Playing it cool with gazpacho
Most of my waking day is based around the practice of cooking food. If it’s not the physical act of cooking, then it is the consideration of food – writing, talking or teaching chefs to cook. Often I will sit in the car on the way to work and dream about new dishes for the restaurant menu. I will also consider what we will eat on the weekend with friends, constantly thinking about what is in season and what we should be eating.
Cooking at home as a chef gives me the chance to test and develop new recipes on friends and family, my toughest critics. The stamp of approval for a successful dish is when I am told by the kids that it should go on the restaurant menu.
As the summer comes to a close, I look back at what I have cooked and enjoyed. I often dream about things I would like to eat for dinner. A good roast chicken, a fat steak on the barbecue: you get the picture. Sadly, it is not often cold soup that I crave. In fact, until I cooked this recipe last week, I had long forgotten about the allure of a cool soup.
As much as I like gazpacho, there aren’t many other versions of soup I enjoy cold. Take vichyssoise, the classic soup named after the town Vichy in the Auvergne. The soup is potato and leek based and usually laced with cream or milk. When served hot, it is one of my favourite winter soups. But for some inexplicable reason someone thought it would be a good idea to serve a cold potato soup. My suspicion of cold soups started when I was served cold canned tomato soup at camp. Another awful camp-food story for the list.
Not only had I forgotten how delicious gazpacho is but I had forgotten how damn easy it is, too. In this recipe I have offered a suggestion of cooked prawns and croutons but both can be omitted as a frivolous indulgence. I would settle for a glass of cool gazpacho and a nip of sherry to celebrate a beautiful summer past.
– 4 super-ripe medium-sized tomatoes, cut into rough dice
– 1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced
– 1 red capsicum, cut into rough dice
– ½ small fennel bulb, sliced
– 2 large shallots, halved and sliced
– 1 garlic clove, chopped
– 3 tbsp sherry vinegar
– 2 tsp sea salt
– freshly ground pepper
– ½ cup bottled tomato juice
– 2 sprigs fresh mint
– ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
– 1 thick slice sourdough bread
– 1 tbsp butter
– 6 large prawns, peeled and de-veined, diced into large pieces
– pinch sweet paprika
– lemon juice
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, fennel, shallots, garlic and vinegar. Sprinkle with two teaspoons of salt, season with pepper, and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for half an hour.
Purée the vegetable mixture with the tomato juice and mint in a blender until very smooth. As the soup is blending, slowly drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Strain through a medium sieve into a bowl, pressing on the vegetable matter to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids.
Taste the soup and season again with a little more vinegar, salt and pepper if required. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Remove and discard the sourdough’s crust. Tear the bread into large chunks, toss in one tablespoon of olive oil, then roast the bread in a hot oven until golden. In a frypan melt the butter and, when bubbling, add the prawns and the roasted bread. Continue to sauté the prawns adding a pinch of salt and paprika. Add a little more butter if the pan seems a little dry. When the prawns are cooked (about two minutes) remove from the heat and dress with a good squeeze of lemon.
Distribute the bread and prawns in six bowls. Ladle the cool soup over the prawns and croutons. Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil.
Equipo Navazos fino en rama sherry, Jerez, Spain ($27) – Andrew Joy, manager, Marion
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 27, 2016 as "Cool hand soup". Subscribe here.