There's no doubt about it now - summer is officially here. With this weekend's temperatures predicted to reach 30 C, the smell of barbecue is already in the air. And, judging by our recent luck, that might be it for the rest of this season, so we better make the most of it!
But the thing is that after a while, even the most elaborate barbecue seems too heavy to stomach in the sweltering heat and all I long for is something light and refreshing with a bit of zing! I know many people who don't like the idea of chilled soups, but in my weird little world, gazpacho is really hard to beat on a hot day. If not as a main meal, then at least as a starter or finger food! At the height of the season, nothing can bring out the taste of summer better than this concoction of perfectly ripe vegetables - make sure you buy locally-grown produce for a real burst of flavours, rather than mass-produced, insipid-tasting fruit... I mean, how much can you contribute to anything after a week's trip round the world with even less legroom than on low-cost airlines?
Now, there must be about as many recipes for gazpacho as there are cooks on this planet - but this just proves that it's the perfect dish to experiment with. Unlike patisserie, where small deviations from the original can have disastrous consequences, you can happily throw anything into a gazpacho and vary the quanities according to your taste or what's left over in the fridge. Here's my preferred version, although I tend to experiment a little bit every time... I like to add some red chilli or a generous dash of tabasco to give it a bit of a kick and, if serving in shot glasses like for the blog birthday party a few weeks back, I might even sneak in a drop of vodka each - Gazpacho meets Bloody Mary... I can tell you, seldom has a blind date been so successful!