Recipe appears in
I’m sure the photo is doing enough to capture your attention and push you past the ‘huh?’ factor, but stay with me. My favourite part of the traditional soupy version of ajo blanco is the garnish – some people use cucumber, others prefer fruit, be it melon or grapes. I’ve combined the two, upped the garnish, and now it’s up to you what ratio of soup to salad you’re into. You’ll note I’ve also skipped the bread bit, which is usually what thickens the soup, choosing instead to whip yoghurt and cucumber flesh into a frenzy. You can make this fully plant-based by subbing out the yoghurt and adding more cucumber, too. If you can get your hands on some black garlic, it will elevate the dish even further, creating texture, interest and extra funk – like an ersatz black truffle.
2 black garlic cloves (mildly optional)
100 g (1 cup) blanched almond meal
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable stock
3 Lebanese (short) cucumbers
3–4 garlic cloves, peeled
50 g (1 3/4 oz) plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt flakes
100 ml (3½ fl oz) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
½ honeydew or Piel de Sapo melon
1 cup (180 g) green grapes, larger ones cut in half lengthways
1 cup (150 g) fresh currants (if available)
1–2 star fruit (carambola), sliced – very optional, but very wow!
amaranth or micro-herb leaves, to garnish (optional)
If using the whole black garlic cloves, pop them in a preheated oven at 90°C (195°F) for 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and set aside.
Toast the almond meal in a dry frying pan over medium heat until fragrant but not coloured, giving the pan a shake every now and then – about 5–10 minutes. Pour in the stock and stand off the heat.
Peel and quarter one of the cucumbers. Chop the others into interesting oblong-ish shapes by rolling across the chopping board and cutting into fork-sized, uneven pieces; set aside for the salad.
Add the quartered cucumber to a blender or food processor with the plain garlic cloves, yoghurt, vinegar and salt. Whiz for a minute or so, until the garlic is fully blitzed.
Add the almond meal and stock mixture, blitz again for 10 seconds or so to combine, then with the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. Taste for seasoning, transfer your ajo blanco to a container and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.
Scoop the seeds out of the melon with a spoon. Slice the melon in half lengthways, then cut each half into four thin wedges. Turn skin side down and peel off the skin as you might a fish fillet, edging a sharp chef’s or paring knife along between the flesh and the skin.
Create a moat of chilled ajo blanco in the bottom of a shallow bowl or platter. Arrange the melon and cucumber jauntily along the bowl, then let the grapes, currants and star fruit fall where they might. Pour over more ajo blanco. If using the black garlic, grate the dehydrated cloves over the top. Finish with your chosen garnish and an extra drizzle of olive oil and serve.
Turn the ajo blanco into a quick tzatziki dressing. Leave out the almond meal, stock and olive oil, then simply bump up the yoghurt factor.
Serve as a simple chilled soup the next day, sans all the fruity trimmings. Top with sliced cucumber, flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.
Recipe appears on page 34 from In Praise of Veg.