A cool southerly is blowing today after ex-tropical cyclone Gita has passed. This makes it seem an odd day to be writing about gazpacho, but two days ago it was over thirty degrees. My cherry tomatoes just keep on coming, and it was hot, so a chilled tomato-based soup was the perfect way to use some of them. I suspect we will have more hot weather ahead in which you may wish to try this dish, as summer is not over yet!.
I avoided gazpacho for years, not because i have a problem with the concept of chilled soups (i don't), but because all the gazpacho recipes i had come across included a significant amount of bread, and that just sounded weird to me. But one day i decided to give it a go and was an instant convert. The soup is delightfully refreshing on a hot day; the cucumber adds a real lightness and fragrance to the dish.
I then discovered just this last Christmas that bread is not a necessity in gazpacho. We had some Spanish friends round for the Christmas meal, and Pedro, who is a chef, brought along a delicious gazpacho he had made that contained no bread. He told me that bread is not a traditional gazpacho ingredient in the region of Spain that he comes from, so if you are gluten intolerant, just omit the bread. His version of the gazpacho was even lighter than a 'breaded' version, and if being served as an appetizer in glasses, as is traditional in Spain, this is ideal. However, if you wish to serve it as the main event (as i did, for the husband and myself a couple of nights ago), then the inclusion of bread makes this soup very filling.
While the recipe i've given below states to peel the tomatoes, Jamie Oliver notes that if he is feeling lazy he doesn't bother with this step. Because i was using cherry tomatoes i did not bother skinning them - it would have taken ages - however If i was making gazpacho for guests and was using cherry tomatoes i might go to the effort of pressing through a sieve so as not to get bits of skin floating in the soup. I followed the step from Jimmy Doherty's recipe of roasting the tomatoes as i thought it might enhance the flavour, but you can go the Jamie Oliver way and use raw tomatoes if you are in a hurry.
Both recipes i referred to call for white bread, however i think this is because you want a bread with no seeds or chunky bits. I did not have any white bread, but i did have some leftover 'Easy No Knead Bread' (see recipe from 29 April 2017) made with spelt flour. The spelt flour gives the bread a brownish hue, but is finely ground so it worked just as well as a white bread.
Both Jamie and Jimmy include some freshly ground black pepper in their recipes, but my friend Pedro (whom i consider to be a reliable source) says the Spanish do not include black pepper in gazpacho. He notes however that 'if you like the taste is a good variation'. Pedro includes some onion in his gazpacho, and notes that the relative quantities of ingredients are quite important. I'm inclined to agree - i used extra tomatoes, simply as a way to use them up, and that meant the flavour of the cucumber did not come through quite so crisply, making the dish a fraction less delicious than usual.
A final note - Jimmy includes a tablespoon of tomato puree in his recipe, which i suspect is to enhance the red colour of the soup. Jamie notes that the bread will turn the soup a pink colour rather than bright red, and that is quite authentic. I didn't bother with the tomato puree, as my cherry tomatoes were super-tasty anyway.
The recipe that follows is a combination of the two i used but please play around as suits - do or don't include bread, roast the tomatoes or use them raw, remove the tomato skins or not, use black pepper only if you wish!
A mashup of a Jamie Oliver recipe & the recipe from Jimmy Doherty's "A Taste of the Country'
Serves 8 as tapas in glasses, or 4 as an appetizer in bowls.
675 g ripe tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
225 g yesterdays white bread
150 ml water
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 green capsicums, deseeded and chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celcius. Prick the top of each tomato with a sharp knife, then put into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about an hour, then remove and cool. When the tomatoes have cooled down peel the skins off.
While the tomatoes are roasting, slice the bread, cut off the crusts and put the bread in a bowl with 150ml of water.
Put your peeled tomatoes and soaked bread into a liquidiser or large jug. Add the olive oil and red wine vinegar and blend well. Pour into a large bowl. Add the cucumber, green peppers and garlic to the liquidizer and blend to a puree. Add to the tomato mixture in the bowl and stir well to combine. Season to taste. Add a little more water if a thinner consistency is desired. Chill for at least an hour, then serve very cold; add some ice cubes if you like.