Continuing my article on soups and broths, I will express some thoughts about cold soups and consider the generic term soup, although some soups could properly be called broths.

So let’s go to cold soups in spite of the fact that in our culinary heritage only the Alentejo gazpacho is of any significance. To have a cold soup it isn’t enough to chill a soup and serve it. A cold soup calls for a more delicate combination of ingredients. NOT ALL HOT SOUPS ARE SUITABLE FOR BEING SERVED COLD. As a matter of fact very few are suitable. The majority of our soups would be a great disappointment if served cold.

I’m not going to spend much time on the variety of consommés that are served cold, flavoured with port or sherry, with the addition of aromatic herbs, or the addition of a small decorative puff pastry or other pastry. They are essentially clarified fish or meat broths.

I know some people who state that there is no such thing as cold soups, that they are a culinary aberration. Soups are hot, and that’s it. Maybe this comes from the habit of only having hot soups and associating soup with winter.

Let’s start with our Alentejo gazpacho which seems to me to be the only Portuguese cold soup still commonly prepared. Gazpacho is an example of simplicity at its best. It’s country food that some people call poor man’s food. We can find a basic recipe. It’s prepared starting with a base of garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle. This base is placed in a tureen and sprinkled with olive oil and vinegar to taste. Add dry oregano. Then add fresh tomato purée, followed with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers, and sprinkle everything with chilled water. Serve it very fresh and at times add ice cubes to ensure that a low temperature is maintained. At the end it is customary to add small pieces of bread. There are some places where they even add pieces of black olives or smoked ham.

According to Maria de Lourdes Modesto, always well versed in such matters, a version of Mértola gazpacho is still prepared.  The preparation of this gazpacho starts with fresh tomato purée to which is added finely chopped cucumbers and smoked ham. Garlic and salt are crushed in the tureen in which the gazpacho will be served, and then add the tomato purée that contains the small pieces of cucumber and smoked ham. Oregano is sprinkled over this, and then olive oil and vinegar are added, and finally chilled water. Later bread, broken into small pieces by hand, is added.


However, in the Algarve we can find arjamolho whose recipe is identical to that of gazpacho. This is accompanied with fried fish or roasted sardines, and is served more as a side dish than as a soup.

But, internationally, Spanish gazpachos are the outstanding examples. The Andalusians claim that the gazpacho recipe was invented in their region and some writers claim that it originated with the Arabs who were settled there. Gazpacho means “soaked bread”. Curiously, Mikel Corcuera attributes the name gazpacho to “caspacho”, a Portuguese word originating in the time before the Roman occupation, “caspa” meaning “a small fragment”. The same author suggests that the first reference to gazpacho was in the 17th century. As far as its Arabic origin is concerned, it should be remembered that the Arabs had left this region before the tomato and peppers, nowadays essential ingredients, had arrived from the Americas. The people of Seville claim that they invented gazpacho. Many Spaniards suggest that gazpacho had its origin in ajoblanco, a cold soup with chopped garlic, almonds, bread crumbs, olive oil and vinegar with the addition of chilled water. Even grapes can be added, preferably the muscatel variety. Apart from this variation, there is a also a number of other Andalusian gazpachos which differ only in small details. Of course, nowadays gazpacho is presented as a thick cold cream. The first gazpachos were possibly prepared with a mixture of ingredients and with more bread than was the case in Portugal. But the Spanish/Andalusian gazpacho crossed frontiers and now the term gazpacho is used to identify a method for making cold soups. This is the case with the famous Lavagante gazpacho in the Parc dês Eaux-Vives restaurant in Geneva.

What is the difference between these and the Alentejo variety? As far as the ingredients are concerned, it is only necessary to add onion, and in the presentation we add small pieces of bread. In the Andalusian version, generous slices of bread are added and then stirred in and mixed well in the water. If we ask lay people, they will say that the Andalusian gazpacho is the Alentejo one finished off with a blender.  How times change!

 The other cold soup, and one of the classics, is the Vichyssoise, which also has it stories. This is a fine cream of French garlic and potatoes, smoothened with cream and garnished with chives. According to Jean Vitaux and Benoît’s “Dictionnaire du Gastronome”, Vichyssoise was invented by Louis Diat in 1910 when the terrace of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York was opened. Its origin was probably a common French recipe that he used, adapted and served cold. Now, being presented at that time, why is it that neither Escoffier in his 1921 “Guide Culinaire” nor even the 1939 edition of the Larousse mention it? And, what’s more, it isn’t mentioned in the 1962 “Dictionnaire de l’Académie des Gastronomes”. Maria Lucia Gomensoro, in her “Diccionário de Gastronomia”, confirms 1910 as being the date of the invention of Vichyssoise, but does not know the name of the creator, who may have been an immigrant French chef. Highly amusing is the fact that in a Portuguese publication, “Coisas Boas”, there is a recipe for Vichyssoise. Now, it seems that the first edition was published in the late 1960s at the time when the typesetting was done manually, letter by letter, and the typesetter was surprised by the statement that the soup should be served “very cold” and changed it to “very hot”. The fact is that the present edition still states that it should be served hot.

Vichyssoise is possibly the best known cold soup in the world, so much so that it has become a preparation method based on a light potato purée with the vegetables varied.

In Portugal nowadays it is common to find melon or cantaloupe soup, at times with the addition of cream and often with small pieces of smoked or crispy ham. But other soups are appearing. Some examples are strawberry gazpacho with shrimps and ginger, cold beetroot soup, cold water melon soup with basil, melon soup with cucumber and grifini pizza, cold cauliflower soup with coriander, and many more that are healthy and pleasant starters in hot weather. I will never forget a cold yellow pepper soup that I was served in the Cibreo Restaurant in Florence before the recent boom in cold soups.

But never forget that a cold soup is not a hot soup that you put aside and serve cold. You should think about the ingredients and their combination and know how they will taste when served cold. It’s very strange that in Brazil it’s a method seldom used. Except in the top range restaurants in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, it isn’t easy to find cold soups. And with that marvelous climate!

 These soups can be accompanied with excellent wines, and, increasingly, restaurants provide suitable suggestions.

© Virgílio Nogueiro Gomes

Photo by © Adriana Freire