As we approach the end of May, beginning of June, the end of Spring, beginning of Summer, I like to reflect a little on what the Spring/Summer season brings our way…
Bright, fresh, colourful fruits & vegetables come to the fore, filling our plates & tables with salads, crudités, cold soups, vegetable dishes (hot or cold), puddings galore…
What are your favourites? With Wimbledon around the corner, of course strawberries take centre stage @ Centre Court! My grandmother’s birthday, 1st June, has traditionally been the 1st day we would serve & eat strawberries in our family… & with my birthday on 2nd June & my mother’s on 4th June, my father would have his mother’s, daughter’s & wife’s birthdays all within days of each other! To me, it always felt a little bit like Christmas in June, with lots of food & celebrations (& presents of course!).
So, is it strawberry pavlova for you? Trifle? Summer pudding? Or something savoury? Quiche? Risotto? Salad? Vichyssoise or Gazpacho… That’s definitely up there in my top 3! Being half Spanish has meant that we pretty much always had a batch of gazpacho made & ready to serve sitting in our fridge, keeping nice & chilled… Cucumber sandwiches maybe? Or is it cold pork pies & scotch eggs for you? Egg & cress sandwiches? Smoked salmon & cream cheese bagels?
Whatever your own personal favourites are, one thing is v.clear to me… Without the need to go on any kind of detox regime, Spring/Summer is naturally a time where the food & ingredients on offer give you/us an opportunity to lighten our food plates & cleanse our bodies. Juice your own fruits (how about a blood orange juice with your breakfast to mix it up a bit?), or make your own smoothies? You can enrich your smoothies with milk, yoghurt, or coconut milk/cream… Or try it with soy/almond/rice milk if you want to keep it dairy-free. Try adding “super foods” like cacao, maca, spirulina, chlorella, hemp seeds, ginseng, guarana… For savoury dishes, make gazpacho (see recipe below), dose up on fresh salads, which can of course be enriched with potatoes, mayonnaise, fish (e.g. Tuna, salmon, anchovies, sardines….), eggs, vegetables (e.g. Green beans, bell peppers, red onions, spring onions, sweetcorn….) & treat yourself to pastries like quiche, tarts, fruit pies…
Enjoy this season, there’s definitely enough choice & variety to help you on your way towards getting bikini-ready for July/August!
GAZPACHO (Spanish cold tomato-based Summer soup)
2-3kg ripe tomatoes (the bigger & redder the better!) N.B. If you can’t find nice deep red coloured ripened tomatoes, then use half (1kg) fresh tomatoes & half (1kg , or 2 x 400g cans of tinned tomatoes, which can be plum tomatoes or chopped, but not passata-style smooth tomato sauce/juice).
2 Spanish white onions
1 green pepper (ideally an Italian-style one, slightly lighter green and elongated shape, similar to a sweet red pepper… If not a green bell pepper will do, just use a little less in this case).
1 Spanish cucumber (not like the English one, but use the English one if you can’t get hold of the other one. N.B. This ingredient is optional. I like it & use it in my gazpacho, but some people have a latex allergy & should omit/avoid in that case).
1-3 cloves of garlic (this is entirely optional & if you use garlic, use as little or as much as you like…. Bear in mind that once the gazpacho is ready & made, the flavours will get deeper/stronger as it sits on the side/in the fridge, so the garlic flavour/taste will be much enhanced!)
1-day-old white bread (crustless… Optional. I make my gazpacho without, but if you’re on a tighter budget or making large quantities for a lot of people it is useful b/c it helps to thicken the soup & to bulk it out).
Approx. 400-800ml cold water
Vinegar &/or lemon juice
Ice cubes (optional)
1) put about 1/3 of each of the ingredients in a blender, chopped (deseed the pepper, core the vegetables, no need to peel -except the garlic if using it)
2) add cold water to the mix/blender -about one glass (200-250ml)
3) add vinegar (I use sherry vinegar, but you could use white or red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar &/or lemon juice. I’ll often do half vinegar, half lemon juice & I use apple cider vinegar when I do this). You’ll need about 2-3tbsp (less if using sherry vinegar, more if using lemon juice), bearing in mind the flavours will grow stronger as the soup sits/rests on the side/in the fridge.
4) add olive oil (extra virgin or refined. I usually do half of each), about 6-9tbsp (triple the amount of vinegar), salt (sea salt or pink Himalayan rock salt if possible) & black pepper to taste -remember tomatoes need quite a lot of salt, so feel free to add it quite generously. Black pepper is optional, personally I love it!
5) blend away… Start off on a slower setting, gradually go up to full speed, let it blend for a good 1-2mins on full power, then gradually slow to a halt.
6) pour the contents of the blender into a big bowl, through a sieve -use a large soup-serving spoon to help push the soup through the sieve. The sieving will help leave all the tomato skins & seeds & other “undesirable” bitty bits out!
7) repeat the process, steps 1-7 twice more… Each time you finish sieving the soup into the big bowl, mix the soup well & taste for flavour & seasoning… The 3rd time you go through the process you should know exactly what it needs more or less of e.g. more onion, less pepper, more/less salt, more/less vinegar… Tweak it & again remember the flavours will initially be milder… So, if the onion, vinegar or green pepper flavour is coming through quite strongly, then put v.little in the 3rd batch, or skip it altogether… These 3 are usually the guiltiest culprits of overpowering the soup! Too much/too little salt can also often happen, so double-check your seasoning.
8) finally, cover the bowl with a lid or cling film & leave on the side somewhere cool, or in the fridge. You can also add 6-8 ice cubes to the soup to help cool it down quicker -a handy tip if you’ll be serving/eating it soon after preparing it! Add more ice cubes if needed… Remember the ice cubes will thin out the soup too, so it’s always an idea to add a little less water to the blender when making the gazpacho, so you can add more ice cubes later (100-150ml instead of 200-250ml).
Enjoy (I hope)!!