Tag Archives: almond

“Ajo Blanco”, star soup of the Med Diet!

My Spanish born great grand-mother on my maternal side had a wonderful family recipe for “Ajo Blanco”, or so I am told because alas nobody recorded it and therefore nobody can recall its details… So, to complete my family recipe archives, I can only try to recreate this recipe with voices others than hers… Why does it seem so important to me to do so? Because Ajo Blanco is a bit of an iconic Andalucian soup and because it happens to be at the same time a very healthy and rejuvenating combination of almond meal and garlic. Popular and traditional cuisine often combine the qualities of being at once tasty and healthy and this very ancient recipe proves the point with its elegant simplicity.

I am just back from a long week end in Seville where summer was already warm and dry and the beautiful gardens of the Mudejar palaces where full of the most generous and fragrant blossoms. The photos below were taken inside the Casa de Pilatos in Seville Old quarter. But Seville is full of secret gardens that you can visit or sometimes just glimpse, past a patio of azulejos opening onto the heat scorched street… IMG_4397 IMG_4401

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Ingredients list

  • Raw peeled almonds ,200 gr
  • Garlic cloves,2
  • Olive oil, 70 ml
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Bread, 100 gr 70 gr de aceite de oliva virgen extra
  • Jerez or wine vinegar, 50ml
  • Water, 1L
  • Grapes or cucumber chunks to serve

This is a Thermomix adapted recipe but any good blender will do.

A fresh and crisp taste

A fresh and crisp taste for this “white garlic” soup

Soak the almond and bread in water separately for a few hours, if possible. Remove and do not use this water,

Mix the garlic, salt and almonds for 30 sec at speed 5. Add the chopped bread (no crust) and mix another 15 sec. You should get a sort of thick paste.

Keep at speed 5 and add the olive oil, followed by the vinegar and the water. Mix for 1 min at speed 7 to 8.

Season with a little salt and serve cold with the chopped cucumber or grapes to decorate and give a nice biting texture.

I like to serve this in glasses decorated with a mini skewer with fresh grapes and to sprinkle a few flaked almonds and some fried toast on top.

This is a strengthening, wholesome,  cold soup; a godsend in summer and a little miracle of health…

Favourite gardens in Seville:

  • Parque Maria Louisa – I had a beautiful morning run there, but you can take a horse carriage to it if you are no runner!
  • Los Jardines del Real Alcazar – The beautiful gardens of the moors kings… A treasure!
  • Gardens and patios of the Museo de Bellas Artes
  • Gardens of Casa de Pilatos – see pictures above.
  • And many more!!!
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Miniature classic Xmas puddings

This year, we are going totally British for our Christmas lunch. Usually I pick and mix : one starter here, a main there and some odd exotic bits from someplace else ; but this Christmas, lunch will be very traditional and purely British. For once, we are not travelling anywhere so that is one extra reason -if need be – to stay very local.

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In this spirit, I have decide to do my own Christmas puddings. I have been asked many times by friends to share a Christmas pudding recipe and I had none! But fear not, here is one coming!

I dived into some of my oldest books and searched far and wide to eventually settle on a mixed recipe which heritage is a cross between “Kitchen Essays” by Agnes Jekyll (in the beautiful Persephone Books edition) and Dan Lepard from The Gardian.

Little miniature puds in foil dressing

Little miniature puds in foil dressing

Agnes Jekyll calls hers “The Enchantress Plum Pudding” and calls for:
“Half a pound of bread-crumbs, sultanas, currants, raisins, mixed peel, suet, brown sugar, 4 eggs and the zest of two lemons. Mix and cook in usual way, serving with Brandy or orange butter.”
Though I love her concision and economy of style, I think my recipe needs a little expansion…

Ingredients list for 6 mini puddings:

  • Bread-crumbs, 125g
  • Sultanas, 125g
  • Currants, 125g
  • Chopped dates, 125g
  • Mixed peel, one small handful
  • Coconut cooking cream (or any shortening), 75g
  • Agave syrup, (0g
  • Brown sugar, 125g
  • Plain flour, 50g
  • Baking powder, ½ tsp
  • Mixed ginger, cinnamon and cloves spices, 2 tsp
  • nutmeg or mace, 1 tsp
  • Eggs, beaten, 2
  • Grated carrot, 1 small (or 50g)
  • Blanched almonds, 100g
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Dark rum, 100 ml

