This week the weather started to turn autumnal but only three weeks ago we were sweltering in record breaking temperatures over the Bank Holiday weekend. I was rushing around a lot of the time, helping my daughter move into her new flat, so I didn’t have time to do much cooking – and it was too hot anyway. So I made up a big batch of gazpacho to keep in the fridge and dipped into it whenever I was hungry. With every ladleful I would add handfuls of extra cucumber and pepper and throw on some croutons.
The first time I had gazpacho was in Spain when I was 17 – a long time ago. My boyfriend and I were staying with his sister who lived in Madrid and she was a really good cook. I had never tasted anything like gazpacho, in fact I had never had cold soup before. Since then I always have gazpacho when I’m in Spain, even once in a McDonalds when I stopped for a driving break with my kids and their cousins, on a long journey in Andalucia. Imagine – gazpacho in McDonalds – and it was actually pretty good.
This summer gazpacho has featured in a culinary controversy in Spain with a debate over whether or not cucumbers should be included, complete with a Twitter survey on the issue. One chef has called including cucumbers in gazpacho as ‘gastronomic terrorism’. Seriously? First world problems I think. The Twitter survey showed that 63% were in favour of including cucumbers, and so am I.
Gazpacho is a good way of using up stale bread. I’ve soaked the bread in water for about 30 minutes and then squeezed out as much water as possible.
The challenge is to get the soup really cold – don’t be tempted to put ice cubes in or you’ll water it down and ruin the taste. Gordon Ramsey suggests freezing some of the blended soup in cubes to add before serving which sounds like a good idea.
- 1 kilo ripe tomatoes, peeled (soak in boiling water and the skins come off easily) and chopped
- 2 red peppers, chopped
- 2 cloves of crushed garlic
- 2 spring onions or 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded (cut in half, run a teaspoon down each middle to remove the seeded bit) and roughly chopped
- About 100g white bread, soaked in water
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons good virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Squeeze the water from the bread and place in a bowl with the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, garlic, onions, oil and vinegar. Mix well with clean hands. Leave for a few hours in the fridge, or overnight, so that the flavours develop.
- Blitz everything in a food processor and test the consistency. If it’s a bit thick you can add some more oil (but don’t be tempted to add water). Taste and season, adding more vinegar if necessary.
- Chill for at least two hours before serving and if you like you can serve with a selection of cucumber, peppers, olives and croutons.
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