I have wanted to make Spanish Almond Soup for the longest time. It perfectly suits the steamy weather we are having and my current ‘no cook’ philosophy. The nearest you will come to heat is boiling the kettle. Finally, the stars aligned and I was able to buy some good quality almonds to use in this chilled soup.
In much of the world, chilled soups are associated with the 1970’s. They represent a time when people were first able to access low-cost travel packages and could start to explore the wider world. Back in their own homes, they showed off the cuisines they had sampled. Chilled soups at dinner parties were a conversation starter. Unsurprisingly, many of the chilled soups come from climates that have scorchingly hot summers, very similar to our own. Of course, the recipes have been around a lot longer than the 70’s. Ajo Blanco has been around since the Middle Ages when the Moors controlled Spain.
Fresh Is Best
Ajo Blanco translates as White Garlic and whilst there is garlic in this soup, it mainly comprises almonds and stale bread. As there is no cooking involved, it’s important to use the freshest almonds you can get. I have been lucky enough to find an almond grower and seller at Jan Power’s Farmer’s Markets. The almonds are grown in Mildura and sold locally for only $20 a kilo. That’s less than the cost of imported supermarket almonds that may be several years old. I had to laugh when I bought some on Saturday at the Powerhouse Markets.
The guy selling told me it was his dad’s business. His dad had gone back to Mildura to manage the farm so he had moved to Queensland and this was his first market. I said ‘We’ve put on some great weather for you. 30c. 83% humidity and it’s only 8am. Welcome to Brisbane.’
The traditional accompaniment for Ajo Blanco are chilled white grapes, which add sweetness and contrast to this smooth and creamy soup. You could be a devil and try some fine slices of apple. Or, top with some sweet and juicy chilled prawns. I used crisply fried chorizo to top the cocktail party canape version. It is surprisingly filling and would certainly be a talking point at your own dinner party or barbecue.
Spanish Almond Soup
- 1 1/4 cups of almonds, blanched
- 3 slices stale sourdough or Turkish bread
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 60 ml Sherry vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- green grapes to garnish
- 10 almonds to garnish (skin on)
- olive oil to garnish
- If you have bought almonds with the skins on, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. As the water cools, the skins should slip off the almonds easily.
- Break the bread into chunks, place in a bowl and pour water over the top and allow to soak.
- Place blanched almonds in a blender and process in bursts to chop and then start to grind the almonds. Stop after a minute or so and wipe down the sides of the blender.
- Squeeze the water from the bread and add the bread to the blender along with the garlic cloves, vinegar and salt.
- Turn blender on and slowly pour in the water whilst the blender is running, allowing ingredients to combine and puree.
- Dribble in the olive oil, allowing it to emulsify with the soup. Pour the soup into a jug, straining through a mesh sieve. Chill in the fridge.
- Roughly chop the almonds to be used for the garnish. Place in a small frying pan with a couple of drops of oil and a pinch of sea salt. Toast on a moderate heat, stirring constantly until the almond pieces start to brown.
- When you’re ready to serve, pour soup into bowls. Halve chilled grapes and place in soup with chopped almonds. Drizzle with olive oil.
Serves 4 – 6 as a main (6-8) as an entrée