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April 29, 2011

Culinary Inspiration

So – sorry about the long break. There’ll be two recipes for y’all today!

I know we’ve been having some lovely weather lately, and every day I feel slightly more apprehensive that we’ve already used up our annual quota of warm days, and the wind and frost will make it’s inevitable return. I also suffer from a bit of summer/winter food anxiety. Is today a day for salad and ice lollies – or are we back on shepherd’s pie?

 Oddly, one solution I’ve come up with – is soup.

I was first introduced to the concept of chilled soup by Arnold J Rimmer ( . To whom I remain eternally grateful.

Perhaps because of our rather chilly climate, gazpacho isn’t served much in the UK– so I didn’t come across it again until years later when working as a waitress in a certain hotel in Abersywyth. Needless to say, I was quite amused to find that when gazpacho soup was on the menu, it was actually served hot as a matter of course unless requested otherwise. Apparently when they served it chilled too many people sent it back. (Gawd bless the middle classes.)

This is rather weird, because, as you may or may not know, probably the best way to describe gazpacho soup is “liquid salad”. I’ve never eaten it hot, even out of curiosity, but I’m willing to bet it’s disgusting. Something akin to asking the chef to stick your Caesar Salad in the microwave for a couple of minutes. You can eat it at room temperature, with hot toast, certainly – but definitely not hot.

 On the other hand, there are soups that work well both hot and cold. They tend to be the light, very liquid ones with strong flavours – rather than the stodgy potage-y kind. The recipe here comes from a Spanish cookery book, but I’ve messed around with it quite a lot (the original was friendly to neither vegetarians, nor to tight budgets – containing both beef stock and saffron). It’s simple, so can be played with a lot but the main selling points that give it it’s hot-or-cold appeal are the toasted garlic, the paprika (which gives a gorgeous colour and smell and well as taste), and the fresh parsley.

 I previously had a take it or leave it attitude to parsley, seeing it as more of a garnish than as anything else, but in this case it really is the crucial part of the flavour. It absolutely has to be fresh, and the best way to obtain fresh parsley is to grow it yourself. This isn’t difficult, I’m not an experienced gardener, but I bought a small pot of living parsley from Morrison’s a few years back, replanted in the garden, and now I have an enormous bush. (And writing the phrase “I have an enormous bush” on the internet, may well be the highlight of my life so far.) You can do the same, or just get some seeds from the pound shop and stick them in a bit of compost in an empty fruit punnet. Put them on a sunny windowsill and you have usable herbs in a few weeks (so no good for dinner tonight really, but still, you can always plan ahead.)

 Hot it makes a great winter soup, or a starter for a posh dinner. Chilled it’s a lovely light outdoor lunch, which you can pour into a thermos and take on a picnic (you’ll need to chill for a good few hours, so make a big pot in advance when there’s a warm weekend forecast, you can always microwave it if the met office turn out to be wrong again.)

 So anyway, the recipes.

 Spanish Hot-or-Cold Soup


Olive oil

4 (or more) large, peeled cloves of garlic

A generous spoonful of paprika

A small red pepper, deseeded and chopped very small

A litre of vegetable stock (or beef/ chicken stock if meat’s your thang.)

A generous pinch of cumin seeds

A teaspoon of turmeric (or a pinch of saffron strands if you can afford it)

Salt and pepper

Fresh parsley

Eggs (optional)


–          Heat the oil in a large pan and add the whole garlic cloves and the red pepper, Fry until the garlic cloves are golden and then remove and set aside.

–          Add paprika to the pan and fry a few seconds before adding the cumin, turmeric and then the stock.

–          Return the red pepper to the pan, then crush the garlic cloves with the back of a spoon and return them to that pan too.

–          Add salt and pepper and cook for about five minutes

–          Now you’re more or less done. For the cold soup, let it cool to room temperature, then cover and stick in the fridge for a few hours. The hot soup is delicious as it is, but the traditional way to serve it is to divide it into oven proof serving bowls, break an egg over each one, and then put them in the oven at 230°C / Gas Mark 8 ish for a few minutes until the eggs set.

Gazpacho soup with Chickpeas and Oats for a Hot Day

 This is my own recipe. Most gazpacho soup is based on breadcrumbs, but I made this partly because I didn’t have any bread once, and partly because I wanted to up the protein content a bit, so thought I’d add some chickpeas. It works quite well. Ideally you want to do this in a food processor, but if you don’t have one, a high sided bowl and a hand blender will do fine. Mess around with the quantities according to your own tastes.


Handful of porridge oats

A tin of chickpeas

4-6 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (peeling is easier than you think, type “peel tomatoes” into youtube.)

Half a cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped.

1 bell pepper (I like to use green, but any colour will do.)

1 small onion, OR a bunch of spring onions.

1 clove of garlic (more if you like)

1 tbsp of white wine or cider vinegar

125ml decent tasting olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh basil (will also grow on a windowsill, though takes longer than parsley)

Ice cubes


–          Put the chickpeas (including the water) and oats in a bowl and puree til smooth.

–          – put aside a little of the tomatoes, cucumber and pepper to use as a garnish.    Add the rest to the oats and chickpeas.

–          Add the onion, garlic, vinegar and oil to the bowl and blend until smooth again. Add more water if necessary to keep the soup nice and liquid.

–          Season with salt and pepper and add the ice cubes.

–          Add the reserved tomato, cucumber and pepper, plus a few sprigs of fresh basil. Then cover and put in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.





One Comment leave one →
  1. April 29, 2011 20:10

    Evidently your hotel’s clientele were a bunch of smegheads. (Sorry: couldn’t resist!)

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