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Liquid Friday: Wintery Gazpacho Aka A Mediterranean Taste Of Pumpkin by 'Alessio Fangano'

Magic Pumpkin Gazpacho - Cropped

On 'Simply Fahad-istic!'s Best/Ten Most Talented Food Bloggers' series today,we are joined by our Albert Einstein Of Food AKA Recipe Taster AKA Alessio Fangano.I am sure all Food Blogger friends of mine know him well.A volcano of talent,Alessio was born and brought up in Italy,and then moved to Germany,where he discovered his true identity - as Recipe Taster.I love(And I am sure so do you!) his approach to food,the subtle combination of art as well as science,well evident in his recipes.Speaking of recipes,you need to try his no-fuss and hearty Sicilian Egg Gratin ,his Citrussy Crepes Soufflées that is almost screaming 'Eat Me!' and I,personally cannot wait to eat this Chocolate Rum Quinoa Pudding that looks like a dream!I feel hungry already!OK,over to you,Alessio!

It was more than 1 month ago when I attended the Food Bloggers Connect conference in London. Beside soaking up every word of wisdom dispersed in the ether by the speakers, I hosted little daily sessions on Food Science.
The first one was devoted to water and the wonders we can do with it. For each session I had devised a few tastings and demos to distract the hungry bloggers from the food court (I hosted my session during dinner break). The star of the first day was my Wintery Gazpacho. 

Art Center at Beaconsfield

I first created this recipe for an event I catered where the guests had it as lukewarm soup but for the London demo I wanted to underline its drink capability. The secret ingredient to this gazpacho, what made it wintery to my eyes, was caramelized pumpkin and, as any of us who have made a pumpkin soup knows, this made the gazpacho loaded with starches hence not so easy to drink.
There exists a quite straightforward procedure that allows us to create clear and smooth "waters" out of starchy and clouded liquids. It is called gelatin micro-filtration.

Art Center at Beaconsfield - Detail

The rationale of this technique is rather simple. When a liquid gels under the influence of gelatin or agar-agar, the water gets trapped into a three-dimensional mesh created by the interlocking strands of the gelling agent. In this way the liquid appears solid to us, unless the gelling agent has the bad habit of leaking. 
Back to the 3D-mesh created by the gelling agent, this essentially is a very fine sieve that doesn't let the water (and all its inclusions) move freely. If only we could free just the watery phase of the liquid through this sieve, we would have a way to get a clear liquid from almost anything.

Art Center at Beaconsfield - The Ragged Canteen

If we are using gelatin this can be obtained by simply freezing the gelled liquid. The watery phase will freeze into ice-crystals that, expanding as they grow during the freezing process, pierce the gelatin mesh. If we then thaw the whole block, the iced water will slowly treacle through the damaged gelatin mesh and end up in the appropriate container (most of the inclusions we have in sauces, broth and soups are way too big to pass through the little holes of the gelatin mesh).
This is the original technique as pioneered by Heston Blumenthal of the "Fat Duck" in UK. Despite the very simple rationale of the gelatin-micro filtration, the icing and thawing process takes quite some time (often up to 48 hours). 

Art Center at Beaconsfield - Connections

If you use agar-agar though you can have a limpid tomato water out of the tastiest tomato sauce you can think of in just a few hours. How does it work?
Agar-agar gels have the characteristic of leaking the liquid they entrap over time (a process called syneresis). Normally this would be a bad thing but in our case we can harness this weakness at our advantage. If we had to gel with agar-agar our pumpkin gazpacho, for instance, and then break the gel into pieces using a knife or a whisk, the clear phase would slowly separate from the gel. 
Considering that agar-agar gels at room temperature in matter of minutes, all we have to wait for is the treacling of this clear essence into our container. Ease peasy!
Now that I have filled up you heads with little chemists on white coats, let's pass to the recipe.

Magic Pumpkin Gazpacho

Servings : Makes roughly 800 ml clear water

1 tablespoon ghee
130 g Hokkaido/Japanese/Red kuri pumpkin, chopped 
80 g yellow onion, chopped
20 g celery, chopped
45 g green pepper, chopped
1 small can tomatoes in juice (400 g)
1-2 teaspoons ginger powder (to taste)
450 ml water
3 g agar-agar
Tabasco, to taste
Vodka, to taste

In a big pan melt the ghee and caramelize the pumpkin dices. When they will start to get some color, add the chopped onions and cook them until just softened.
In the bowl of a blender combine all the ingredients but the water. Blend the ingredients until smooth, dilute with almost all the water and season with salt and eventually more ginger powder.
In a little saucepan combine the leftover water (50-100ml will be enough) with the agar-agar powder and bring the whole to a simmer over medium fire. Without stopping stirring, let the agar-agar and water simmer for a full 5 minutes to hydrate the agar-agar.
Transfer all the agar mixture into the blender and blitz until well combined with the other ingredients. Pour the gazpacho into a shallow container and let gel at room temperature.
If you have the time, let the gel rest overnight in the refrigerator otherwise proceed with the next step.
Once the gel has firmed up, break it in pieces using a whisk and transfer it into a sieve lined with 2-3 layers of damp cheesecloth and set the whole over a container. Let the gazpacho water treacle down overnight, breaking the gel with the whisk every now and then. To speed up the process you could also squeeze the broken up gel through the multiple layers of cheesecloth but this will yield a less clear result (as of picture).
Serve the clarified gazpacho chilled with some drops of Tabasco and vodka if you fancy.

The variety of pumpkin you use will dictate how much you will need to impart the flavor to your gazpacho. The Japanese pumpkin is quite strong in taste and very starchy, if you use butternut squash you will have to roughly double the pumpkin quantity and cook it longer since this variety has a higher water content.

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Love to hear what you think!

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+ comments + 1 comments

12/11/2012, 18:22

Wintery gazpacho - who knew it could be this easy and all I need is a lab coat.

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