Gazpacho

Gazpacho soup served with green pepper and croutons
If you’ve never eaten a chilled soup before, you’re going to just have to go with me on this one. It might seem very strange, or even off-putting, to those who have never tried it before, but believe me when I say that you are missing out and need to rectify that ASAP. Gazpacho, a southern Spanish tomato soup, is probably the most famous of the chilled soup family and it is one of my all-time favourite recipes. There are slight variations in ingredients and methods between the recipes available (some including peppers or bread, some soaking the ingredients overnight before blending, some adding stock or basil at the end), but this simple recipe is the one that my family has always used, passed down from my mum’s mum, and it is the best there is (unbiased family opinion).

Gazpacho makes use of the fresh, young allium produce that are available during the late summer. If you can’t get your hands on any young red onions or “green” garlic, as it is sometimes called, then you can use the regular varieties though you may want slightly reduce the quantity you add to the soup as it will be stronger and sharper in flavour. Err on the side of caution, since you can always add more in after the first blend, but you can’t take it back out at the end! This is the perfect seasonal recipe for a light lunch or supper, or to serve as a starter at a summer dinner party. However, I can also highly recommend having a large bowl of the soup the day after a night of excess – it’s zingy and refreshing, is reminiscent of comfort-food-hero hot tomato soup, has a high water content and is packed with vitamins.

One year ago:
Refreshing watermelon salad
Ingredients for homemade gazpacho
Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings)
450g ripe tomatoes
½ a cucumber
1 medium young red onion
3 cloves young garlic
450ml tomato juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Green bell pepper and breadsticks or croutons to serve

Method
1. Begin by peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to plunge the tomatoes into a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds.
Boiling tomatoes to remove the skin
Remove and drain – the skin may already have started to blister – and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Tomatoes ready to be skinned
The skin should now very easily peel away, and then the tomatoes can be cut in half and the seeds either cut or scraped out.

2. Roughly chop the cucumber (including the peel and seeds), red onion and garlic and place in a large bowl.
Chopped red onion, garlic and cucumber
3. Add the peeled and deseeded tomatoes to the bowl, roughly chopped.
Adding peeled and seeded tomatoes to the gazpacho mix
4. Pour in the tomato juice, and add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and a generous season of salt and pepper.
Seasoning the gazpacho mix
5. Use a hand blender to blend the ingredients together. I like to keep the soup just a little bit chunky, but you can blend until you have the consistency you want – for a very smooth texture you will need to pass the mixture through a sieve. Taste the soup for seasoning (including vinegar, onion and garlic, not just salt and pepper) and adjust if necessary.
Blending the gazpacho soup
6. Chill the soup for at least 2 or 3 hours – this step is very important, so don’t skip it unless you are incredibly short on time, in which case having the tomato juice already chilled in the fridge is a top tip from my mum.
Blended gazpacho soup
Serve the soup chilled, in chilled bowls if you’re feeling extra fancy. Top with diced green pepper and, traditionally, homemade croutons either baked or fried in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. At home we always just broke up breadsticks to scatter over the soup, which is far less effort and a little healthier too. This time we spotted a box of olive oil crostini at the shops, which worked perfectly too.
Homemade chilled gazpacho soup 1
This soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days, the flavours mingling and only improving with time.

Have you eaten chilled soups before, and if so what is your favourite type? Do you have your own gazpacho recipe? – I’d love to hear about it below!…

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh salad
Is it salad season yet? Let’s just say it is and hurry in summer time, yes? Good. In that case we might as well kick off with one of my favourite ever salads: tabbouleh. Tabbouleh (or tabouli) is a vegetarian salad made from bulgur wheat, mixed with fresh herbs and vegetables and seasoned with plenty of lemon juice and olive oil. It originates from Lebanon and is traditionally served as part of a mezze alongside dishes like hummus, fattoush and baba ganoush. If you’re not familiar with bulgur wheat, but like grains like couscous or quinoa, then jump on board the bandwagon right now (except bulgur wheat is SO much better than quinoa!). Bulgur wheat is really easy to cook with as it just requires soaking in boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes and you’ll be left with fairly substantial, chunky grains to flavour as you like.

This particular recipe for tabbouleh is one that my mum has made for years and years, and originally came from a Mollie Katzen cookbook. Mollie Katzen is an American chef and cookbook writer, and is well known for her beautifully illustrated (by her) vegetarian cookbooks like The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (best name for a vegetarian cookbook ever right?). This tabbouleh recipe is from The Moosewood Cookbook and has just been slightly adjusted by both my mum and then me over the years. Feel free to adjust the recipe again to your taste – whether you like it to be sharper with extra lemon juice, herbier with the addition of more fresh herbs or saltier with some sliced olives mixed through.
Ingredients for tabbouleh salad
Ingredients (makes 6-8 generous portions)
250g (1 heaped cup) bulgur wheat
360ml (1½ cups) boiling water
1½ tsp salt
1½-2 lemons, juiced
2 garlic cloves, crushed or very finely chopped
4 spring onions
Small bunch parsley
2-3 tomatoes
½ medium cucumber
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional extra ideas: feta cheese, chickpeas, olives, avocado, fresh mint

