Marisa Casado - 2009-07-20
Fresh, light, tasty and nutritious, gazpacho brings together the finest ingredients of the Mediterranean diet and is always a big hit during the summer months. Some historians date this "cold soup" dish back to Imperial Rome and the popularity of this quintessentially Spanish dish has spread around the world.
There can be very few dishes, particularly during the summer months, as synonymous with Spain as gazpacho. Its basic ingredients are those of a healthy and nutritious Mediterranean diet: tomato, garlic, cucumber, peppers, onion, bread, salt, olive oil, water and a splash of vinegar for additional zing. Its preparation couldn’t be simpler. Assemble the ingredients. Chop, dice and blend and then serve cold. Yet despite its simplicity, no two gazpachos will ever be the same. The end result will depend on the region, personal flavour and, of course, the quality of ingredients.
Gazpacho is now one of the best-known and most popular dishes across the world. Go to New York, for example, and prepare to be charged exorbitant prices that suggest gazpacho is seen as a luxury in some areas. It’s all a far cry from the dish’s humble origins as a cheap but nutritious favourite of peasants as they worked the land.
A lot has been written on the history of gazpacho. Some point to salmorium, a recipe devised by farmers in Imperial Rome that combined garlic, olive oil, salt and pieces of bread. The similarly named salmorejo is now one of the best-known variations of gazpacho and is found in the Cordoba region. An alternative school of thought is that the dish has Arabic, rather than roman, origins. However, what is beyond dispute is that gazpacho has its geographical roots in Andalusia and that for centuries the dish was an important feature in the diet of rural Andalusia. Over time, the dish’s popularity spread and the traditional recipe was enhanced with the introduction of new ingredients. In fact, the main components used today - tomatoes, peppers and cucumber - are all native to the US and only became known to the Spanish following the discovery of America.
Without doubt, the most famous gazpacho is the Seville variation, often referred to generically as Andalusian gazpacho. However, each Andalusiantown will have its own variation such as the Salmorejo in Cordoba or the Porra in Antequera. Other Spanish regions have also devised their own version of gazpacho such as the manchego, murciano, extremeño and alicantino, some of which bear more comparison with the Andalusian variety than other in terms of ingredients, preparation and presentation.
It’s Andalusian gazpacho, however, that is best known both inside and outside of Spain. As a rich and nutritious source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, gapzpacho combines the basic ingredients of the Mediterranean diet and makes an ideal and nutritious option for those hot summer weather when people are leaning towards salads and light snacks.
Generally speaking, gazpacho is classed as a “cold soup” but can actually be consumed in a number of ways and this versatility is another of its great advantages. As a starter it can be garnished with tomato, cucumber and diced bread. Some Spanish families will opt to place a plate of ham in the middle of the table for table companions to pick at between each sip and, as a thirst quencher served in a chilled glass or bowl, gazpacho also makes a fresh, healthy and delicious drink.
Whatever the option and whatever the occasion, gazpacho is best enjoyed chilled so it’s always a good idea to serve it in a cold bowl to keep it cool. And don’t forget that the key to a vibrant colour and taste is the quality of the ingredients. Good quality tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will lay the foundation for a great gazpacho. After that, the end result will really depend on your own personal taste and how thick, thin, light, smooth or strong you like your gazpacho to be.
Ingredients (4 people)
• 1 kilo of tomatoes
• ½ small onion
• 1 tooth of garlic
• 1 small green pepper (or red for additional colour and a sweeter taste)
• 2 slices of bread soaked in water and then drained
• Olive oil
1. Peel and chop the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion and garlic. Be sure to remove the core and seeds from the peppers and then combine the ingredients in a bowl.
2. Place the mixture in a blender and blitz until you get a creamy consistency. Add the soaked bread and a good glug of olive oil and blend again.
3. Add cold water and season with salt and vinegar. Continue stirring and tasting until you achieve the required flavour. The texture should now be a creamy fluid. You can remove any unwanted strands of cucumber, pepper or tomato by straining the mixture through a sieve.
4. Serve the chilled gazpacho in either a cold bowl or glass and garnished with a sharing plate of diced tomato, cucumber, bread and onion that guests can help themselves to.