Summer’s fully here, with 31° over the past few days and lots and lots of sunshine. The flat’s been super hot, so all windows have been left open to create some sort of draft and ease the heat.
When it’s hot like that I tend to not eat much. Ice cream cravings do hit me quite regularly (as in every minute), but our freezer’s full to the brim with Thai curries and Morrocan Tagines, petit pois and bread, no space for sweet indulgence. So I’ve been looking for some summery dishes. But the obvious salads soon became boring and I was looking for new inspiration.
Browsing the bookshelves of a discount bookstore with Sian was the perfect occasion. Sian was looking to buy her first ever cookbook! A total honour she chose me to join this significant milestone. I absolutely love the reason why Sian decided to take the plunge into the cookery book world: because of Norwegian Wood! Do you remember that one of the characters decided to learn cooking by buying a cookbook and just cooking every dish in it?! Me neither! So glad Sian refreshed my memory.
I was about to buy a Korean cookery book (I’m addicted to Kimchi and mad about Bibimbap), when Sian pulled Rachel Allen ‘Home Cooking’ off the shelf. It was discounted from £25 to £8. The pictures are absolutely lovely, so is the feel of the pages, and the cute little star and polka dot patterns that they use as wallpapers behind the recipes. It actually looks a bit like I imagine my cookbook to be one day. Absolutely lovely. I had to get it for my (worryingly increasing) cookbook selection.
So, browsing my new cookbook before going to sleep, I came across a Gazpacho recipe. ‘Oh, Gazpacho! I haven’t ever made that! What a perfect occasion!’ I thought. But I didn’t just blindly followed Rachel Allen’s recipe. I started researching other recipes, to compare and find out what makes this chilled soup tick. Is it the ratio of tomatoes to pepper and cucumber? Is it the addition of Vodka? Why would one use bread in a soup? The most helpful article can be found on the Guardian website, they’ve actually answered all of these questions. Have a look at it here. I eventually created my own version, which is a mix between the Rachel Allen and Guardian recipe.
I decided to go with the bread (Guardian), and keep the spring onions (Allen) and add lots of tabasco (me). Be warned that the recipe looks quicker than it actually is. The pushing liquid through a sieve takes ages and lots of patience! And then once it’s done you need to actually chill the soup. So, make sure to prepare it well in advance before you want to eat it.
I think next time I’d add a splash of white wine to it too (omitting the Vodka), but since I am planning to take the Gazpacho in my lunchbox to work, I doubt that wine would be a great idea (neither is Vodka! So, I’ve just added it in the single bowls in the end, leaving it out for the work lunchbox, obviously!).
As for toppings: anything goes. I’ve used eggs and olives, since I had both in the fridge. You could sprinkle croutons on it (fry some bread cubes in olive oil with rosemary), or some crunchy pancetta or bacon, goats cheese or blue cheese, watercress, basil. The possibilities are endless!
Anyway, this morning, on the post-Gazpacho-day, I woke up to a grey sky and a cold draft coming through my bedroom window. Well, looks like summer’s over again in good ol’ England, and we’re back to miserable skies and raindrops.
Oh well, all is half as bad, since I’ve got a bowl of Gazpacho awaiting me for lunch, bringing sunshine in my belly and a smile on my face. ★
800g ripe tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 small cucumbers or 1 normal one
100g stale bread
5 spring onions
1 clove of garlic
9 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp smoked tabasco (or normal)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Maggi (or Worcester sauce)
salt and pepper
1 hard-boiled egg (8 minutes)
1 handful of black olives
a dash of Vodka (optional)
Dice the bread and soak in water for 20 minutes.
Quarter the tomatoes and blend in a blender until smooth. Push the mix through a fine sieve into a big bowl, always a little portion at a time, discarding the pulp after.
Deseed the pepper and chop roughly. Trim the cucumber and chop roughly, do the same with the spring onions. Peel the garlic and chop roughly. Put all these ingredients into the blender, and add the olive oil, seasoning to it. Squeeze out the liquid from the bread and add the bread into the blender too. Blend until smooth and push through the sieve into the tomato mix.
Mix the soup well and taste, adding seasoning if needed. Now put it into the fridge for about an hour until thoroughly chilled.
Prepare the topping. Chop the olives and egg finely, scatter over the soup and round it off with a few drops of olive oil and vodka if using.