Method
1. Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl with the salt and pour over the boiling water. Give it a quick mix and then cover the bowl with a large plate. Leave the bulgur wheat for 15-20 minutes until it has soaked up all the water.
Soaking the bulgar wheat
2. Add the lemon juice, garlic and a few generous glugs of olive oil and mix well. Chill in the fridge for a few hours.
Soaked bulgar wheat with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
3. Finely chop the spring onions and parsley, and chop the tomatoes and cucumber into small chunks (I recommend removing the watery middle of the cucumber – you can do this very easily by halving the cucumber length-ways and using a teaspoon to scrape out the middle).
Chopped vegetables for tabbouleh salad
4. Add all the vegetables to the chilled bulgur wheat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Adding vegetables to the bulgar wheat
Mixing the vegetables through the bulgar wheat
This is a great side salad to serve alongside a spread of cheese and bread, or grilled meat, fish or vegetables.
Tabbouleh salad
It also makes a super packed lunch, which you can bulk up with some extras like avocado, feta cheese, chickpeas or even some roasted vegetables. The tabbouleh will keep very well in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.
Tabbouleh salad served with ripe avocado for lunch

Stuffed courgettes

Stuffed courgettes with tomatoes, basil and parmesan
Courgette season is still very much underway, as was evidenced by the gigantic courgette that my dad brought home from his allotment this week. With a glut of regular-sized courgettes already in the house, he offered this vegetable goliath to me, and of course I gladly accepted. Such a magnificent beast needed a fitting recipe, and keeping it (essentially) whole seemed like a nice way to cook it.

This recipe was inspired by a dish that lovely friends of ours made at a dinner party a couple of years ago. I didn’t have the exact recipe to hand, so this is a loose interpretation of the original incarnation, but I remembered the inside of the courgette being stuffed back into the filling, I remembered tomatoes being invited to the party, and I remembered two types of cheeses going in there. Let’s be honest, I mainly remembered the two types of cheese. Then garlic had to be added, as it is to basically all of our food in this household, and then a few herbs which work well with both courgettes and tomatoes made an appearance too. Although it may have deviated from the initial recipe we ate a few years ago, I’m very pleased with the results: a vibrant, vegetarian* dish packed with summery tastes.
*Excuse the parmesan! Use a substitute if you’re very strictly veggie.
Ingredients for vegetarian stuffed courgettes
Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4-6 as a starter)
1 very large courgette
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
Small handful basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 mozzarella balls
Small handful grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Good quality olive oil

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6.
2. Halve the courgette lengthways, so that both halves can sit steadily cut-side up. Use a spoon to scoop out the soft flesh, leaving at least 1-2cm of skin around the outside, but don’t throw away the insides – roughly chop the flesh and place in a large bowl.
Scooping the flesh out the courgette and leaving aside for stuffing later
3. Use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of oil on both the outside and the inside of the cut out courgette. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper and place on a large baking tray.
Oiling and seasoning the courgette skins ready for stuffing
4. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and chop into small pieces. Add to the courgette flesh, along with the oregano, thyme and chopped garlic and basil. Mix well.
Ingredients for the courgette  stuffing
Stuffing for the courgettes
5. Chop the mozzarella into small cubes and stir through the stuffing, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Chopped mozzarella for courgette stuffing
Courgette stuffing with mozzarella added
6. Pack the stuffing inside the courgette skins – don’t be afraid to pile this high, as it will melt and sink in the oven.
Stuffing the courgette skins
Stuffing the courgette skins
7. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.
Topping the stuffed courgettes with parmesan
8. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the skins are tender and the stuffing is golden brown. Cooking times will depend on the size of your courgettes – if your vegetables aren’t quite as giant as this one was then reduce the cooking time by at least 10 minutes (baby courgettes will need as little as 8-10 minutes in the oven).
Stuffed courgettes
We had these as a vegetarian main course, served with some paprika-spiced sweet potato wedges, but this is a great dish to have as a starter. Find some mini courgettes at the shop and serve up one per person for a cute and tasty start to a late-summer meal.
Stuffed courgette served with sweet potato wedges
What’s your favourite way to cook courgettes? Grilled, stuffed, sautéed…?

Sausage and Bean Casserole

Roasting tray with sausages, peppers, tomatoes and beans
A girl can’t live off cakes and bakes. This may be controversial, but, sadly, it’s true. This week I have a few savoury recipes for you, and today’s one is the perfect weekday meal during the colder months of the year: few ingredients, quick and comforting. It really is just a case of bashing some ingredients into the oven and letting them work their magic. You can also adapt the recipe according to what you have in your cupboards – use whatever variety of tinned beans and tomatoes you have, add a red onion or sprinkle over some chilli flakes.

Ingredients for casserole laid out - sausages, peppers, mustard, tinned tomatoes, tinned butter beans and oregano
Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil
12 Cumberland sausages
2-3 tsp Dijon mustard
2 red peppers
1 tin cherry tomatoes
1 tin butter beans, drained
1-2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
2. Add a glug of olive oil (about 1 tbps) to a roasting tray and heat in the oven for 5 minutes.
3. Use scissors to cut your sausages apart and add to the roasting tray, moving the sausages around in the hot oil. Cook for 20 minutes, shaking half way through.
4. Add the mustard to the sausages and cook for another 10 minutes.
5. Chop the peppers into chunky strips and add to the roasting tray. Cook for 10 minutes.
6. Finally pour in the tomatoes and beans and season with the oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for a further 10-20 minutes until hot and bubbling.
Dinner plate of sausage and bean casserole, broccoli and buttered bread
Serve with fresh bread and steamed vegetables, as we did, or with a side of mashed or baked potatoes. We guzzled the lot between 4 people, but if you want to make the sausages go further (say 2 per person) then I would add an extra tin of both tomatoes and beans, so that there is enough to go round.