Sunday, 4 August 2013

Chilled out - Una fiesta española con gazpacho, por favor?

"One of the very greatest mistakes we all make when talking in England about fine continental cookery is to confuse specific titles with generics and use generics as specifics"

Fanny's final foray (for Part One, fear not there are 79 more parts to come!) takes me to Spain, for another Dinner Party Menu, or Bill of Fare, and she's starting off with one of my favourites - Gazpacho. As before however, she also starts off in a very unfamiliar way - cooking the ingredients. Surely Gazpacho is a cold soup made from lovely raw vegetables? Or is this just my assumption? Fanny scorns me for thinking so, as everyone does in 'this' country (does she know I am in Scotland, not England though?) apparently, and points out that each region of Spain has it's own version of Gazpacho, as well as a delicious iced vegetable drink which carries 'precisely the same name'. She refers to two main Gazpachos - one of high quality served in private homes, and an enormously crude one enjoyed by peasants. Guess which one we are making? Fanny imagines that I'd LOATHE the peasant version at any rate as it contains dozens of chopped garlic cloves and pints of rather old and smelly oil. It doesn't sound great right enough, so high quality here we come!

The first ingredients are simple - tomatoes, onions and garlic. Fanny tells me to slice, chop and cover them with water and simmer 'with great gentleness' for two hours with some bacon rind. I, of course, omit the rind, and instead add a pinch of smoked paprika - surely its the smoky aroma I am aiming for here? After the two hours I strain the cooked mixture (using my ordinary sieve as ever), add a generous amount of Sherry, some wine vinegar, salt, pepper and celery salt before chilling. That's the soup base, not me. I have to chop a cucumber, some brightly coloured peppers, skin, de-seed and chop some more tomatoes and fry some bread croutons in very hot oil. Fanny gives instructions on how to eat the Gazpacho next - you definitely don't drink this fine soup. Each person takes a spoonful of the accompaniments, stirs them into the soup and enjoys. I have to say, it was rather tasty and of course very high quality.

In best Vegetarian manner, I skip over the Pork Chops cooked in Foil Parcels for main course, and head straight to the Creole Pears with Rice. Actually, being a very good student I read ahead, thankfully, and started the pears last night. Fanny asked me to - she even said please. I peeled my pears - Fanny said they should be ones of a good shape which stubbornly refuse to ripen. I popped them in an oven proof dish, poured over some melted Red Currant Jelly, a small bottle of Sweet White Wine and a little water, and left them 'on the floor' of a very low oven as I went to bed. Fanny assured me that when I came down in the morning they'd be as tender as silk, and bright pink. I daren't admit to Fanny I don't have any stairs in my flat, but nonetheless she was right! 

Next task was to reduce the lovely liquor to a sticky sauce and to cook up some pudding rice - Fanny prefers steaming so that's what I did too. Once steamed I add the zest and juice of an orange, a little sugar and heat it in a saucepan until it is very thick. Now I have to press it into a mould to set - the only one I have is a rabbit, but this seems very appropriate somehow. Fanny recommends brushing the pears with the syrup, arranging them around the moulded rice and serving this well chilled too. Thankfully it's a warm Sunday in Edinburgh, so chilled soup and chilled pudding is very welcome. And, relax.


  1. Sounds lovely. I am a huge Gazpacho fan but have never made it. Perhaps I should give Fanny's method a try.

    1. Thanks, I've only ever had the peasant version before obviously :-) but this one is delicious!