I’d suspect that for most people, Gazpacho conjures up images of a cold tomato and raw vegetable soup consumed on hot days. What most people don’t realise is that this Gazpacho is only the Andalusian version. Gazpacho Manchego is completely different, although, the use of stale bread, garlic and oil is a concept that dates back to the Roman times in the Iberian Peninsula. This trinity of ingredients is present in all the gazpachos. The Manchego version is most probably of Jewish origin/influence as the bread element that is used is practically identical to Jewish Matzo (unleavened bread) and this bread is only made to make Gazpacho Manchego and is not present anywhere else on the Spanish table.
Gazpacho Manchego is a hearty peasant dish usually made with wild game such as hare, rabbit, quail and pigeon. Traditionally, the family gathers around the table and everyone eats straight out of the vessel where it is cooked.
When I think of Gazpacho Manchego, I am instantly transported back to my mother’s village, Pozoseco. This is where I spent all my summers as a child and therefore I have very fond memories of it even though, throughout the year it is a ghost village with only a few old people, sheep and a shepherd. But this is my land, the land of my heritage (from my mum’s side), and the land where my passed away loved ones rest in eternal peace. Before I get teary eyed, let me get on with the recipe! This recipe is the traditional one from my mum’s village. There are countless more; some without tomato, some with extra ingredients such as snails and others are more soupy.
1 whole chicken
1 whole rabbit*
3-4 bay leaves
1 head of garlic for the stock
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 or 4 potatoes, finely sliced
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 tin (400g) sieved tomatoes (tomate triturado)
1 Tbsp. sweet pimentón (or paprika)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
350g tortas cenceñas**, broken up into pieces
Oyster mushrooms, if in season
1 Make a stock by boiling the chicken, rabbit, bay leaves, thyme, garlic head, salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling boil and then simmer on low for at least one hour. When finished, strain the stock and remove the bones from the meats and cut into pieces. Reserve the stock and the shredded meat.
2 In a deep pan fry potatoes and once slightly soft fry the red pepper.
3 Make a well in the centre, add the garlic and pimenton and fry for a few seconds before quickly adding the tomato. You need to make sure you don’t burn the pimenton otherwise it will become very bitter.
4 After a few minutes add the stock, chicken and rabbit. Leave for a few minutes to come to a rolling boil.
5 Add the tortas cenceñas and mix well. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. If using mushrooms, add just before the end.
* If you dislike or can’t find rabbit you can use just chicken or any other game you like.
** tortas cenceñas: traditional unleavened bread from La Mancha. You could substitute for matzo.