The weather men (and women) were warning us in April that summer this year would be very hot and somewhat longer than usual. So far they have been dead right.
When dealing with Palma’s weather, there is one thing we must remember: we are very near to the coast of North Africa. That means, among other things, that desert-like air frequently wafts over to us…that’s what’s been happening recently.
So those of us who can’t escape to cooler climes, such as Griegos in Teruel, the coldest place in Spain during the summer with night-time temperatures below 0ºC, have no option but to stay put and try to cope with the African heat.
There are all kinds of ways of trying to keep cool, from the clothes we wear (or don’t wear) to what we eat and drink.
One way of getting meals off to a refreshing start is to serve cold tangy soups. I gave recipes for some of the best cold soups on July 14, but here are a few more to choose from: summer has a long way to go.
I’ve already dealt with Andalusia’s famous gazpacho and the superb ajoblanco from Málaga (which is not as well known as it should be) but Catalonia has a delish cold soup you may not know.
It is called caponada and is similar to gazpacho andaluz in that both recipes contain tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic, vinegar and salt. A big difference between the two is that the tomatoes in a caponada are cooked before being added to the other ingredients.
For four people you will need: 1 kilo ripe tomatoes, virgen extra olive oil, garlic, 1 tsp pimentón dulce (sweet paprika), 200 grs crustless bread (Mallorcan pan moreno is best), 4 tbsps home-made mayonnaise, a small amount of good wine vinegar and salt to taste.
Peel the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Heat two tablespoons of virgen extra olive oil in a saucepan and gently sauté three plump cloves of garlic.
Add the chopped tomatoes when the garlic starts to turn golden. When this mixture is simmering, stir in a teaspoon of sweet paprika and cook for 20 minutes.
Put the crumbled bread into a smallish bowl and moisten it with water. Drizzle over four tablespoons of virgen extra olive oil and one of a good red wine vinegar. Mash with a fork and leave aside. When the tomatoes are cooked, add them to the bread mixture with 750 mls of water.
Put everything through a vegetable mill. You can also use a blender but the vegetable mill gives the soup a much better texture. Season with salt to taste.
Put four tablespoons of home-made mayonnaise into a bowl and slowly stir in spoons of soup until you have a smooth mixture. Add this to the soup and check for seasoning.
If you want to add a little more vinegar, now is the time to do it. But remember that the taste of vinegar in any dish must never be overwhelming, so don’t be heavy-handed with it.
Put into the fridge for several hours and serve very cold. As with all cold soups, never add ice cubes to the bowl or plate: they melt and dilute the soup, spoiling the balance of flavours.
One of the most tangy variations on the gazpacho theme I know of is from Murcia — and it is also one of the best. Its all-important basis is a home-made mayonnaise — it doesn’t work with any of the commercial brands. If you are not into making your own mayonnaise, give this soup a miss.
Gazpacho theme recipe with homemade mayonnaise
You will need: 1 kilo cucumber, 500 grs green peppers (the light green kind), 2 medium sized tomatoes, two crustless slices Mallorcan bread (pan moreno), vinegar and salt. For the mayonnaise: 2 egg yolks, 250 mls virgen extra olive oil, and 2 cloves of garlic.
To make the mayonnaise, peel the garlic, cut into small pieces and pound in a mortar with a little salt until reduced to a paste.
Add two eggs yolks and use the pestle to mix them well. Add a few drops of virgen extra olive oil and stir firmly and slowly with the pestle, always in the same direction.
Keep adding the oil drop by drop until the emulsion starts to form. You can then start adding the oil in a thin thread, always stirring with the pestle in the same direction.
When the emulsion becomes very thick, add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, blend it well with the mayonnaise and then keep adding oil until the emulsion will absorb no more.
Peel the cucumbers, discard some of the seeds, slice into eight pieces lengthwise and then cut into tiny cubes. Transfer to a deep bowl of a suitable size.
Wash and deseed the peppers, cut them into thin strips and then into very small pieces. Spoon in every drop of the garlic mayonnaise and mix it well into the cucumbers and peppers.
Cut the crustless bread into small pieces and put them into a small bowl or big cup and cover them with water. Squeeze the bread of excess water and put it into the mortar. Pound to a paste, stirring in any mayonnaise still sticking to the sides of the mortar.
