What can I say about gazpacho that hasn’t been said already, by the poets and playwrights of our region? It’s the Andalucian wonder-food, which has sustained us over centuries of poverty and hardship. “Cold tomato soup” doesn’t sound very spectacular, but believe me, it has magical properties.
It nourishes us when we’re hungry, cools us when we’re overheating, cures hangovers and soothes a thousand ailments. My family members think nothing of pouring a glass of tradtional gazpacho straight from the fridge, and consuming it as a refreshing drink.
One theme which will emerge repeatedly in Andalusian recipes, and for which I make no apology, is the importance of improvisation. To use a musical analogy, Northern Europeans love to reproduce prized tunes exactly: a quartet trains hard to re-create a piece by Bach or Mozart, precisely as the master composed it. Here in Andalucia, the essence of flamenco is individual flair.
We want to hear the singer “customise” the tune. It’s exactly the same with food. If you enter twenty Andalucian homes, you’ll taste twenty variants of gazpacho. So feel utterly free to make your gazpacho your own. Then you’ll know that you’re doing it properly!
Ingredients (serves six)
75 grams or 2 slices of bread (stale, if possible!)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1kg of ripe tomatoes, peeled (roughly 4 tomatoes)
salt, to taste
2 green peppers
a pinch of cumin
half a cucumber
half an onion
a pint of water
2 cloves of garlic
Soak the bread in water. Cut the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and onion roughly, and toss them all in the blender. Add the garlic, and let the mixture continue like this until it is a smooth liquid. Remove it and place it in a large bowl. Now take the bread, strain off the excess water, and put it in the blender. As it is blending, slowly trickle in the olive oil.
Once it has mixed nicely, keep it spinning, and add the vinegar, cumin and salt. I usually pour a little of the tomato liquid back in, to help it blend smoothly. Now mix this paste with the main body of tomato liquid. Remember that you can adjust the balance of seasoning at any time. Don’t be afraid to add water to get the consistency that you prefer. Chill well before serving.
It is customary to scatter adornos on the surface of the gazpacho. These are usually “crudités”, or raw, chopped vegetables such as onion, peppers and hard-boiled eggs. Croutons, diced olives and even chopped cubes of melon may also be added.
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