divides the province from East to West. To the north there are the wild Sierra Morena mountains, which means that game like boar, venison, rabbit and partridge is abundant and a regular feature on restaurant menus.
The Pedroches area in the north of the province also produces outstanding lamb and pork (the latter is said to be due to the special taste given by the acorns which are the only form of nourishment the pigs are allowed). Every butcher has his own special recipe for ham, chorizo and morcilla (black pudding). Any of these make a fantastic base for a picnic with some fresh crusty bread and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
To the south, the province of Cordoba borders with the Bética mountain range where rich agricultural plains and verdant countryside can be found in the green sheltered valleys. Tomatoes, peppers, artichokes and eggplant are widely cultivated and unusually for Spain, these vegetables form the basis of many meatless main courses, like berenjenas fritas con miel, or eggplant with honey, a rich, luscious dish which is typical of the region.
Let´s take a closer look at some other typical dishes.
It is a complete myth that gazpacho must be deep-red color in color and based on tomatoes! It is simply a chilled soup and it can be any color at all. In summer, a delicious Cordovan specialty is almond or white gazpacho, a dish which almost certainly dates back to Moorish times. This classic cold soup is prepared with ground almonds, green grapes, cucumbers, olive oil and garlic while two-day old bread acts as a thickener. There is no dairy element at all. A good helping of protein from the almonds and plenty of vitamins and minerals create a healthy dish with a fantastic refreshing quality and color due to the cool, pale flesh of the cucumber.
If it is tomatoes that you want, look no further than salmorejo. This is a cold, creamy soup which is bursting with the flavor and color of sun-ripened tomatoes. It has a rich, thick texture that is again created without the help of any dairy products, but by the addition of bread and the finest extra virgin olive oil. Salmorejo is often served as a starter, but it also makes a meal in its own right served with chopped hard-boiled egg, fried bread or thin strips of the local Serrano ham.
Grilled or barbecued pork loin is a specialty that can be found in many restaurants that cluster around the city´s famous landmark, the Mezquita. This dish has even lent its name to Cordoba’s most iconic restaurant, El Churrasco, where it takes centre stage on the traditional menu. Churrasco Cordobés is characterized by the way it is served. There must be two contrasting dipping sauces which lend an inimitable Moorish flavor. First, there is a pungent green sauce made from crushed oregano and raw garlic and then a fiery deep red sauce of piquillo peppers and chili.
Rabos de toro
In winter, stewed bull´s tails are a hearty local specialty. Preparation Cordoba-style means that first the tails are cleaned of all fat and sinew and then soaked to remove every trace of blood. The meat is then slowly stewed with onion, garlic, tomatoes and bay leaves – with a good liter of the local Montilla wine to cover the other ingredients! When it has taken on the most tender melt-in-the-mouth quality, the meat is removed and the cooking liquid is reduced to make a rich, fragrant sauce. The bull´s tails are then replaced and left to marinade overnight before the dish is served the next day with generously cut fried potatoes.
El pastel cordobés
We doubt you will want to think of desert after such filling first and second courses. In the unlikely event that you still have room for desert, see if you can try out a slice of pastel cordobés, or Cordovan Pie. A light, filo style pastry is shaped like a Swiss roll with a delicious contrast of sweet and sour flavors locked inside. It doesn´t get more traditional than this concoction of angelica, or angel´s hair as it is known locally, which is complimented by salty slivers of Serrano ham, or walnuts or rich, moist sheep´s cheese. You may also find this dish served as a starter or as a morning snack.