A dear friend and wonderful cook produced a gorgeous gazpacho for supper on one of these recent warm nights. She explained, slightly apologetically, that the famous iced tomato/cucumber/pepper soup hadn’t initially been destined for our delight, but she’d prepared it in advance for some house guests. At the last minute she discovered that one of them was off gluten and she’d included (as is generally the case) breadcrumbs – and not the glutton-free variety. So the gazpacho went into the freezer and we were the later, lucky recipients.
It reminded me that – at least according to my Spanish friend Elena, and contrary to popular thinking – gazpacho doesn’t actually have bread in it. The one with bread is salmorejo, a slightly similar iced soup from Córdoba. It’s thicker, smoother and sinfully creamy (but without cream) – and it’s practically obligatory in the furnace-like heat of the Andalusian city during the summer months. Since the whole thing rests on just tomatoes, bread, garlic and olive oil, you need the best raw materials you can muster. There are no peppers or cucumber, either or both if which can be a turn-off for some people. Some garnishes of jamón and hard-boiled eggs (quails’ eggs are especially good) make all the difference too.
It’s always risky to re-produce classic recipes for fear of bringing the purists down on my head, but here are my versions of both these gorgeous chilled summer soups. You can ring the changes with gazpacho by adding watermelon or strawberries to the mix, either of which adds a little sweetness – particularly good in our northern climes where our (usually hothouse-grown) tomatoes tend to lack ripeness and flavour – while a small, tasty dessert apple dos the same for salmorejo.
GAZPACHO (with variations)
Makes about 1.5 litres, 6 cups
800g tomatoes (5-6 medium)
1 red pepper
1 medium red onion
3-4 tablespoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
125ml/ ½ cup olive oil + a little more to drizzle on top for serving
500g watermelon, preferably seedless, weighed after skinning OR 500g strawberries, hulled
Salt and pepper
hard-boiled eggs, peeled/seeded/diced cucumber, seeded/chopped pepper (red or green), Little Gem or other crisp lettuce, leaves finely shredded, herbs
- Remove cores from tomatoes and discard, cut flesh in quarters and put in a large bowl or blender or food processor.
- Remove handle and seeds from red pepper, set aside a chunk for the garnish (enough for about 2 tablespoons, finely chopped) and roughly chop the rest – add to bowl/blender.
- Peel cucumber, set aside a 3-cm chunk for the garnish, roughly chop the rest and add to bowl/blender.
- Chop the onion finely, set aside about 1 tablespoon for the garnish and add the rest to bowl/blender.
- Set aside a chunk of watermelon (for 2 tablespoons, finely chopped) for the garnish, chop the rest roughly and add to bowl/blender.
- Add sherry vinegar and blend the soup till really smooth – you can push it through a strainer to remove any wayward pips, but this is a counsel of perfection and the soup will be fine without straining.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- With the motor still running, add the olive oil in a steady trickle, continuing to blend till well mixed and emulsified.
- Chill the soup well. Serve in glasses, with the garnishes sprinkled on top.
Makes 6 soup bowls or 10-12 small glasses
100g day-old baguette, trimmed of crusts (weighed after crusts have been removed)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 dessert apple, peeled
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar
125ml olive oil
salt to taste – about 1 teaspoon
Optional garnishes: 2-3 slices cured ham cut in strips
6 quail’s eggs, boiled and halved or 3 hen’s eggs, boiled, finely chopped
- Trim crusts from the bread, cut it in chunks, put in a bowl and pour on just enough cold water to cover – leave to soften
- Quarter the tomatoes and put them in the blender with the crushed garlic (or put them in a large bowl and use a hand-held blender)
- Grate the peeled apple with a box grater, add it to the tomatoes with the vinegar and blend till smooth
- Tip the soaked bread into a colander and press or squeeze out all excess water, add the bread and blend once more
- Push the soup through a strainer – it should be silky smooth
- Return soup to blender/bowl and, with the motor running, dribble in the oil in a steady stream – the salmorejo will thicken and turn from rosy pink to the colour of an Andalucian sunset
- Season with salt to taste (add 1 teaspoon, then taste) and blend again
- Chill the salmorejo for several hours or overnight
- Serve in small bowls or glasses with selected garnishes on top