Saturday, 24 March 2012

Mrs Ribeye Sr.'s Completely Inauthentic, but Totally Delicious, Gazpacho

I'm all for authenticity, unless it makes no sense to me.

Having tried as hard as I can to acquire a taste for Thai shrimp paste (you know the stuff - the stinky blueish grainy condiment in jars, sold in all Asian grocers), I have finally admitted defeat. It is truly disgusting. I happened to watch a Rick Stein travel programme, where he explained that in the old days the Thais were grateful for shrimp paste, as it was likely to be the only protein they would get, along with their predominantly rice-based diet.

It got me thinking - why should I acquire a taste for something which has no relevance in today's world of butter mountains and wine lakes, just so that I can pretentiously say I use an 'authentic' ingredient? Why should I continue eating rubbery old Spam, just because it was a Second World War rationing staple? I turned off the TV, walked over to the fridge and bade goodbye forever to the hellish, fetid, outdated shrimp paste. No more airing out the flat for a week, after cooking a Pad Thai noodle or my Thai Spicy Chicken dish - I'll simply leave the whiffy paste out of the recipe.

My mum has no truck with the poncey world of authentic ingredients. She puts olive oil in recipes which traditionally demand butter, just so she can reduce the cholesterol levels in the dish. She puts mixed herbs in her chopped liver, and her gazpacho bears no resemblance to the Spanish peasant's soup that it always was.

Gazpacho was originally a stale bread soup with store cupboard flavourings and a few vegetables chucked into the mix. My mum's contains no bread at all ('why use bread? -we have passata!') and is all the better for it. I'm sure I'll be villified by the Spanish cold tomato soup cognoscenti for this abomination of a recipe, but I don't mind. I say 'try it and see' - isn't the point of cooking to actually enjoy what you are eating, regardless of the recipe's history? 

I am, of course, a complete hypocrite. In other posts, I'm likely to rave on about sticking to traditions and not letting new fads kill off age-old, tried-and-tested classic recipes, but for today, I'm with Mrs Ribeye Sr.

Stick to this delicious fresh, modern gazpacho recipe, until you've got some stale bread left over from the day before and you fancy the old school version instead (which is, admittedly, fabulous).

But whatever positive thing I have to say about those classic recipes, that shrimp paste is definitely staying in the bin.

Even doing my gazpacho this way, instead of with stale bread, this recipe is still peasant-priced(ish). £1.25 per bowlful, is all it'll set you back.

Serves 4


Gazpacho Base:

1 litre passata
200ml water
1 cucumber, cut into large chunks
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into large chunks
1 red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 clove of garlic
100ml olive oil
50ml red wine vinegar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Garnishes and Dressings:

1 cucumber, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
Toasted bread croutons
Olive oil and red wine vinegar in small pouring bottles

Blend the gazpacho base ingredients until smooth, and refrigerate to let the flavours intermingle and develop. Place the garnishes in separate bowls and allow guests to select their own combination of garnishes and dressings themselves.

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