Aha! There it was, that heat wave we were all looking for and which scorched so fiercely that I realised yesterday, much to my embarrassment, that I was the reddest person in Tesco. While I wait for my crisped-up, sorry skin to edge back down the Scoville heat scale, I am sitting back on a daily basis to remember this most creamy of creamless chilled tomato soups served with olive oil, basil and a rickety seat in Rosie’s suntrap of an allotment. It seems to be the perfect embodiment of a hot summer’s day combined with fresh, immediate cooking. It’s as straightforward as you want a recipe to be when the sun’s beating down outside and more often than not can be put together out of what’s in the fridge or garden. In fact, I’m going to make sure I always have these ingredients around for the summer – it’s just too good a starter to an afternoon barbecue or garden supper and featured at both of these al fresco meals over the weekend. Before Friday, cold tomato soup was knocked up by my [very good cook of a] grandma on far too many occasions for a child’s liking, and was known in my family as ‘vampire sick’ (my brother’s words, not mine.) I hereon rebuke any such description and can only make up for lost time on the gazpacho front. It’s a winner.
Break up and soak a large hunk of stale bread (or fresh is fine, pitta also works) in a small bowl of water. Roughly cut a variety of ripe tomatoes – I used 6 large beef tomatoes, a good handful of vine and a big handful of baby cherries, though whatever you can get your hands on, provided their fresh, is ideal – and add to a blender jug. Peel, halve and seed a medium cucumber and add with a cut red pepper, a generous glug of olive oil, half a sliced fresh red chilli, 1 or 2 finely cut garlic cloves, a good pinch of sea salt and a grind on the pepper. Blend. Throw in a handful of basil leaves, a glug of balsamic vinegar and the soaked bread and blend again. Season appropriately. Chill for a few hours in the fridge – no need to sieve – and serve with oil and torn basil.