I’d like to say that my first taste of gazpacho was at the end of a long day trekking in the hills of Andalucia, but it was actually at a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was about 13. It was left over from a dinner party her mum had hosted the previous night, and I remember how adult and sophisticated I felt eating the chilled soup. It is now one of the first things I make when the weather starts to heat up, the humid air starts closing in, and our local shop starts stocking bright red-ripe tomatoes. A big bowl of the soup often sits, repeatedly replenished, in our fridge over the course of the summer, and a serving of it post a swim in the Highgate ladies’ pond is a truly wonderful thing.
Gazpacho was originally made with just bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar as a cheap meal, and way of using up stale bread, for Adalusian peasants (rather like Italy’s panzanella salad); the tomatoes and peppers were a much later addition. The version I make is adapted from Felicity Cloake’s perfect one on The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog. While I am never usually one to argue with Felicity, I do make two changes. I disagree with her about the addition of some sort of heat. For me, the beauty of gazpacho is in the contrast between the cool liquid and the punch of heat that comes along with it. I add a heafty dose of Tabasco at the end, and put a fresh chilli in the mix as well. I also double the amount of garlic, as I am want to do with many recipes. I also never bother to strain it. This is probably a massive culinary no-no, but I like to have it as a meal in itself, or just followed by Parma ham and melon, another of my favourite summer dishes, and straining makes it too thin and insubstantial.
The key to a tasty gazpacho is very ripe ingredients, especially tomatoes, and plenty of very good olive oil (like most Spanish food really). It only takes about 10 minutes to make, and the recipe below will make four good bowlfuls.
100g white bread (slightly stale is best, although I am never organised enough to buy mine in advance so it is almost always fresh and seems to work just as well)
1kg very ripe tomatoes (I use cherry, any variety will work)
1 red pepper and 1 green pepper.
4 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
8 drops of Tabasco
A couple of good lugs of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cover the bread in cold water and leave to sit for 10 minutes or so.
Put the tomatoes, peppers (deseeded and roughly chopped), cucumber (roughly chopped), garlic and chilli into a food processor and blitz until smooth.
Squeeze the water from the bread and add to the mix, along with the vinegar, olive oil, Tabasco and a good grind of salt and pepper. Blitz again.
Pour into a bowl and leave in the fridge for as long as you can resist, at least an hour if possible, to cool.
Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped olives, and very inauthentic, but utterly delicious, Worcester sauce!