Chilled soups are not everyone’s cup of tea. In our climate, there is little need for the cool refreshment that a cold soup brings on a blisteringly hot day. Gazpacho is a cold tomato-based soup and originates from Andalucia, where the hottest days in summer can top 100°F. In that sort of heat, cool and thirst-quenching food is essential. Admittedly, those sort of temperatures belong to a fantasy in Britain, but in recent years we have embraced tapas and pinxos and cold soups like gazpacho are now part of our culinary vernacular. On warmer days, gazpacho is sometimes just right. It is fresh, clean and full of ripe and summery flavours and because there is no cooking involved, you really need to buy the best ingredients you can; anaemic tomatoes just won’t do here. This makes the recipe even more special, as you can only make it in the height of summer, although cold soup is not what I look for in the depths of January anyway.
In Spain, there are as many variations of this recipe, as there are Spanish regions. In general, the custom is for the soup to be smooth and to be served with a selection of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and sometimes hard boiled egg. This gazpacho is very much my own variation, which leans more towards the way it is served in Portugal, with most of the vegetables chopped into very small pieces rather than being blended. The formal definition for this is brunoise if you want to be technical. With this method, you get all the flavour, but lots of interesting texture as well. There is no getting away from the fact there is a lot of chopping for this recipe, so if you have a food processor, feel free to use it. However, the beauty of this recipe is that is works equally well to if you want to blitz it and have a smooth texture. Sometimes chopping can be therapeutic in a mindless kind of way, but if you are not in that frame of mind and really cannot face it, just put everything in a blender. I often do this when I don’t have much time; it still tastes wonderful. The caveat is that if you blend the soup, you must add 100g of stale bread which has been soaked in water for twenty minutes or so and then squeezed out. This gives the gazpacho the body it needs when blended. I also add coriander, which is not at all traditional, but I think it works incredibly well here, really complimenting the tomatoes.
This recipe is more like a list of ingredients, as once you have prepared everything, you just mix it together. It could not be simpler. You could also blitz two thirds of the ingredients and keep one third chunky. It is a very forgiving recipe, so please feel free to mix and match, chop and change or add and take away as you wish.
1kg very ripe tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
1 ripe red pepper and 1 green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 large cucumber, watery seeds removed and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
100ml organic tomato juice
2 tbsp chopped, fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped, fresh basil
a pinch of caster sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
If blending the soup
100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins
Mix all the ingredients together and season to taste. Chill the soup for a minimum of two hours and taste again. The cold will dull some of the seasoning, so adjust again if necessary.
Serve with chopped coriander and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.