I’ve Spain on the brain at the moment and I blame my job. Or the weather. Or the realisation that it’s been two years already since I moved from the sunlit skies of Seville, with its orange blossom streets and scorched olive grove parks, to the cold and clouded skies of Britain.
Two years, by the way, is a short enough period of time to remember that the “sunshine in winter” idea is a myth and that while citrus fruits smell sweet, the sewage systems in summer do not. Two years is also still short enough to still appreciate a chunky hunk of cheddar and a jar of Branston Pickle. There’s no such place as utopia after all ;-)
But while I can’t recreate the warmth, I can recreate the flavour.
And after living like a local in Seville, I do at least now have an authentic Gazpacho recipe tucked up my sleeve!
And what’s more, I’m going to share it with you!
Britain’s got gazpacho wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. From calling it “cold tomato soup” to fussing and frilling about with it until it’s nothing but pureed salad, we’ve lost sight of what made it so good in the first place.
Yes, it’s cold but it’s also hearty. (And anyway, we eat cold sandwiches and the sky manages to stay up.)
Gazpacho is the pizza of Naples, the bouillabasse of Marseilles, the cassoulet of southwest France. It is a sturdy dish made for farmers from whatever was lying around.
Better yet, in Andalucia locals throw in even more bread, vinegar and freshly squeezed olive oil and give it the name of salmorejo. They shave serrano ham, boil eggs and slice and dice ’em before sprinkling both across the top with relish. In Seville, petrol stations serve fresh dishes of the stuff, as do airports, and if you’re feeling super lazy you can grab salmorejo from a carton at the supermercado (it makes a great “dip” for the truly Spanish tortilla baguette – fried potato, egg and onion served between a hunk of bread. Atkins and the South Beach have not caught on in Andalucia.)
But of course, those options are out of the question back in Blighty. Instead, you have to turn to a food processor and your own fair hands. Tis the work of moments, though, if you know a few shortcuts.
The most complicated step is tracking down some stale bread (easy enough in Spain or France as the baguettes turn hard by the end of the day. In Britain, the softer loaves take days to reach this state and are more likely instead to turn green with mould. This is not the desired effect.)
So, buy a baguette from a bakery the day before you bring your gazpacho to life.
Ingredients: stale baguette, 6 juicy tomatoes, 3/4 cucumber, 2 cloves garlic, sherry vinegar, olive oil. Jamon iberico and boiled egg to garnish. Serves 4.
On the day of your gazpacho recipe adventure, soak the baguette in sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar while chopping your other ingredients.
– 5-6 ripe, juicy on-the-vine tomatoes
– 3/4 cucumber
2 cloves of garlic
Noooow, to get the smooth consistency you see in all the photos, you’re going to have to get rid of the peel. You can either do this by skinning the tomatoes before you start. Or, by sieving the mixture afterwards. Both are a bit of a faff. Since neither cucumber skin nor tomato skin will kill you, you may want to weigh up the importance to your life of this step. Up to you. (And when it’s up to me, the answer often depends on the kind of day I’m having.)
Right, now put your bread, vinegar and veg into the food processor and swirl away. Add a touch of salt and then drip in peppery, fresh, flavoursome olive oil. Yes, I’ll admit it. Living so close to the world’s top olive oil producing region
turned me into a snob altered my perspective on this.
Mix and drip, mix and drip until you reach the consistency you desire (watery for gazpacho, thick and opaque for salmorejo.)
That’s it! (Ah, wait, you’re supposed to set it to chill somewhere for a few hours. At this point, I am imagining you are making it in cold, wintry Cardiff, in which case a quick blast of air from an open window will do the trick. Unless, of course, it’s raining as that’s going to mess with your consistency…)
Once chilled, you can have fun by trying to swizzle a swirl of olive oil on the top of your creation and scattering diced jamon iberico and boiled quail’s eggs across the top (if you’ve reached salmorejo consistency, they shouldn’t sink. And, yes, you can get away with using a hen’s egg if that’s all you have to hand.)
Finely diced green and red pepper and yellow onions can also be served on the side if you’re feeling fancy.
And if you really want the authentic, local touch: grab a tortilla baguette sandwich and dunk that in as well.
That’s it! Done. Enjoy your taste of Spain on a plate! Well, bowl really but let’s not get too picky…
PS – And if that doesn’t do the trick then it may just be time to start planning a holiday in Spain instead.