Trying to enjoy the not so sunny Jersey summer and dodging the thunderstorms I can at least celebrate some of the delicious produce available on the island, fragrant, ripe Jersey tomatoes and a host of salads, fruits and vegetables. This simple version of classic chilled tomato soup is ideal as an appetizer or as a light lunch. Gazpacho is very popular across the Iberian peninsula and is believed to have developed from either Moorish or Roman origins. It varies across Spain and Portugal from thick purées, almost the consistency of a dip, through to fiery pepper water with the addition of a selection of diced vegetables.
I once had a disagreement with an Executive Chef. Not good for your career, on the authentic Gazpacho texture, rough or smooth, thick or thin. He was of course right because quite simply he was the Head Chef and I was right because I am an annoying know it all ( there I said it before anyone else ). Eventually we came to an unusual and diplomatic compromise in a kitchen, especially between two opinionated individuals, we were both right. We did however totally agree on its early preparation to allow the flavours to fully develop and most importantly to ensure sufficient time in the refrigerator to completely chill. Quite a few years later, after a lot more research, as I tried to find out if I was right, I saw just how many varied recipes and what is a highly individual approach there is to making Gazpacho, there is no cookery book classic or definitive method. The texture and ingredients are different, region by region, family to family, person to person.
Traditionally made in a pestle and mortar to keep it cool, the result is rustic, less than the smooth finish achieved in many modern recipes using a food processor. You may add green bell peppers which I omit on a purely personal basis ( I just don’t like them ), whilst stale bread soaked in a little water thickens and adds a silky texture. As a lunch time dish bowls of ham, egg and almonds are served alongside the soup. I guess the key is to experiment and find your own personal preference. I have often used Gazpacho as Amuse bouche in restaurants ( see photo ) to get a customers taste buds tingling and this recipe is ideal. Modern Gazpacho variations can be made with cucumbers, avocados and watermelons for different colours, flavours and textures.
Gazpacho serves a good 12 shots or 4 individual portions
1kg really Ripe Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small bunch of Spring Onions, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Cucumber, peeled
2 roasted Sweet Red Peppers, peeled and de-seeded
A good pinch of Cayenne Pepper
75ml good quality Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
Sea Salt and cracked Black Pepper to taste
to finish your choice of
Finely diced Red and Green Pepper, grated Egg, Air dried Ham, toasted Almonds, Pimento, extra virgin Olive Oil.
Put the chopped tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, cucumber and Cayenne in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve a couple of times to remove most of the pulped skin and seeds. Put the mix back in the blender and slowly add the olive oil and sherry vinegar and season well to taste. Chill thoroughly in the fridge. Serve as an appetiser or as a light lunch with a selection of toppings to spoon over your soup in the centre of the table.
Serve with a chilled Amontillado over ice.