The almogrote is a delicious cheese cream typical of the Canary Islands, and overall of the island of La Gomera. We'll see later on this post the recipe in detail, what we can anticipate you now is that the main ingredients for this canarian delice are mainly olive oil, garlic, mature cheese and pimentón, a spanish spice similar to paprika, all beaten in a mortar with a pestle.
This unbelievably tasty cheese cream (try it and you believe it!) has a very long history, that begun in the rich gastronomy of the spanish Jews, called the Sephardim (from the identification of Spain with the Biblical western country of Sepharad).
The Spanish Separdi Jews modified an ancient roman sauce called moretum (probably the granpa of the pesto sauce). The moretum (from the greek verb "moreon", to stir) was made mixing olive oil, cheese, garlic, vinegar, wine and aromatic herbs. Here comes the Sephardi touch: they reduced the quantity and the proportion of the ingredients, in order to obtain a delicious cream instead of a a liquid sauce. In the late stage of the Roman empire, the names were frequently modified and corrupted, and this happened to the moretum too, that, misspelled, became "modretum".
The Sephardi cream cheese continued being popular also during the Islamic domination of Spain. During this stage, the name of the dish was modified from modretum to al-modrote.
The Al Modrote was a popular Sephardi recipe until the XVII century: by that time, all jews of Spain were all converted to catholicism or expelled and their goods confiscate.
But, even if the decision of the Catholic Monarchs of getting rid of the jews in Spain was highly unethical, the Sephardi gastronomical tradition continued elsewhere, in the remote lands and islands of the Spanish Empire and also in other countries.
For example, one of Europe's most influential rationalist-pantheist philosopher, the Netherland-born Baruch Spinoza, was a Sephardi jew whose parents were expelled from Portugal.
But let's get back to the cuisine! We said that a large amount of Sephardim found their new house in the remote lands of the Spanish empire, and many of them choosed the flourishing harbours of the Canary Islands, on the Atlantic route to Americas. There they regained the fortunes the loosed in the mainland investing in the Atlantic commerce. During the Sixteenth Century, the Spanish Siglo de Oro, many Sephardim had their own Siglo de Oro in Canary Islands, after hard times in continental Spain. In the Atlantic archipelago, it's very likely that many of the Spanish Jews continued their gastronomical tradition. Here, the almodrote was matched with two gastronomical gems of the Canary Islands: the Queso de la Gomera, one of the very best Spanish cheeses still nowadays, and the incredible taste of the pepper of La Palma.
In the island of La Gomera, the almodrote became the best version of itself, and its name was changed to almogrote, the ultimate cheesy cream. The almogrote, despite the fact of being less known than it would deserve to be, is still growing in popularity and gastronomical appreciation througout the World. We love this gourmet cream made of the best cheeses, we love the almogrote!
Here goes the recipe!
Ingredients: The quantities of the ingredients are orientatives, since it depends mainly on the kind of cheese you're using and the texture of the cheese cream you're looking for. Try and develop your own golden ratios! ;)
- 320 g. of hard mature cheese
- 200 ml. of olive oil
- 2 sweet peppers from La Palma (you can use also ñora or choricero peppers, or mexican Anchos red peppers)
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper to taste (it depends also on the kind of cheese you're using, for many kinds of cheese are already savoury enough)
- Optional: hot pepper (like the mexican jalapeño, use it just if you like it veerrrrry spicy!).
1- Even if traditionally the almogrote was prepared in a mortar, nowadays you can do it in a mixer. First, grate the cheese, possibly a very mature and hard one (and if it's from La Gomera island is even better!).
2- Boil the peppers, so to hydrate them and then extract all the pepper pulp and put it into the stand mixer. Add to the mixer the rest of the ingredients, that are the garlic cloves and the grated cheese. Little by little, while beating, keep adding the olive oil, just as you would do to make a mayonnaise, until you reach the texture you prefer.
3- Very important! This is crucial K? Take a slice of a crunchy fresh bread and spread the almogrote above it and...nom nom! Keep the almogrote in a jar and pop it into the fridge, and if it dries up then add some olive oil to conserve it longer (even if -trust me- it won't last long he he he!)
I personally prefer a creamy texture, but still I want to notice little, irregular bites of hard cheese under my teeth, but that's of course a personal taste!
A fast version of the almogrote can be easily obtained with very good results, without grating the cheese. Put all the ingredients together in the mixer with the half of the olive oil, mix it all and at the end correct the texture by adding little by little more olive oil, the exact amount it depends on the kind of hard cheese we're using.
There are many versions of the recipe, someone uses mature tomatoes too, but to be honest this is not the most typical choice, Someone uses a spoonful of sweet (or spicy) pimentón to enforce the flavour. The pimentón is a good alternative though if you can't find peppers anyway.
It's soo easy and tasty you won't believe it!
Try it and you'll repeat it!