The brilliant thing about having a summer with actual sun in England this year has not just been all the great produce on the markets, but that you do actually want to eat summer food – a lot. So, this chilled tomato and cucumber soup is just the job. You may also know this soup as gazpacho as it originally hails from Spain and Portugal, although I prefer not to call it that because it sounds more like a stomach complaint than something delicious to eat on a hot day :)! The quality of the ripe tomatoes and the sherry vinegar is what makes this soup so flavoursome so be sure to use the best you can. I serve it with a garnish of chopped fried chorizo, spring onion, cucumber and tomato and a little crusty bread or small olive oil croutons.
You will need…(serves 6)
- 1.2kg of really very ripe fresh tomatoes.
- 2 large red peppers (or a jar of piquillo peppers).
- I large cucumber.
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
- 2 spring onions.
- 8 cherry tomatoes.
- 30g chopped fried chorizo
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil and a little more to drizzle.
- 4 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. I use El Majuelo Jerez sherry which won a ‘great taste’ gold award in 2011 – available from Waitrose and other good food stores.
- 70g of slightly stale, good quality crusty white bread. 100g if you’re going to make croutons.
To make the soup…
- Preheat the grill to 220°C. When it comes to temperature, halve the peppers lengthwise, remove the stem and seeds, brush the skins of the peppers with a little oil and place them cut side down on a shallow roasting tray. Roast them until the skin blackens and blisters which should take about 20 minutes. You can also roast them whole on a BBQ if the rest of your meal is being cooked on one. Once cooled, peel off the skins. To make this easy, place the blistered peppers in a plastic sandwich bag for 20 minutes and the skins will peel off really easily. If you don’t have time (or fresh peppers), a drained jar of piquillo peppers works just fine.
- If you’re making croutons, tear about 30g of the bread into small pieces, toss them in oil and put them under the grill once you’ve roasted the peppers. Watch them carefully as they only take a few minutes and will burn otherwise.
- Meanwhile, tear up the rest of the bread and pour over 120ml of cold water and leave it to soak and plump up for about half an hour.
- Skin the tomatoes by plunging them into a large bowl of boiling water for about 3 minutes or until you can see the skin shrivel. Don’t leave them too long or they will go fluffy inside. Pour away the water and gently remove the skins. Set a sieve over another bowl. Quarter the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds – put these into the sieve. You don’t want to eat the seeds themselves (and it would spoil the finish of the final dish) but a lot of the flavour is in these seeds. So, let the juice around them drain into the bowl. Just rubbing a soup spoon over them yields juice without pips.
- Peel the cucumber and cut it in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds – I use a melon baller to make it easy – and then chop it into pieces. Reserve a little for the salsa garnish. Add the rest of the cucumber to the quartered tomatoes and the juice from the sieved seeds.
- Add the soaked bread, the sherry vinegar, olive oil, garlic, roasted red peppers and a pinch of sea salt. Blend it to a smooth consistency with a hand held blender. Taste it for seasoning. You can add a pinch of caster sugar if the tomatoes are too sharp. Add a little water to thin it if it looks too thick.
- Cover and chill it for a couple of hours.
- Make a little salsa to garnish by mixing a little finely chopped chorizo, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and spring onions with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
- Serve the soup chilled, sprinkle with the salsa and drizzle a little extra olive oil on top.
So good, you’ll pray for a glut of tomatoes!