If you ask anyone here what the secret is to most traditional savoury Spanish recipes they will tell you without hesitation, a good sofrito. The quality of the sofrito you have as a base will determine the flavour and success of the final dish.
This is a concept that is new for most people outside of mediterranean cultures; that one base sauce made from the most common fresh ingredients can be turned into so many different delicious dishes.
It is common with a lot of recipes in other cultures to add marinades and sauces to the base ingredients. In Spanish cooking, as in many other Mediterranean cultures, you start with the sauce as a base and work it well, then add everything else too it.
Sofrito is made from tomatoes, green peppers, garlic, salt and a good quality olive oil for cooking. Sometimes red peppers or onions are added depending on the recipe. Sometimes a can of tomatoes (whole or chopped) is added instead of fresh tomatoes when they are not available.
There is no better time of the year to make it than in summer, particularly in July when fresh tomatoes are most plentiful. Its tradition to bottle it and store it for the winter as well as make the most of it during these summer months.
So what is the exact recipe?
Well like most traditional spanish recipes it depends on what you want to use it for and for how many you are cooking! Sofrito is the base of some of Spain and Menorca’s specialist dishes such as paella, caldereta de langosta (lobster soup), fidua (similar to paella with short noodles), oliaigu (tomato and onion based soup), arroz caldos amb peix (fish and rice soup) or Marinara sauce for shellfish to name a few.
Here is a basic recipe, that will make a great sauce for a dish to feed 4 – 6 people.
1. 400g fresh tomatoes or a can of tomatoes.
2. 1 – 2 Green peppers, finely diced.
3. 2 – 3 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
4. 1/2 – 1 Onion finely diced (some recipes only)
5. 30 – 50g Olive Oil
6. Salt to taste
– If using fresh tomatoes, remove the skin by placing them one by one in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. When the skin starts cracking, lift the tomato out and place in a bowl of ice-cold water. Let chill for a minute or two and the skin will peel off easily.
– In a saucepan or ceramic cooking dish soften the diced green pepper, garlic, onion in olive oil.
– Add the peeled tomatoes to the mixture and break the tomatoes down into the mix.
– Blend well, stiring frequently as it cooks to form the sauce.
Carefully control the heat so it doesn’t burn.
– Add salt bit by bit to adjust the flavour.
– When the mixture is blended well and the ingredients softened well the sofrito is ready.
This usually takes about 20 – 30 minutes of working the sauce.
Ingredients are then added to the sofrito to make different dishes. It is usually the most time consuming part of prepraing a plate but this is why it is the secret of Spanish cooking. Its simple and easy, just need a little love and attention to get it right. Practice and patience makes perfect like with all cooking! If you have a food processer that dices for you this can save a lot of time dicing the vegetables manually into small pieces.
Once you have mastered the sofrito, you are ready to conquer a number of irrisistable Spanish dishes and discover the best of Menorcan Cuisine.
Here are a few photos of our home grown tomatoes and home made sofrito from this week to inspire you!