An Italian version of the ubiquitous Spanish cold soup, more richly flavoured but equally refreshing. Grilling the peppers adds a hint of smokiness while the aromatic pesto fills the whole soup with sunshine and vibrancy. It can also be served hot but be careful not to bring it to boiling point as the olive oil can separate out – aim for nice and steaming.
One of the most effective ways to grill peppers is to use a blow torch so if you have invested in one for whatever reason, do use it – it is quicker than an electric or gas grill and contributes a whiff of smokiness.
A further layer of smokiness is provided by the smoked paprika, or if you are looking for a good kick, some Mexican chipotle chilli powder or paste works really well – it is available from most large supermarkets or from Steenbergs of Yorkshire.
Roasted Red Pepper Gazpacho
Serves 2 generously
50 g wholemeal bread
400 g red peppers
1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper, about 200 g each
1 garlic clove, peeled
4 tbsp olive oil
175 ml water
2 tsp sherry or red wine vinegar
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika or to taste – I love the Steenberg’s organic version
1 x quantity Plant-Powered Pesto
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the bread in a shallow bowl and add enough water to saturate it. Set aside to soak.
Heat the grill to high. Line the grill pan with foil, arrange all the peppers on it and grill about 10 cm from the heat until the skins are black and blistered all over. Cool slightly and remove the skin, seeds and ribs.
Dice one red pepper and the yellow and green peppers and set aside.
Place the remaining red peppers in a food processor. Squeeze the bread to remove most of the water and add it to the peppers with the garlic. Process until well broken down. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and then the water, vinegar and paprika. Season to taste, stir in the diced, roasted peppers and chill.
When you are ready to serve, ladle the soup into two bowls and add a good dollop of pesto, adding more as you eat.
And what is this soup’s nutritional profile? Peppers are Vitamin C powerhouses, and provide Vitamins A and B6, potassium, iron and magnesium as well; they are also packed with antioxidants like carotenoids, including lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Garlic is potently antibacterial, protective of cardiovascular health and high blood pressure as well as the common cold, provides cancer support, regulates blood sugar levels, and its antioxidant properties may help combat dementia. Olive oil is impressively anti-inflammatory, contains good levels of Vitamins A and K, lowers blood pressure and enhances blood vessel health. And the basil in the pesto contributes Vitamins A, C and K, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium. So, bon appétit!