Gazpacho with Trimmings

My tomato plants have just set their first tresses, which means fruit. In the meantime – probably about 2 months if I’m lucky – I’m more than making do with tomatoes from the Isle of Wight (www.thetomatostall.co.uk). You can buy some of their fruit via Ocado and posh shops but they have nationwide delivery and for tomato heads like me, they are a bargain. A 3kg mixed family box comes in at £19.50 and they make superb passata, 500g at £2.50. I’m about to make gazpacho with some of them. Not for nothing is gazpacho known as the salad soup; it contains everything you might include in a salad, plus the bread you serve with it and the dressing to pour over the top. It’s a peasant soup and suits being a bit rough around the edges. Make it on a hot summer day with juicy new season garlic, ripe vine tomatoes and extra sweet pointy Romano red peppers that roast beautifully but don’t cause indigestion when eaten raw. I like gazpacho with a full complement of add-ons, the little dishes of finely chopped soup bits and bobs to pile into the soup to give crunch and vivacity to this tomato nectar. Be sure, though, to serve the soup thoroughly chilled.

Serves 6-8

Prep: 30 min plus at least 4 hours, preferably 24, chilling

3 large (preferably) new season garlic cloves

150g day-old white bread, preferably sourdough

1 cucumber

1 red chilli

2 red peppers, preferably the pointed ‘extra sweet’ type

1 kg ripe tomatoes, including a proportion of cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp sherry or wine vinegar

about 20 small mint leaves

100ml extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tbsp extra

3 plum or vine tomatoes

1 lemon

Tabasco

Peel the garlic. Tear the bread into pieces. Place both in the bowl of a food processor and blitz to make fine breadcrumbs. Meanwhile, peel the cucumber. Halve it horizontally and use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds. Chop half of it roughly. Trim and split the chilli. Scrape out the seeds. Set aside ½ (half) one red pepper and chop the rest, discarding seeds and white filament. Peel and halve the onion. Coarsely chop one half and add to the breadcrumbs together with the chopped cucumber, chilli and chopped red pepper. Remove the stalks from the 1 kg tomatoes. Roughly chop regular tomatoes, leave cherry tomatoes whole. Add the tomatoes to the food processor bowl together with the vinegar, 300ml ice cold water (or ice cubes), most of the mint, the 100ml olive oil and ½ (half) tsp salt and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Blitz for several minutes until liquidized (you may need to do this in two batches). Meanwhile prepare the garnishes. Keeping separate piles, finely dice the remaining cucumber and red pepper and finely chop the remaining red onion. Quarter the plum or vine tomatoes, discard the seeds and finely chop.

Taste the gazpacho and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon juice and Tabasco. If you think the soup needs it – it makes it very creamy – whisk in the extra olive oil. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with a stretch of clingfilm and chill for at least 4 hours.