I had the most delicious gazpacho
smooth, densely tomato-y, with just the barest whisper of vinegar in the blend at Keeper’s House, the Royal Academy’s new restaurant here in London. With a scoop of creamy tomato sorbet in the centre.
I am not a vinegar fan – this means no chutneys, no pickles, only a few drops in any vinaigrette dressing – and until this almost vinegar free iced soup for lunch – absolutely no gazpacho either.
But this luscious Keeper’s House version sent me straight to my Spanish cookbook shelf to see what Penelope Casas had to say. To find that she was a vinegar fan. No doubt about it. So this would have to be one area where my anti-vinegar stance demanded small adjustments in her recipe, with the hope it would still work well. And so it did.
ALL YOU NEED to make this simplest of traditional Spanish soups are ripe tomatoes, garlic, a red bell pepper, sherry vinegar, sugar, olive oil and a cube of good white bread, plus a blender or food processor.
NOTE: While the preparation of this cold tomato based soup is simple and quick, it is best made several hours or even the night before it is to be eaten and allowed to mature and chill in the fridge. Penny liked to keep a jar on ice, always ready for a cooling glass on a steamy summer day.
Gonzalo’s Andalusian Gazpacho (Gazpacho Andeluz de Gonzalo Cordoba) from Penelope Casas' "La Cocina de Mama" specifies 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar in a recipe designed to provide 6 servings. I decided to drop that to 1 tablespoon (knowing more could always be added later).
Ingredients: for 6
2 ½ lbs very ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, coarsely chopped plus more for optional garnish, finely chopped
One 2 inch bread cube, cut from textured (French style) white bread, crusts removed
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or 2 tablespoons, as in original recipe)
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
In the food processor place half the tomatoes, garlic, pepper, bread, vinegar, salt, cumin (if using), and sugar. Blend until no large pieces remain. With the motor running, add the remaining tomatoes, and when well processed, add the olive oil. Blend until as smooth as possible.
Now here is where I made another adjustment in Penny’s original – and undoubtedly perfect – recipe. Her instructions are to pass the blend through a food mill or strainer, pressing with the back of a soup ladle to extract as much of the liquid as possible, discarding the solids. I skipped this step as I like the almost pureed texture of the Keeper’s House version and put the blend straight into the refrigerator to chill.
Penny’s final instructions are to taste for salt and vinegar and adjust if necessary, and, if desired, thin with ice water and pass bowls with a garnish of peppers for guests to help themselves.
My addition - a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil