Gazpachuelo is, in all certainty, the best-loved dish in the substantial repertoire of Malaga cuisine. There are others which are better-known and, if I may so bold as to say so, might taste better, but this is the one that everyone loves," said the much-missed Manolo Maeso, professor, chef and founder of La Carta Malacitana. He made the comment in Fernando Sánchez's book Gazpachelos de Malaga (2018) and it explains the prominence the dish has gained in the past 20 years, from a staple recipe at home and in traditional restaurants to those specialising in signature cuisine.
The book by Fernando Sánchez includes 101 versions of gazpachuelo, from domestic to haute cuisine, ancient to the avant-garde of the present day. The only thing they have in common is explained in the foreword by food historian Jesús Moreno: "Mayonnaise features in every recipe in this book because without it, it isn't gazpachuelo," he wrote.
In his book La Cocina Popular de Malaga, the culinary bible of the province, historian and food writer Fernando Rueda defines gazpachuelo as "hot gazpacho, especially in winter, a recycler of leftovers and therefore simple, wise and appreciated". The third edition, revised and expanded, of the 'red book' (2018), only includes one recipe called gazpachuelo. Rueda, who likes a variety of products all mixed together, offers the most popular version, with potatoes, prawns or white fish and egg whites cooked in water, and a mayonnaise made with the yolks and vinegar or lemon juice slipped in to the soup. This is the version in the photo accompanying this story, made by Mariano Rodríguez Sánchez at the M de Mariano restaurant in Malaga.
But Rueda warns that in rural areas there are other versions, including the most simple: cooked egg white and bread soaked in a broth which is then mixed with mayonnaise and heated, stirring all the time, until the texture is thicker but not solid.
In the book, Fernando Rueda talks about the earliest published recipe he has been able to find. It dates back to 1931 and appears in the book La Cocina Original Española by chef José Gómez González, the owner of the Hotel Giralda in Malaga. He referred to it as gazpachuelo or egg soup. Gómez González defines it as "a very simple mayonnaise soup with hot water and some thin slices of bread". That is more or less the same as the first official definition of the term, which Rueda also includes in his book. That comes from the 1922 edition of the Diccionario de la Academia Usual, which says: 'Gazpachuelo (m) Diminutive of gazpacho. //And. Hot soup with eggs, the yolk beaten and the white cooked, dressed with vinegar or lemon'. ('And.' is short for Andalucía).
Despite the tradition and popularity of gazpachuelo in Malaga, it is not exclusively from this province. Under this name or others, such as egg soup, it is documented in other Andalusian provinces, in Extremadura and, further north, in Aragón. In French Provence there is a very similar fish soup, called 'bourride'.
But there is no doubt that Malaga claims gazpachuelo as its own. In many other places such a popular and much-loved dish would probably have a guild which would declare only one version of the dish to be acceptable and valid. But fortunately in Malaga there has never been anything to stop each family having their own version and enjoying it a certain way, and the Malaga Observatory of Gazpachuelo and Russian Salad (OMERG), the nearest thing to a guild, is dedicated to discovering and sharing different versions of the dish. It's a good way of keeping it alive.
The most interesting thing about gazpachuelo is that, like the gazpachos, which are the same family (Fernando Rueda points out that 'gazpachuelo' is a rather derogatory diminutive of the word 'gazpacho'), there is an enormous variety in ingredients and ways of eating the traditional versions. So many, that this multitude of family or local variants can compete in imagination and success with the interpretations of numerous chefs, present and future. In this case, just creative, ordinary, anonymous people.
In the book Gazpachuelos de Malaga we find more than ten traditional recipes which differ from the majority versions: gazpachuelos of fresh fish on the coast, including the famous Sopa Viña AB, a version created by adding a splash of amontillado sherry to the gazpachuelo. Nearly all these surprising recipes are from chefs in restaurants in inland areas of the province, or, better still, their mothers and others who do not cook professionally.
One example is bread gazpacho, called 'gazpachuelo de Riogordo' in the book, because that is where it is from. It includes potatoes, boiled eggs and a green pepper to give flavour to the stock.
"In rural areas of Malaga, gazpachuelo has always been a vegetable soup: a potato, a pepper, an onion and a tomato. You cook the whites in the water and, once it has cooled, you add the mayonnaise, which is only made with the egg yolks, and top it with pieces of bread," explains Fernando Rueda.
Sometimes the difference is in the way it is eaten. Fernando Sánchez includes a recipe for gazpachuelo with cod, egg and orange, which is also from Riogordo, which is eaten in two parts: "First we take the soup to the table with the poached egg and a bit of potato. Then we bring out a second plateful with potatoes, cod and the chopped orange," he says. This is known as 'mojete' and the same is done with many other hot and cold gazpachos to scrape the bottom of the pan and pad the helping out a bit by adding bread to dip in it.
Some ingredients and accompaniments underline the relationship between gazpachuelo and gazpacho. "Gazpacho is a dish made with bread, oil, vinegar and garlic. Gazpachuelo was originally a hot gazpacho with egg added," says Rueda.
The egg gazpacho which Fernando Sánchez refers to at Venta Los Atanores in Valle de Abdalajís is eaten with olives and wedges of onion. The one at Venta Pedro in Casabermeja, a potato and cod gazpachuelo, has added asparagus, a common ingredient in hot 'porrillas' and other gazpachos. Some even include chips. This shows that these are dishes made the way a family likes them, to the fashion of the time, and using whatever ingredients are available.
In the chapters dealing with gazpachuelos in rural areas, Sánchez also includes a version with meatballs, which comes from Colmenar and was known to his family, and the section dedicated to gazpachuelos made with game has three containing partridge: one from the Montes de Malaga and two from Antequera.