Tuesday 5 July 2011

A little taste of Summer

If Spring makes me think "Italian", then Spain is Summer to me.  I don't know why.  Maybe because that is where I spent my holidays as a child, with my family.  This morning was one of the few days this year so far, that I awoke to a clear blue sky, that brings that excited feeling inside and I thought "Summer".  The next thing that sprang to mind was "Gazpacho" but that is the way I am.  Food is never very far from my mind. 

When I used to make this in restaurants we always used to serve separate garnishes of finely chopped red onion, cucumber, red pepper and chopped egg which was quite fun but this soup is so delicious it honestly need no accompaniment.  I personally do not add breadcrumbs to my version so I have made some little crispy olive oil fried croutons, just to add some texture. All you need is a hot summers day or evening and maybe a sunset and a glass or two of Rioja.
In South West London, I really miss having a Spanish Deli anywhere nearby.  It is a right schlep to trek to Garcia or Brindisa although both have online shops if you are stuck, so I was quite pleased to see that Unearthed had included quite a few Spanish products in their range.  I picked up some Hot Spicy Chorizo and I had some squid in the freezer which I usually pick up in Oriental Supermarkets for a really good price, so I thought I would concoct a Spanish Style Salad.  You can't beat the combination of Chorizo, Sauteed potatoes, Char-grilled red peppers, garlic, Sherry Vinegar and Squid.  If it had been Winter this combination would have made and equally fantastic stew, maybe with some chickpeas too.  But add some Rocket of Pea Shoot and you have a delicious lunch for a hot summers day.

When you do find a good Spanish Deli stock up on Sherry, Paella Rice, Almonds, Pimenton (Smoked Paprika) and Saffron, Sherry Vinegar and Navarrico Piquillo Peppers and you will have the store cupboard staples to make hundreds of amazing Spanish style dishes.  Then of course there are the wonderful hams, cheeses and salamis but these obviously do not keep.  In fact, in our house they may not even last a few hours.  

Finally don't forget that Sherry is not only fantastic for cooking but that Dry (Fino) Sherry is also very fashionable as an aperitif and a delicious accompaniment to any Spanish dish and the sweet  variety such as  Pedro Ximenez make wonderful dessert wines, ice-creams and puddings.


This recipe takes no time at all.  Because you peel the ingredients before whizzing them up, there is no need to pass the soup and it has a really great texture.

1kg really ripe tomatoes
1 small red onion , roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 fresh red chilli, seeds removed
3 Red Peppers, peel of as much skin as possible with a peeler, de-seed and roughly chop
1 cucumber , peeled and roughly chopped
A generous glug of extra virgin olive oil
A generous glug of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For croutons
an old piece of rustic or sourdough white bread
some extra virgin olive oil
Make a small cross on top of each tomato with a sharp knife.  Blanch the tomatoes by placing them into a pan of boiling water for a few minutes.  Romove them and refresh in cold water.  Remove the skins.  Add all the other ingredients and either puree in a liquidizer or simply use a hand held blender.  Whizz until completely smoothe.  Check seasoning and add more salt, pepper or vinegar to taste.  Chill in the fridge.
For the croutons, tear the bread up into 1cm pieces and gently fry in a little olive oil until golden brown.  Remove and drain on some kitchen paper.  Season very lightly with salt. Serve the Gazpacho very cold with the garnish.

Char-grilled Squid, Chorizo and Rocket Salad with New Potatoes and Sherry Vinegar

1 lb cleaned squid
200 g small potatoes, either New or a waxy veriety. Both are nice.
100 g rocket
1 Red pepper, char-grilled and peeled, torn into strips
or 150 g Navarrico Piquillo peppers, torn into strips

150 g Cooking Chorizo, cut into bite sized chunks (I like Hot Spicy ones)
1 fresh red chilli, very finely chopped (if you are not using spicy Chorizo, or if you just like a little extra)
1 Clove of garlic, very finely chopped
Good glug of Sherry Vinegar
Good glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a frying pan, sauté the potatoes with some olive oil until golden brown on every side. Add the chilli, if using, and the garlic. Saute for a minute more and add the sherry vinegar. Toss well and remove from the heat.

Next, pre-heat a griddle over a high heat or light your barbeque. Meanwhile, prepare the squid. Slit it on one side and open it out to give two flaps (retaining the tentacles). Pat dry with kitchen paper. (It's important that you dry the squid properly, otherwise it will stew rather than grill.) Now, using a small sharp knife, lightly score it on the inside – if you score it on the outside, it won't curl properly. Score diagonally in one direction, then do the same in the other direction, to give little diamond shapes, taking great care not to cut right through the squid

When the pan or barbeque is searing hot, lightly brush the squid and the tentacles on both sides with some oil, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Only season the squid the moment it goes into the pan – if you do it in advance, the salt will draw out all the moisture. Now add the squid and tentacles in batches to the hot pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly charred.

In a large bowl mix your rocket with the strips of pepper and the potatoes. The oil and vingar from the pan should provide ample dressing but check. Pile the salad onto plates and top with the squid.


  1. Just found your blog and am following. I've heard of sherry vinegar being used in Spanish dishes, it's obviously an essential! I had gazpacho recently but am yet to make it myself, yours looks great.

  2. Wow, I love both of these dishes! Chorizo and squid is the perfect combination and my mouth is watering!

    I've never made gazpacho myself, so I'm bookmarking this page to make it on the weekend. :)


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