Irish Tomatoes are in season at last. The shops are full of them and those who grow their own are reaping the harvest. Gazpacho Andaluz is one of the best and tastiest ways of using them. A salad in a soup bowl, it transport you to the Mediterranean and bursts with nutrition.
Last week when summer weather paid us a rather late visit, I made a gazpacho using Marguerite Costa’s recipe in my 1970 copy of her ‘Four Seasons Cookery Book‘. It was SO tasty. Eating it al fresco with bare arms was a delight. We enjoyed the occasion so much that I forgot to take photos of the terracotta-red soup in its large tureen accompanied by pretty bowls of garnish in red, yellow, green, black, gold. Well, if Mrs. Costa could present her wonderful recipe in a book without pictures and make it in a time when she had no electric blender, only a Mouli, you and I can use our imaginations and blitz it in a jiffy.
Takes 30 minutes to assemble and 3 hours (or more) in the fridge for flavours to develop.
1 ½ lb tomatoes ( bigger ones are better)
2 large cloves garlic
1 small or ½ large cucumber
1 large Spanish onion
2 bottled sweet red peppers (available in Polish shops)
4 thickish slices fairly stale bread
2 dessertspoons red wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
15 fluid ounces of tomato juice
1 teaspoon salt
about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise- preferably home made
1 small or ½ large cucumber
2 small peppers, green, red or yellow
4 good sized tomatoes
4 slices white bread made into croutons
chopped spring onions
chopped hard boiled eggs
1 Skin the tomatoes. Place them in a large bowl, cover with boiling water, leave for 1-2 minutes and remove. The chore of skinning tomatoes is the reason you choose large ones…more return on labour and less waste.
2 Place the skinned tomatoes in a deep bowl and pulverize them with a hand blender.
3 Crush the garlic cloves and add to the tomatoes
4 Peel the cucumber (optional…some people like cucumber skin, others find it indigestible) ; grate it on a box grater and add to the tomato mix.
5 Peel and chop the onion finely and add to the tomato mix
6 Chop the bottled peppers and add to the mix.
7 Now blend everything thoroughly and add salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar.
8 At this stage, cut crusts from the bread and add to the bowl, mixing roughly.
9 Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for several hours. Put the tomato juice which you’ll add at the end into the fridge also.
During refrigeration the flavours mature, develop and mingle. The bread softens, lending taste and texture. Chilling brings this soup into a class of its own. All the ingredients are no more than common or garden salad ingredients, widely available at this time of year. However, as in all other cooking, what you put in is what you get out, so do buy the best quality vegetables. If you grow them yourself, you have the very best on your doorstep.
Be careful with the bread you use. Generic sliced pan simply will not do…it destroys gazpacho. If you have a local baker who makes tasty white bread, cut it in thick slices to dry out and use that. Here in Dublin’s northside (‘nortsoid’) we’re lucky to have the best of sourdough bread made every night by Arún Bakery. In our house it has to be hidden to allow it to go stale for the gazpacho.
10 Remove from the fridge, blend again with the hand blender, taste for seasoning and texture and adjust accordingly. Add cooled tomato juice until the soup is the texture that you like. Make sure it’s not too liquid…it needs to be able to support the diced garnishes on top. Return to the fridge.
11 Prepare the garnishes by chopping them and serving in individual small bowls. People love to help themselves to a teaspoon of this and that, according to taste.
In the battle against obesity, this soup is a warrior. A child of Mediterranean cuisine, it’s mostly vegetables with some bread, olive oil, salt,pepper and vinegar to give it texture and flavour. The Andaluzian housewife would have considered it good home economy to use up stale bread in this way, and so should we. One portion ticks the box for two of our daily requirements of ‘Five a Day’ fruit and veg. Tomatoes and peppers are bursting with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and a weapon in the effort to lower cholesterol.
Just one caveat- there are bound to be several people among your family and friends who prefer not to eat tomatoes as they find them indigestible. This may be because they’re members of the Solanaecaea or Nightshade family- the tomatoes, that is, not your rellies. If you’re making Gazpacho for company, do check with them first.
Make it soon, while we have our own home-grown tomatoes. Nothing else comes close for flavour.