Growing up in the suburbs of northern Europe, before the internet, I had little or no knowledge of Mediterranean cuisines (or any other cuisines for that matter). All of the information I had was gleaned from the watered-down recipes in my mother’s and grandmother’s lady magazines, where somehow the pictures all looked the same regardless of what they had been cooking and where “exotic” meant using pesto.
This could explain why most of my inspiration came from watching TV – it was a happy day for me when they started showing Keith Floyd’s BBC cooking shows, subtitled of course. I don’t know how many endings and beginnings of movies I recorded over just to catch five more minutes of Floyd drunkenly driving all over the world, cooking his heart out. But the most memorable cooking episode I caught on TV as a kid was not from a cooking show but from a movie by my favourite director, Pedro Almodovar, “Women’s on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”. In it, the spurned main character, Pepa, makes a pitcher of gazpacho laced with sleeping pills for her lover Ivan, and through a series of unexpected turns, the gazpacho ends up changing the course of the story. At one point a visitor asks Pepa what’s she put in it and she slowly recounts: tomato, cucumber, peppers, onion, a bit of garlic, oil, vinegar, bread and water. This is how I learnt about gazpacho and how to make it. My first attempt didn’t look at all like the one in the movie. It wasn’t red at all – more like a brownish green. Of course, over the years I have perfected this recipe, but I have never looked elsewhere for another starter recipe.
So here it is, based on Pepa’s recipe, minus the sleeping pills, the Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios-gazpacho! Over the years I have perfected this recipe, eaten it as soup, a drink, snack, with a boiled egg on top, or chopped cilantro – but I have never felt the need to use any other recipes than this original one. Enjoy!
- Tomato – you can use any tomato you want, about 2-3 cups
- Cucumber – about half a peeled, pitted cucumber
- Pepper – try to get red peppers, or orange or yellow, half a small pepper, or a quarter large. But if you have to use green use a bit less.
- Onion – Half a small yellow onion, diced.
- Garlic – about half a clove
- Oil – I use a good olive oil, at least a 1/4 cup, or more
- Vinegar – I usually use red wine, but you can use white wine. About a tablespoon
- Bread – apparently, you are supposed to use stale white bread. But I always use breadcrumbs, a couple of tablespoons. Sometimes I don’t use any at all, if I want a less hearty cold soup. You choose :
- Salt and pepper of course.
Blend with a hand-blender or in a blender until smooth. Drink in a glass as a smoothie, or serve in a bowl for a light lunch/dinner. Serve with whatever garnishes or add-ons you want.