Peel the tomatoes, chop very finely and add them to the bread, pounding the mixture with the pestle. Stir in a tablespoon of vinegar and a little salt and pound until there are no little lumps of bread. Add this to the cucumbers and peppers and stir well.
Stir in enough ice-cold water to give a nice soupy consistency — it must not be too thick, or too thin. Taste and add more salt or vinegar, if necessary. Put it into the fridge and serve very cold. All gazpachos that contain bread must be stirred well before serving, as the bread sinks to the bottom of the bowl.
As this gazpacho contains raw egg yolks it should be kept very cold at all times and used up within 24 hours. This is easily done because it is so cool and refreshing that one keeps going back for more.
Fruit is a great summer dessert or nibble and, handled in the right way, it can also be turned into delicious cold soups that will make a welcome starter on the hottest days of summer.
Melons are an especially good fruit for cold soups because they are plentiful in Majorca and most reasonably priced.
Cooked melon soup
Sometimes these soups are made with the raw fruit, but the melon can also be cooked in stock. Both methods produce splendid soups and both are worth trying.
For the cooked version you will need: 2 ripe melons, juice of a lemon, litre of fat-free chicken stock, 3 tbsps fresh mint (hierbabuena) finely chopped, pinch of ground cinnamon, 150 mls cream, salt to taste.
Slice one of the melons in half, extract the seeds and fibre and scoop out some small balls to be kept as a garnish. Sprinkle them with lemon juice.
Cut the rest of the melon into slices, take off the rind, cut the flesh into wedges and put them into a blender with the chicken stock.
Blitz, put the mixture into a saucepan, and add the mint and a pinch of cinnamon. Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.
Put the soup through a sieve and when it is cold stir in the cream. Keep it in the fridge until it is very cold and serve in ice-cold plates or bowls, garnished with the little balls of melon and a leaf or two of fresh mint.
Uncooked melon soup
The uncooked version is much simpler and you will need: 2 medium-size ripe melons, lemon juice to taste, and a syrup made with 250 mls of water and 100 grs sugar.
Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan, bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar crystals. Simmer for four minutes and leave to cool.
Slice the melons, remove pips and fibre, cut the flesh from the rind and chop roughly. Blitz in a blender to make a smooth purée.
Transfer to a big bowl and stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice (or to taste) and enough of the syrup to give the soup a nicely balanced sweet and sour taste.
If the purée at this stage is very thick, you can add a little ice-cold still mineral water. Don’t use tap water because it could easily spoil the taste.
Serve the soup well chilled and in ice-cold plates or bowls decorated with a few mint leaves. The petals of edible summer flowers add an exotic touch.
Avocados are a good buy with the price varying from €3.80 to €5.40 a kilo at El Corte Inglés. Even at the higher price, a good sized fruit costs around €1.50. I always get them there because they have a quick turnover.
Avoid the small ones that come in packs of three: they are usually either underripe or overripe and they always lack the buttery succulence of the larger ones.
Cold cream avocado soup
This cold cream of avocado soup calls for two pieces of the fruit costing around €3 so it makes a low-priced starter for two.
You will need: 2 ripe medium-sized avocados, 1 litre fat-free chicken stock, 1 spring onion, 1 ripe tomato, 4 tbsps lemon juice, a few drops of Tabasco and salt to taste.
Cut the avocados in two lengthways, remove the stone and scrape out the flesh with a small spoon. Put it into a blender with the finely chopped spring onion, the peeled and chopped tomato and the chicken stock. Blitz until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl and season with Tabasco and salt.
Keep in the fridge until well chilled and serve with tiny pieces of avocado sprinkled over the surface. A very thin slice of lime can also be used as an adornment.
Most of us serve soups in bowls or plates, but beautifully coloured ones such as this trio make more of a visual impact if presented in glasses of an appropriate size and shape.
The glasses shouldn’t be too deep. Biggish dry martini glasses are ideal and short chunky ones also work well. If the soup is a smooth one, sip it from the glass rather than eat it with a spoon.
All cold soups, especially those that contain cream, should be served in bowls, plates or glasses that have been in the freezer for an hour or more to get them extremely cold. It really does make a difference on a hot summer’s day.