‘Ajo blanco is a chilled soup of ground almonds, bread, garlic and olive oil. I decided to make Stevie’s recipe last weekend after I had a similar dish at a new tapas bar, Copita, in Soho. There, the ajo blanco was minus Stevie’s melon and minus the classic grapes, but was instead adorned with little cubes of caramelised roast beetroot. The result was magic. The silky soup slithered over the tongue, which was then hit by sparks of sweetness from the beetroot, crystals of salt and slicks of olive oil. Buy the best almonds you can and serve small bowlfuls (it’s exceedingly rich) with good, crusty bread. It will be the best thing you’ve made in ages’

Thomasina Miers

Ajo blanco

Extract from Stevie Parle’s
My Kitchen: Real Food from Near and Far
Published by Quadrille

I make this as soon as the first charentais melons arrive. It’s important to try to buy really good almonds. The best I have found are the rounder nuts grown in Valencia, Marcona, or Puglia; the thinner and longer American almonds don’t have the same perfumed flavour. Traditionally, this soup is very garlicky, though I add a little bit less than the average señora. As with many of the things I cook, the process is very important to me. I love to grind this soup until smooth in my big granite mortar and pestle. When melons are out of season I make this with grapes or, in the autumn, little bits of apple.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Half a garlic clove, green sprout removed
200g good almonds, skins removed
Half a slice of very stale bread
A few tbsp olive oil
About 1tbsp sherry vinegar
1 charentais melon

Method

In a large mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with a good pinch of coarse salt until completely smooth. Add the almonds and continue to bash and grind. It’s best to get the almonds really fine at this point, before you start adding the liquid. Add the bread (put it in the oven to dry out if it is at all soft) and continue to grind.

Add some olive oil, about the same amount of water and the vinegar. The paste will become a little looser and you will be able to continue to grind until it is completely smooth. Slowly add water while grinding until the mixture is the thickness of double cream. Taste and adjust the salt and acidity.

Cut the melon in half; discard the seeds and scoop out the flesh, getting about four big curls of melon from each half. Put a couple into each bowl and pour over the ajo blanco. Pour a little olive oil on top.

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