Standard ingredients in what Brits or North Americans consider Gazpacho include bread crumbs, celery, cucumber, garlic, green bell peppers, olive oil, onions, tomatoes and vinegar. There are spicy, garlicky and mild versions.
Gazpacho is now used as a first course in North America and in the UK, but in rural Spain it is still served after the main course. It can also be made into a drink. You put it through a blender to make it very smooth. Many people in Spain make a jug up and keep it in the fridge to drink, thinning it with water.
Traditionally, Gazpacho was made by pounding the ingredients in a mortar, and it won’t surprise you to learn that there are killjoy foodie purists who would still have us do it that way, too. No doubt they’d have us beat our laundry against rocks, as well. The purists won’t get very far, though, telling the Spanish this: even in Andalucia, Spain, where the recipe originated, it is made today with blenders.
Don’t let anyone browbeat you into thinking there is a definitive recipe and a definitive method of making Gazpacho, and that older recipes are better than more modern versions just because they’re older — after all, Gazpacho itself is an evolution of another soup, and besides, there never was a standard way of making it. There have always been hundreds if not thousands of variations.
Most Gazpacho variations, however, fall into one of three categories: red, white and green ones. Their common base is usually bread, garlic, oil, salt and vinegar.
These versions use tomatoes.
Green Gazpachos use chopped herbs such as basil, coriander, mint and/or parsley, along with chopped green vegetables such as green bell pepper and lettuce. No tomatoes are used.
The white ones have no tomatoes; they use almonds or pine nuts instead.
Gazpacho de antequera
Made with almonds, egg whites, garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise.
Gazpacho de Granada
Made with tomatoes and bell peppers, but the water and breadcrusts are put on the top.
Gazpacho de la serrania de Huelva
Made with tomatoes and bell peppers, but puréed well with sherry vinegar, and the cucumber is served on the side, with croutons.
In Córdoba, Spain, no water is added. The soup is often garnished with boiled eggs, strips of ham, chopped almonds or orange pieces.
Best even made the day before, if possible, to allow the flavours to marry. At a minimum, have it in the fridge chilling at least 2 hours before you plan to serve it.
Gazpacho originated in Andalucia, Spain, as poor people’s food. It existed well before New World foods such as tomatoes and green peppers were brought back to Spain. It may have been being made during the Arabic occupation of Spain. Earlier recipes used breadcrumbs, garlic, ground almonds, olive oil and verjuice In the mid 1700s, the most common Gazpacho was made of breadcrusts, anchovy bones, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, olive oil and some vegetables which didn’t include tomatoes. Some regional versions of Gazpacho in Spain still haven’t adopted the New World additions of tomatoes and peppers.
Gazpacho was mentioned in an American cookbook in the 1820s, but it didn’t become widely popularized outside of Spain in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, tourists came to the Costa del Sol, had it there, and took the taste for it home.
And, in case the penny hasn’t dropped yet for the purists, if they chill their Gazpacho, they’ve made a major deviation from authenticity. After all, exactly who would have had a refrigerator in the 1700s?
Literature & Lore
“GASPACHO–SPANISH: Put some soft biscuit or toasted bread in the bottom of a sallad (sic) bowl, put in a layer of sliced tomatos (sic) with the skin taken off, and one of sliced cucumbers, sprinkled with pepper, salt, and chopped onion; do this until the bowl is full; stew some tomatos quite soft, strain the juice, mix in some mustard, oil, and water, and pour over it; make it two hours before it is eaten.” — Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife. Washington: Davis and Force, 1824.
In Pedro Almodóvar’s film “Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios” (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”), one of the lead characters, Pepa Marcos, spikes a pitcher of Gazpacho with barbiturates.
The word “Gazpacho” possibly comes from an early Roman word “caspa” meaning remnants, fragments. The word is used colloquially in Spain to mean mixup, confusion, jumble.