Boy, is this a polarizing dish. I can hear the Yorkshire folk of generations gone by saying “cold soup…cold soup, we’re in bleeding Yorkshire, not on Mercury”. Soup is of course traditionally hot, well in Northern parts any way. But when one looks at the history of gazpacho, the cold tomato soup (the modern version is a soup anyway), one can feel the romance of the Spanish labourers in the hot sun creating and partaking in this refreshing and nutritious delight.
It can be no more beautifully detailed than by the Chilean writer Marta Brunet, who was of Catalan descent, when she described the dish as the meal of the Spanish muleteers ( those that drove mules), who:
take with them on their travels an earthen dish, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as some dry bread, which they crumble up. By the side of the road they crush the garlic between two stones with a little salt, then add some oil. They coat the inside of the dish with this mixture. Then they cut up the cucumbers and tomatoes and place them in the dish in alternate layers with breadcrumbs, finishing with a layer of breadcrumbs and oil. Having done this, they take a wet cloth, wrap the dish in it and leave it in the sun. The contents are cooked by evaporation and when the cloth is dry, the meal is cooked.
Today’s version is a little less romantic, but is a brilliant balance of ingredients that delivers a tomatoey, cucumber-fresh, bitey and exhilarating gustatory delight. It’s also a very healthy meal.
- ■ 4 medium ripened tomatoes | Ripened Roma or truss tomatoes are great. Cut in to quarters.
- ■ 1 whole Lebanese cucumber | Lebanese cucumbers are smaller’ than their European counterpart. If using a European cucumber try ½ cucumber.
- ■ ⅓ of a medium red onion | Roughly chopped.
- ■ 1 medium red pepper (capsicum) | Deseeded and roughly chopped.
- ■ ⅓ large clove garlic | Finely chopped. Not too much or the raw garlic will overpower the soup. We want just a hint of bite.
- ■ ½ chilli | I use a Jalapeno with seeds, finely chopped.
- ■ 1 tsp. olive oil | I use extra virgin.
- ■ 1½ tsp. sherry vinegar | Quintessentially Spanish vinegar that adds a wonderful nuance of Spain to the dish.
- ■ ⅓ tsp. sea salt | For seasoning. Adjust to your taste.
- ■ seasoning black pepper | Adjust to your taste
In a juicer juice the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and red pepper. Juicing the onion can be an emotional experience. Put the juice in a bowl or hand blender beaker and add to it the garlic, chilli, olive oil, sherry vinegar, sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste (optional). Blend with a hand blender so that all of the chilli and garlic have been obliterated.
Strain through a fine sieve, pushing through as much pulp as possible. Leave to ‘rest’ in the fridge for a day or so – the ingredients can then get to know each other on a friendly basis.
If you want to give some airy volume to the gazpacho, use a hand blender to ‘foam’ it up (as in the picture above) just before serving. I serve this with a sprinkling of smoked paprika.
If you don’t have a juicer then you can blend all the ingredients in a food processor or with a hand blender and then strain. I find it easier to blend and strain the soup if I have first extracted the juice with a juicer.