These are great dishes for summer events. The gazpacho can be made ahead and will improve while waiting in the fridge: a quick stir to recombine everything, and you’re good to go. The aïoli makes for a wonderful centrepiece – piles of peak-season veg with a herby, garlic-spiked dip for liberal dunking. Again, this can be mostly prepared in advance, with just few elements to finish on the grill, to give you more time at the party.
This is a vibrant and cooling take on gazpacho for when the sun is out. Make sure to add a decent amount of salt, oil and vinegar to help it sing.
Prep 15 min
Chill/rest 1 hr +
Serves 6-8 as a starter
1 cucumber, deseeded, flesh chopped
2 green bell pepper, stem, seeds and pith removed, flesh chopped
1 large fennel bulb, tough stalks removed, rest chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
5 spring onions, trimmed and chopped (or 1 small onion, peeled and chopped)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
50g stale white bread, cut or broken into chunks
2-4tbsp sherry vinegar, or more to taste
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste, plus extra to garnish
Sea salt and black pepper
25g basil leaves
25g mint leaves
1 green chilli, deseeded if you prefer less heat (optional)
Put the first seven ingredients in a large bowl with the sherry vinegar, half the oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt. Give everything a good squeeze with your hands to help release the juices, then leave to stand for at least 30 minutes, and longer if possible.
Tip the mix into a blender and blitz until very smooth; you may need to start with half the mix and blend it down before adding the rest. Blend in the basil and mint leaves, as well as the chilli, if using, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed: it will definitely need more salt and may need some more vinegar to help bring out the flavours. Add the remaining oil and blend again until the soup is smooth. Chill until very cold.
Serve drizzled with more oil and a twist of black pepper, and some crusty bread on the side.
Grand herb aïoli
This is a twist on the French classic. A few charred elements add a different dimension, while the herb-spiked aïoli ties everything together. Swap in other veg if they take your fancy. If you don’t have access to either a griddle or barbecue, roast the courgettes, aubergine and peppers in a very hot oven, turning them over halfway.
Prep 20 min
Cook 30 min
250g green beans, topped
Salt and black pepper
600g new potatoes
6 courgettes (about 900g), cut into 1cm-thick slices
3 aubergines (about 900g), cut into 1cm-thick slices
75ml olive oil, for cooking, plus extra for drizzling
4 red peppers – romano are great, but bell also workl
250g cherry tomatoes, on the vine, ideally
2 baby gem lettuces
200g kalamata olives, or any others that excite you
2 lemons, cut into wedges
1-2 baguettes, to serve
For the aïoli
2 egg yolks
20g dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
1 green chilli, deseeded (optional)
250g extra-virgin olive oil, soft flavoured not too bitter, or use 50:50 with a low-flavour other oil
20g basil, dill and coriander
First make the aïoli. Put the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, garlic and a good pinch of salt in a blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil through the central funnel until the mix emulsifies. Add the herbs, blend again until smooth, then add more salt if needed.
In a pan of well-salted boiling water, blanch the beans until just tender. Lift out with a slotted spoon and refresh in iced water. Add the potatoes to the boiling water, simmer until easily pierced with the tip of a knife, then drain and set out on a platter with the beans to one side of them.
Lay the sliced courgettes and aubergines on a baking tray, drizzle with enough oil just to coat and scatter over a good pinch of salt. Toss to disperse the oil evenly, then slowly grill the slices in batches, either in a griddle pan or on a barbecue, for about 3 minutes on each side. As they are done, transfer to another tray, so they stay warm and finish off cooking in the residual heart.
Pop the peppers on to the grill and cook, turning as needed, until the skins blacken and blister. Once tender and giving, transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the blackened skins, remove and discard the stems, seeds and pith, and tear the flesh into strips. Add to the platter.
Meanwhile, cut each lettuce into quarters lengthways. Add to the platter with the tomatoes and lemon wedges, and put the olives in a bowl alongside. Decant the herb aïoli into a bowl and add that to the platter as well.
Once the courgettes and aubergines are done, arrange them on the platter. A final drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt never hurt. Serve with baguette cut into chunky slices.