Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ajo Blanco or Dazzlingly Good Chilled Almond Soup with Grape Granita


I am always shocked when people say they don't like cold soup. To me, especially when the weather is cripplingly hot, there is nothing more refreshing or satisfying than a cold soup. And mostly, cold soups are very easy to make. Usually the only work is in selecting beautiful fresh produce and then the blender takes over. But sometimes, it's nice to put a bit of effort into a cold soup.

This recipe definitely requires a bit of effort, but don't let that put you off. It is from Movida: Spanish Culinary Adventures Cookbook by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish, a book that I am in love with at the moment. Everything I have tried so far has been amazing. While I am yet to find a super simple recipe in it, I have been richly rewarded for the effort required by the recipes. I have been eyeing off this recipe - Chilled Almond Soup With Floating Grape Granita - for months, and intended to get it done before the Christmas Holidays but life got too frantic and it didn't happen. So here it is - not something to whip up tonight, but definitely worth it for a summery special occassion. Incidentally, this soup has a couple of sub recipes to complete first: an aioli and a fresh grape granita, both of which are great on their own.

PS I am sending a bowl of this over to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday.

Ajo Blanco or Chilled Almond Soup with Grape Granita
from Movida: Spanish Culinary Adventures by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

250g blanched almonds
135g caster sugar
250g muscatel or any other sweet grapes (I used menindee seedless - if your grapes have seeds, remove the seeds before you start the granita)
1 x 2cm slice of 2 day old firm crusty bread
1 garlic clove
900 ml chilled water
90g aioli (see below)
2 tbl sherry vinegar

Put the blanched almonds in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, pour the sugar into a saucepan with 1 1/4 cups water, bring to the boil and simmer until it reduces by about 1/3 (approx 15 minutes). Allow to cool.

Wash the grapes and pick them from the stem. De-seed if necessary. Puree the grapes in a food processor or blender, then strain through a fine sieve, pushing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. You should have about 2/3 cup of juice. Add 1/3 cup of sugar syrup, or enough to create 1 cup of mixture. (Put remaining sugar syrup in the fridge for another use - maybe a margarita?) Pour the grape and sugar syrup into a shallow cake tin, and place in the freezer. After 30 mins, remove from freezer, scrape the mixture with a fork, fluffing and mixing to create an even texture. Return to the freezer. Repeat this process two or three times, until all the granita is frozen into even crystals. Leave granita into the freezer until you are ready to use it (it may need a final scrape just before serving).

While the granita is freezing, cut the crusts off the bread, cube it, and soak in a bowl of cold water for 2 hours.

Drain the almonds and place in a food processor. Drain the bread, squeezing out any excess water and place it in the processor, with a clove of garlic. Add 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for 1 minute, then keeping the motor running, slowly add the chilled water a little at a time to create almond milk. Blend the mixture until it is as smooth as possible.

Strain the almond milk twice. Stir the solids to release any liquid but do not push on them or try to force them through, so the soup remains very silky. Put aioli in a bowl, then whisk the soup in a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. Refrigerate for at least one hour, then serve in chilled bowls with some granita floating in the top. Season to taste with sherry vinegar.

Aioli:

At least 2 garlic cloves
2 pinches sea salt
2 egg yolks
1 tbl dijon mustard
150ml extra virgin olive oil
150 ml sunflower oil
2 tbl lemon juice

Pound the garlic and salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle until you have a garlic paste. Place a bowl on a wet tea towel that has been folded into quarters to stabilise the bowl. Add the egg yolks, mustard and garlic paste and begin whisking until it is smooth.

Begin adding the oil very slowly, whisking coninuously. Ensure that each addition of oil has been completely absorbed into the emulsifying mixture before adding more. Conitinue adding and whisking until you have a thick mayonnaise. Season with lemonjuice and sea salt to taste (nb dissolving the salt in the lemon juice will stop white spots forming in your aioli.) Once satisfied, whisk in 1 tbl of warm water to help retain the emulsification. Aioli will keep 2-3 days in he fridge.

2 comments:

Debinhawaii said...

Wow! What a gorgeous looking and sounding soup. That's an incredible combination of ingredients and I think you are right, it's worth the extra effort!

Thanks for coming to Souper Sunday, the round up is posted.

Aloha,

Deb

Lisa said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Wow, what interesting ingredients. Looks delicious!