Friday, March 1, 2013

Gazpacho two ways

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First published Canberra Times 30 January 2013

With the temperature soaring, a hot kitchen becomes an unappealing place to be.   Over the past month or so I have been very taken with chilled soups, they are light, energising and restorative, perfect really for the post festive excesses. They scream of summer and make entertaining a cool breeze as there is no cooking needed.

One of my favourites for this time of year is my doctored version of Gazpacho which is based on the classic Andalusian peasant dish. It’s refreshing, full of ripe, summery flavours and perfectly described as salad soup. 

The key to unlocking the flavour of this soup is using ripe, summer vegetables that are brimming with sweetness from the summer sun.

I allow the blended soup to drip through a muslin filter for a few hours, transforming its consistency from a thick liquid to a light and elegant broth. This version retains all the strong flavours of it’s punchy, hot blooded cousin, however the refined consommé makes an elegant match to seafood and shellfish. 

This recipe is very flexible, and can be made as either the thin consommé version, perfect as a starter, or as the main game, leaving it in it’s original state for a thicker, more substantial soup. 

The other must to making a good Gazpacho, is good quality sherry vinegar and olive oil and some sunny, ripe tomatoes. Perfect for entertaining or taking on a picnic in a cold pack. Serve icy cold in glasses, with a stick of celery for a refreshing starter.

Serves 4
100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins
1kg very ripe vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 ripe red capsicum, deseeded and diced
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and diced
½ tsp sugar
1 cup of tomato juice
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
150ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 sprig of thyme
½ long red chilli, deseeded and chopped
3 green shallots, chopped
Sea salt to taste

Mix the diced tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber, sugar, chill, thyme, shallots crushed garlic and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Squeeze out the bread, tear it roughly into chunks, and add to the mixture.

Blend until smooth, then add the tomato juice, salt and vinegar to taste and stir well.
If you are making the consommé version of this recipe, line a colander with a double layer of large sized Chux and place it over a bowl, so it just sits snugly over the top. Pour the blended soup into the colander and allow it to drip through into the bowl below. The liquid should be lightly coloured. This may take a few hours. Squeeze the remainder through the Chux, however take care not to allow any solids to escape into the consommé. Discard the leftover solids in the Chux. Cover the soup and refrigerate until well chilled.

If you are serving the thick version of the soup, pass the mixture through a fine sieve so there are no lumps, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Serve with garnishes of your choice, such as diced black olives, hard-boiled egg and small cubes of cucumber. If serving as an accompaniment to seafood or oysters, pour into shot glasses, chilling in a bowl of ice.

This soup will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about one week.