Carina shares a love of Spanish cuisine and her recipe for a summery gazpacho soup in her latest column for The Scots Magazine, out now….
I was in my 30s before I had the joy of visiting Spain, and unfortunately it was just for a few days. The Costa del Sol has been a magnet for us Scots for decades, and my personal bucket list includes Madrid, Seville, Bilbao, and Cadiz – so many iconic historic cities, so little time.
The food of Spain is as diverse as the food of Italy: there is so much I would love to taste and experience. One of its simplest exports -a crisp, dry sherry; some sharp sheep’s milk manchego and a wedge of quince paste, membrillo – is a dinner to die for in my book.
Even I, as an Italian Scot, can’t in truth say that the food of Italy or the larder of Scotland is the best in the world. Each season moves the culinary goal posts. You could travel the world and crown a different country the best every month, depending on the harvest and your mood.
I may be slightly biased towards Italy for its culinary heritage, and Scotland for its larder, but many of the Mediterranean countries could claim to be the ‘foodie’ champions. The wines of France have long commanded the highest prices. The olive oil of Palestine is believed by many Italians to be the best in the world (but they may not tell their marketing people). Spain would be a strong contender with their growing power energised by the sun.
One of my favourite Spanish dishes, perfect for this time of year, is gazpacho. In my youth I used to say “cold soup? Oh no!” But, as my palate has matured, and having tasted the Real McCoy, I’m converted. I do love gazpacho. Chilled fresh tomato soup with a little kick of chilli.
The vast range of Scottish tomatoes around at the moment makes July the ideal month for Gazpacho. This is a dish that doesn’t actually require any cooking, but fresh, good quality ingredients are essential. Don’t even try this with mass-grown Dutch tomatoes and processed olive oil. You’ll be wasting your money.
The Clyde Valley renaissance of the last decade that we thought would revitalise the strong growing tradition of the 1950s has, sadly, not delivered the impact we hoped. But I’m delighted that Scotty Brand has taken up the gauntlet and is delivering beautiful tomatoes to some of the best restaurants in the country. We may not get them all year round but, while we can, we can enjoy them at their best.
Fabulous, full of flavour, ripe tomatoes and wonderful cold pressed olive oil are the fundamentals of gazpacho. But you’ll also need a little time and a lot of patience. It’s vital that this soup gets time for all the flavours to marinate and infuse. Ideally, prepare it 8 to 10 hours ahead of time.
Packed with vitamins, and utterly refreshing on a sunny summer’s day, gazpacho is surprisingly filling. We serve this with our tasting menu at Cannonball asa pre-starter to stimulate your palate. The cold soup and the hot bread is perfect for dunking: I dare you to resist.
- 1 kilo ripe red tomatoes (use plum variety if possible)
- 1 cucumber, skinned and deseeded
- 2 small salad onion, white bulb only (keep the green leaves for decoration)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 green chilli, deseeded
- Lime wedges
- Fresh coriander
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 100ml of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of Glengoyne 10 Year Old if you’re feeling that too much sunshine isn’t good for you and you need a little earthy Scotch to balance out your karma (wishful thinking)
- Blanch the tomatoes in boiling hot water to remove the skins.
- Blend the tomatoes, cucumber, salad onion, garlic and chilli in a food processor for a few minutes until all blended
- Slowly add the sherry vinegar and salt
- Using the pulse part of the blended, drizzle the olive oil as if you were making mayonnaise, while the blender is moving, as the oil will help thicken the soup. Add more oil if you feel the consistency isn’t stiff enough.
- Sieve the soup and discard the rough seeds
- Check the seasoning, adding more salt if required.
- Transfer to a clean bowl or jug, cover with cling film and chill overnight.
- Stir the soup before serving.
- Serve with some wedges of fresh lime, a little finely chopped coriander and a few very thin slices of the green part of the salad onions
- Or a dash of Glengoyne and you’ll be happy!
Serve with wedges of country sourdough bread, chargrilled and rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with a really good cold pressed olive oil.