I had the most wonderful Gazpacho I’ve ever had at Restaurant Viuda de Vacas in Madrid in April. It’s not a smart restaurant; more a cafe, but famous because the film director Pedro Almodovar has filmed there several times; the food is also fantastic. It’s been run by the Canova family for three generations – and is an absolute must if you’re in Madrid. I’ve been trying to find a recipe for Gazpacho that comes close to theirs. I thought about emailing them but there’s no email address on their website and my Spanish is non-existent so phoning for a recipe just isn’t going to work. Note to myself: next time I eat something special in a restaurant – ask for the recipe. They can only say No after all …
I used to make Gazpacho a lot years ago … it was bright red and looked nothing like the soup put in front of me in Madrid. But one taste and I was in heaven … it was amazingly good – rich and creamy, yet bright tasting – and served (as you can just about see in the photo) with chopped Serrano ham and egg on top, which is a traditional accompaniment. It was also much thicker than the ones I was used to, so what was the secret. After scouring loads of my cookery books and doing a Google search … the obvious answer was – bread. The Gazpachos I used to make just didn’t have enough bread in them. Gazpacho is really a bread soup. A white Gazpacho – no tomatoes – is bread with garlic, oil and almonds. So, after a bit of experimentation – and the willing help of my two guinea pigs in the shape of my son and daughter-in-law – this is the best recipe I’ve come up with; an amalgamation of a few I found that came closest to the one in Madrid. I have to confess, it’s really not as good as Viuda de Vacas’s – but it is nevertheless very good indeed. I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!
The Single Gourmet Traveller’s Gazpacho
Cut about 4 or 5 thick slices of bread from a good country loaf (I used a Campagne loaf from Paul) that’s a day or two old. Cut away the crust and break into smallish pieces – you should have about 100g bread now. Put in a large bowl and add 100 ml cold water and toss a bit and leave for a couple of minutes so the bread soaks up the water. Add about 5 (400g) roughly chopped ripe tomatoes having skinned them first and taken out the woody stem. You really do need to use good quality, ripe tomatoes full of sweetness and flavour because this tomato flavour is the essence of the dish – the cheap, tasteless kinds just won’t work. Then add two crushed garlic cloves, one roughly chopped red pepper, 1/2 cucumber (peeled and chopped into smallish pieces), 100 ml extra virgin olive oil (for an additional fruity taste), 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can put all the ingredients in a liquidizer but I just used my hand blender and blended until it was as smooth and creamy as I could get it. If you think it’s too thick, add a little more oil or some water, but you don’t want a runny soup – it should be quite thick. Put it in the fridge to thoroughly chill for at least a couple of hours before serving. Check seasoning once cold (it will taste a little different to when you made it and it was room temperature). I served it in some nice glass bowls and dribbled over just a little olive oil and scattered some chopped chives. But I think this recipe is best without lots of chopped vegetables – which is how Gazpacho is sometimes served – keep it simple, as they did at Viuda de Vacas because the taste is divine and you want to enjoy it just as it is.