Ajoblanco (White Gazpacho) with Goat Cheese Croutons

There are several versions of ajoblanco, some use leeks, some use raw garlic, this is my version. Most recipes do not ask you to toast the almonds, I feel lightly toasting them intensifies the nutty flavour. Pass the soup through a sieve two to three times, if you like and serve very cold. The volume will decrease but the soup will be smoother. I like a slightly grainy texture, it reminds me that almonds, the star ingredient, were used. Ideally, you would use Spanish almonds, which I brought back from Barcelona earlier this year and used in this recipe(they look different to regular almonds). I used regular flaked almonds for the soup - easier to toast and blend than whole almonds.

Ingredients:
  • 3 thin slices white bread (or baguette), crusts removed
  • 1 cup water (more if needed)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 100 g flaked almonds (keep 2 teaspoons aside and toast)
  • 2 large English cucumbers, peeled and cubed (remove all green peel)
  • 3 T champagne or sherry vinegar
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and white pepper, to taste
  • 6 white grapes, sliced.
  • For the Croutons:
  • 8 slices sourdough baguette (or other baguette)
  • 1/2 cup grated Mediterranean Delicacies Dutch Goat's Cheese

Method: 

1. In a large bowl, add bread and 1/2 cup water. Allow to soak.

2. In a pot, on medium-low heat add the tablespoon of olive oil and onions. Fry for a minute. Add the garlic and almonds and stir. Do not allow them to catch or burn. When the almonds just start to colour (about 2-3 minutes), remove from heat.

3. Add cubed cucumber, onion and almond mixture and salt. Allow to sit for 20 minutes at least- salt will draw out more water.

4. Add remaining water, vinegar, pepper and olive oil and blend in a processor until smooth. Season.

5. Pass through a sieve 2-3 times. Leave in fridge a few hours or overnight.

6. When ready to serve, sprinkle slices of baguette with coarsely grated hard goat's cheese (or Parmesan) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 6-8 minutes or until the bread is brown and crisp. Don't allow the cheese to burn. Serve soup cold with sliced grapes and toasted almonds and the goat cheese croutons to dip. It's so comforting but refreshing at the same time.

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