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Gazpacho manchego: the food of legends
Ignasi Mora, thinkSPAINtoday , Friday, February 15, 2008

There is a common confusion between Gazpacho Andaluz and Gazpacho Manchego: the former, a chilled tomato soup and the latter a rich meat broth, a true shepherd’s delight.

SOMEWHERE back in the early history of the art of cooking, it is highly probable that some shepherd out in the wilds, watching his herd, chewing a piece of hay and putting the world to rights, once pulled a bit of doughy bread made with wheat flour, salt and water from his knapsack, chopped it up, killed a partridge and a hare or rabbit and boiled them up in some water on a bonfire. Next, he chucked in the chopped bread and drank the resulting broth, which came to be known centuries later as gazpacho.

On the other hand, some people think shepherds were a bit more refined and sophisticated, although they weren’t above throwing stones at the odd goat, or worse. What is certain, though, is that a lot of today’s most popular recipes come from pre-Roman food.

Yet we are more interested in what’s for lunch nowadays. Like gazpacho, as mentioned above. But don’t get confused between gazpacho andaluz (tomatoes and other vegetables served chilled and highly refreshing in summer) and gazpacho manchego which comes from the central region of Spain where Don Quijote was born. It is this that I’m going to talk about this week.

There are also doubts about the type of gazpacho that is made inland of the coast in the Comunidad Valenciana, and whether they are basically a copycat of those made in Castilla-La Mancha, as the acclaimed writer Azorín believed.

In terms of cuisine, influences from outside, a melting pot of ideas and techniques from other parts of the country or indeed the world, are our daily bread.

In fact, Valencian author F. G. Seijo Alonson wrote a book entitled 'Los gazpachos valencianos y alicantinos: Manjar de antología' (Valencian and Alicante gazpachos: the food of legends) in which there are no less than 49 different recipes for this famous cold soup.

In much the same way as languages, which were born from one main root – like Latin, which gave birth to the Romance languages – traditional dishes start from one recipe which gathers influences from others and ends up, eventually, as hundreds of different ones.

Right now, in the autumn, it is the ideal time to try a gazpacho manchego for two reasons: the hunting season has started, for one, and the days are shorter with heavy rainfall and falling temperatures so a hearty meal like this one is highly tempting.

Game is still thin on the ground and foodstuffs created from it are far from being mass-produced. As a result, if you decide to make a gazpacho manchego you will probably have to settle for one made from rabbit or chicken bought in the supermaket. Although an optional ingredient, the saffron milk-cap mushroom, is available in abundance in autumn in many parts of the country where this type of gazpacho is traditionally cooked.

In any case, once you have found somewhere that can do you a hearty gazpacho – like small bars-cum-restaurants on the side of the street, for example – it is recommended that you book a table and order a gazpacho the day beforeor even several days.

Look to all five senses when seeking somewhere to try this dish, because gazpacho has become commercialised and made into a tourist attraction in some places, meaning it will not be very authentic. Avoid these places like the plague. This concept has nothing to do with whether they serve you the doughy bread in the soup, separate and whole, or on top of the meat, although some eateries will offer you some honey to put on the bread meaning you get a dessert out of it, too.

If, despite every effort, you still find it impossible to find anywhere that does a good gazpacho, here we give you a recipe that you can make in your own time at home – and don’t forget to combine it with a good wine from Castilla-La Mancha, too.

Some culinary purists will say that the following recipe is not the authentic model, or at least not 100 per cent, but I can assure you that it is easy to make and the results are delicious.

How to make Gazpacho manchego

500g rabbit
500g chicken (Note: either or both can be substituted with game meat)
Mushrooms (chopped) and snails (optional)
2 onions, finely chopped,
2 tomatoes, chopped
Half a red pepper, sliced
Half a green pepper, sliced
4 handfuls of bread-dough (made with water, flour and salt – similar to dumplings without the suet)
3 garlic cloves
Rosemary, paprika or another aromatic herb, extra virgin olive oil, salt.


In a saucepan, boil the chopped meat and snails for 20-30 minutes. Add salt. Fry the meat in a saucepan with some oil, and set aside. In the same oil, fry the onions and peppers. Next, add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Once fried, add the herbs, the stock, the meat and the bread dough, rolled into balls. Add the chopped fried meat prepared earlier, mashing up previously with a pestle and mortar together with the rabbit liver and three cloves of garlic. Allow to cook until the mixture reaches a thick consistency. Can be served accompanied by all i oli (available from most good supermarkets).

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