What is gazpacho?
Gazpacho (pronounced “gaz-PAT-cho”) is the best-known soup from Spanish cuisine, made with fresher-than-fresh summery ingredients: ripe tomatoes bursting with flavour, red pepper, garlic and cucumber. A dash of oil and vinegar add the finishing touch.
The soup is raw and served cold. A bowl of cold soup may taste a bit strange to us for the first time, but on a hot day, there is nothing more refreshing than a well-chilled glass of gazpacho.
The name is derived from the Latin word “caspa”, which means “small pieces”, and refers to the breadcrumbs that were originally in the soup. The exact origin of the dish is unclear, but according to Janet Mendel, an expert in the field of Spanish cuisine, gazpacho was originally a farmer’s soup. Farm workers who worked in the southern region of Andalusia in the vineyards, olive groves or cork forests, were given a ration of bread and oil for their meal. They added water, garlic, salt and local vegetables and ground everything together in a dornillo (mortar) to make a cold soup. In this way, people made something tasty and nutritious with minimal resources.
In theory, any cold, raw vegetarian soup can be called gazpacho, so there are hundreds of variants. Some have a unique addition, for example, mango, while other variants don’t really resemble the classic, except that they are served chilled. Strawberry gazpacho with goat’s cheese is an interesting, modern example. Spaniards also love white gazpacho (ajo blanco) made with almonds and white grapes.
Did you know?
The Spanish see gazpacho as an extension of their medicine cabinet; whether you have a cold, flu, hangover or heartache, gazpacho will make everything better.
How to make gazpacho
Gazpacho requires beautifully sun-ripened, red tomatoes that are full of flavour. You won’t get anywhere with a watery greenhouse tomato! The chopped tomatoes are mashed with pieces of red and green pepper, cucumber, pressed garlic, soaked and squeezed white bread and extra virgin olive oil – Spanish, of course – in a food processor. The mixture is seasoned with some salt and sherry vinegar and then passed through a strainer. The resulting soup is left to chill in the fridge.
The soup can be served with a topping of your choice, from simple – a few leaves of mint or cubes of green apple for example – to complex. Chopped olives, extra diced peppers and cucumber or even crumbled hard-boiled egg are all possible toppings.
How to eat gazpacho
Gazpacho is usually served in a wine glass or a glass bowl. You can eat it with a spoon or sip it.
Bread or croutons are delicious with gazpacho.
In some parts of Spain, they serve torta gazpacho, also called gazpacho manchego. This stew, often prepared with game meat and mixed with cubes of bread, is in no way comparable to the cold soup, but it is very interesting to try. Salmorejo is a thicker, creamier version of gazpacho.