Elin’s Gazpacho

In hot weather Gazpacho, a chilled soup which originated in Andalucia in southern Spain, makes a perfect lunch or starter. I’ve tried quite a few recipes, but one of the best versions was served for lunch by my Danish friend Elin, while we were living in Copenhagen. I remember thinking how delicious it was (better than my recipe!) and how snazzy the croutons looked cut into soldiers. Elin has given permission for me to share her recipe with my readers.

Gazpacho should be made when you have tomatoes in the garden or can buy local ones in the market. Supermarket tomatoes which have been refrigerated won’t taste the same.

This recipe has quite a few ingredients so it’s not a five minute job. But the effort is well worth it. If preferred leave out the chilli altogether.

Elin's Gazpacho

4 large red capsicums (peppers)
2 chillies (preferably peperoncino)
1½ kg good quality vine-ripened tomatoes
10 semi-dried tomatoes
200ml extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, depending on size, crushed
4 Tbs vinegar (preferably sherry)
1 bunch fresh basil
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 small cucumbers
1 loaf day-old Italian bread
2-3 Tbs sugar (depends on sweetness of the tomatoes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
1 red capsicum (pepper)
1 small cucumber
Extra virgin olive oil
The rest of the bread made into croutons

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place a piece of foil on a baking tray and place capsicum and chillies on top (saves washing up). Bake until blackened, then cool, peel and remove seeds. If they are difficult to peel you haven’t cooked them long enough. The chillies being smaller will need to come out much earlier – they are a bit fiddly to peel so just removed stalk and seeds.

Meanwhile pour boiling water over the tomatoes in two bowls, leave for 2 minutes then tip away water, peel and remove hard cores.

In a blender puree the capsicum, tomatoes, dried tomatoes, peeled cucumbers, chilli, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, basil leaves, 3-4 slices of bread with crusts removed and oil. You will have to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Taste and add sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Chill several hours or preferably overnight.

To serve: If soup is a bit too thick add a little iced water then pour into a soup tureen or ladle into individual bowls. Add some ice cubes (optional) and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with the following side dishes so people can help themselves – peeled and diced cucumber, with some skin left on (to add some dark green colour) and diced capsicum. Make croutons from the rest of the loaf of bread – cut bread into “soldiers”, spray or brush with olive oil and bake until golden. For those who like spicier food you can serve some extra chopped chillies, but it was hot enough for my liking – probably because I used birds eye chillies rather than peperoncino which are much milder!

Serves 12

Note: sun-dried tomatoes as opposed to semi-dried tomatoes tend to be rather dark in colour which will result in a brownish gazpacho. So best to use semi-dried or leave them out altogether.

Chilled Carrot and Orange Soup

On a very hot day you can’t beat a bowl of ice cold soup. Not everybody will agree with me on this – chilled soups are something you either like or you don’t.  My Dad didn’t like them, even though he was quite adventurous, loved Asian food and most of the things I put in front of him.

The best known cold soups are probably Spanish gazpacho and Russian Borscht, a soup made with beetroot which can be served hot or cold and which is popular in many Middle European countries. I have about three other favourite recipes including this one for Carrot and Orange. The soup is equally delicious served hot.

Chilled Carrot and Orange Soup

500-600g carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
25g butter
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1½ – 2 cups orange juice (fresh or from a carton)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
Finely chopped fresh dill and cream to garnish

Cook onion in butter till soft, add carrots, stock, sugar and simmer until tender. Blend till smooth in blender, add orange juice to reach desired consistency, check seasoning and chill.  Serve garnished with dill and a swirl of cream. Can be served hot.

Serves 6

Variation: for a creamier soup replace ½ cup of the orange juice with cream.

Blanca’s Chilled Avocado Soup

This recipe comes from my dear friend Blanca Bulnes who lives in Santiago but spent 4 years in Canberra when her husband was the Chilean Ambassador to Australia.  It’s quick and easy to make and perfect for a warm summer’s day.

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
4 large avocados
1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
½ cup cream
1 Tbs grated onion
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp ground cumin (not in original recipe but if you like cumin it makes a nice addition)
To serve:
chopped parsley, or toasted slivered almonds or red pepper puree (see below)

Home made chicken stock is best for this recipe.  Leave it in the fridge to chill, then remove any fat from the surface.  Otherwise make up a litre of stock using a cube. Vegetarians can use vegetable stock.

In a food processor mix avocado flesh with yoghurt, cream and some of the stock.  Scrape into a bowl and add remaining ingredients.   Chill for several hours or overnight. Serve garnished with chopped parsley or toasted slivered almonds or a drizzle of red capsicum/pepper puree.

Red Pepper Puree: place 2 capsicums on an oven tray and spray with oil.  Place under a very hot grill until slightly blackened and blistered, then turn and grill the other side.  Cover loosely with foil and leave until cool enough to handle.  Remove skin, seeds and membranes then blitz in a food processor with enough olive oil to make a smooth red paste.  Store covered in the fridge.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

I borrowed a cook book from the library last week called Five of the Best by Valli Little.  It was printed to celebrate five years of the Australian food magazine Delicious.  I read cookbooks the way some people read novels and by the time I had finished going through the recipes I had decided to buy a copy so I ordered one from the ABC bookshop.  So far I’ve made several dishes including Tuna Stuffed Capsicum, Cauliflower Cheese Soup, Baked Eggplant with Goat Cheese and Cream and Thai Pumpkin Soup – all very good.  We’re not vegetarians, but sometimes I think it makes a nice change to skip meat for a few days.  Here’s the Pumpkin Soup recipe.

Thai Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Pesto

2 bunches fresh coriander, roots trimmed
(a few leaves reserved for garnish)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
4 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp grated ginger (I used a bit more)
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste
1 kg pumpkin, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 cups (500ml) vegetable or chicken stock
400ml can light coconut milk
thinly sliced red onion and thinly sliced red
chilli, to garnish

To make the pesto place coriander, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic in food processor.  Process adding 3 Tbs oil to make a sauce consistency, season to taste.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium head.  Add onion and stir for a minute.  Add ginger and curry paste and stir for a minute.  Add pumpkin and stock, bring to the boil, then simmer 15 minutes or until pumpkin is cooked.  Cool a bit then blend until smooth.  Return to the pan, add coconut milk and season, then warm through.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a swirl of pesto, some onion, chilli and reserved coriander leaves.

Serves 6

Note: to make a more substantial meal, serve with croutons or toast.