With the temperature soaring, a hot kitchen becomes an unappealing place to be. It's the time for chilled soups - light, energising and restorative, perfect after the festive excesses. They scream of summer and make entertaining a cool breeze, as there is no cooking needed.
One of my favourites for this time of year is my doctored version of gazpacho, which is based on the classic Andalusian peasant dish. It's refreshing, full of ripe, summery flavours and perfectly described as salad soup. The key to unlocking the flavour of this soup is using ripe, summer vegetables brimming with sweetness from the summer sun.
I allow the blended soup to drip through a muslin filter for a few hours, transforming its consistency from a thick liquid to a light and elegant broth. This version retains all the strong flavours of its punchy, hot blooded cousin, however the refined consomme makes an elegant match to seafood and shellfish.
This recipe is very flexible, and can be made as either the thin consomme version, perfect as a starter, or as the main game, leaving it in its original state for a thicker, more substantial soup.
The other must-have ingredient for a good gazpacho is good quality sherry vinegar and olive oil and some sunny, ripe tomatoes. Perfect for entertaining or taking on a picnic in a cold pack. Serve icy cold in glasses, with a stick of celery for a refreshing starter.
Debbie Skelton is a Canberra food writer, debsravingrecipes.blogspot.com
Cool gazpacho two ways
1kg very ripe vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 ripe red capsicum, deseeded and diced
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and diced
½ tsp sugar
½ long red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 sprig of thyme
3 green shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
150ml extra virgin olive oil
100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins
1 cup of tomato juice
sea salt to taste
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Mix the diced tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber, sugar, chilli, thyme, shallots, crushed garlic and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Squeeze out the bread, tear it roughly into chunks, and add to the mixture.
Blend until smooth, then add the tomato juice, salt and vinegar to taste and stir well.
If you are making the consomme version of this recipe, line a colander with a double layer of cloth (such as a clean Chux) and place it over a bowl, so it just sits snugly over the top. Pour the blended soup into the colander and allow it to drip through into the bowl below. The liquid should be lightly coloured. This may take a few hours. Squeeze the remainder through the cloth, however take care not to allow any solids to escape into the consomme. Discard the leftover solids in the cloth. Cover the soup and refrigerate until well chilled.
If you are serving the thick version of the soup, pass the mixture through a fine sieve so there are no lumps, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled.
Serve with garnishes of your choice, such as diced black olives, hard-boiled egg and small cubes of cucumber.
If serving with seafood or oysters, pour into shot glasses, chilling in a bowl of ice.
This soup will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about one week.