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Ajo Blanco

There's always a moment in my family life (usually in early summer) when thoughts turn to Ajo Blanco, or white gazpacho. It's so easy to make on a hot day when you'd rather be lazing or sleeping under a tree. A bowlful is pure simple beauty: the colour a pure, slightly grainy, almost-white; the surface studded with deep pools and drips of green olive oil; and pale-green grapes bobbing below the surface. The taste is a subtle mixture of pure almond, garlic, and sherry tones. A glass of cool fino sherry and a hunk of sourdough alongside complete.

Aren't almonds magical? I think there is hardly a dish that can't be improved by their chewy moistness - well perhaps there are some. But add a handful to almost any cake and the effect is transformative.

It's very hard to improve on this version from Moro - The Cookbook. So this is the one I always use and am recommending to you. The soup is really best if left for at least an hour, or ideally more, for all the flavours to amalgamate. So, although it takes little time to make, plan ahead for best flavours. Likewise, the best grapes (muscat), oils (a green, peppery, Tuscan extra virgin) and sherry vinegars (avoid cheaper supermarket versions and select one made by a sherry maker) make for the most happy-making results. I know, I'm sorry, I am a bore about taste. But honestly I think life is too short not to savour every morsel and there are places to skimp and places where, if you possibly can, you shouldn't.

Ajo Blanco

25g whole blanched almonds,

750ml iced water

75g stale white bread, with crusts removed, soaked in some of the water

3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 level tsp sea salt

3 tbs olive oil

3 tbs sherry vinegar

200g white grapes, preferably Muscat

sea salt and black pepper

Serves 2-4

In a food processor, grind the almonds until the consistency is as fine as possible. At this point they should stick to the side of the machine.Turn off and loosen the nuts from around the edge. Add 5 tablespoons of the iced water.

Turn the machine back on until the almonds form a paste just fluid enough to turn back on itself. Squeeze the bread of excess water and add to the almonds along with the garlic. Combine until smooth. Add the olive oil and gradually pour in the rest of the iced water, until you end up with a very smooth paste similar to single cream.

Transfer to a bowl and season with sherry vinegar and salt and black pepper to taste. You should end up with a nice balance between the almonds, garlic and sherry vinegar. Chill the soup for at least an hour (it will be even better the next day.

Just before serving, check the seasoning again. Ladle into bowls and distribute the grapes evenly. Drip some olive oil over.

Enjoy, and please do comment below xx

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