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and turn well with a wooden spoon until all is mixed evenly. It is traditional at this point to give a go to each member of the family at turning the spoon in the mixture and make a wish for the year ahead. The sunday before the advent calendar begins, so five weeks before Christmas, was traditionally called Stir-up sunday because it was the time to make your puddings ahead of Christmas day. You can still make it after that date but it will have less time to steep and for all the flavours to mingle…

Line and oil 6 small Dariole moulds. The ideal shape is round but you can be ground-breaking and inventive – you are making you own pudding after all!

Put the mixture into the moulds or into one big mould and cover with a small circle of baking paper. Then wrap each into a big square of baking paper and twist the ends on top. Wrap this into a square of foil and twist the ends then tie a rope around the mould, just below the rim and leave a loop – to retrieve the pudding after cooking. Cover and leave them to steep until the next day or two!

Put the puddings into a jam pan or a large cooking pan, pour some water in, being careful to only go halfway up the sides of the moulds – you will need to top up later but better not to drown the cakes… If unsure, you can stand the moulds on upturned jars or a small rack.

All ingredients together

All ingredients together mixed

Cover the pan with foil or a lid and cook on low flame  for 3 hours, checking the water level from time to time.

Let them cool down and put them under a cloth in a cool, dark corner of the house until Christmas day. A cellar would be ideal but failing that I have put mine under a bed!

On Christmas morning, you will need to steam them again in the same way for 2 to 3 hours. Serve warm, pour a thimble of rum over and set light to it!

I love the festive, lovely glow of anything flambéed! Love the smell it leaves behind too…

Stir and wish

Stir and wish for a happy Christmas day

 

 

 

 

Crumble of rhubarb, apples and blackcurrant GF

Pie is my favourite number...

Pie is my favourite number…

Over my years as a London based foodie, I have developed an addiction to pies, crumbles, cobblers and anything with a crust outside and stewed fruit inside… The simple mention of this sends a tremor along my spine: Fruit and crust, a very sexy combination indeed. I still do love tarts and tartines, but I think I slightly favour a crust ON TOP rather than UNDER.

Each season offers its own enticing variations and Autumn is a season for : rhubarb, sharp apples and black currants. All three are quite acidic so in this version, I have put a little more sugar than usual to counter balance the tartness of the fruit but you can make it less sweet if you wish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stalk of rhubarb
  • Bramley or other cooking apples, 2
  • Handful of frozen blackcurrant
  • Cornflour, 1 Tbsp
  • For the Gluten Free crust:
  • Ground almond, 100g
  • Chesnut flour or rice flour, 50g
  • Butter, 100g
  • sugar, 100g

Cut up all the fruit, mix it with the frozen berries and the cornflour – the object of the cornflour is to soak up the juice of the rhubarb to avoid a very wet pie!

Mix the flour, sugar and butter with the tip of your fingers until you have a sand-like texture. Lay the fruit in a pie dish or gratin dish. I have used frozen blackcurrants here, but you can opt for blackberries instead. They have a more subtle flavour but work deliciously toward a very British taste.

Top the fruit with the flour mix, trying to cover all of the fruit but do not worry if the lumps do not hide it perfectly. Just try and shake your sandy mix everywhere.

Put in a hot oven for 45min at 180º C.

Eat warm with some clotted cream or yogurt. If you are in France, it goes also well with a nice Faisselle or full fat fromage frais. This is the ultimate in homely, comforting puddings and with this GF version you won’t be leaving anybody out!

A patchy cover is not a problem...

A patchy cover is not a problem…

 

Lemon and almond pudding

One of the pleasures of the cold season is the beautiful citrus fruit that we can look forward to! The lemons, oranges and mandarines that our body craves in the winter cold; but also the more exotic bergamot, lime or grapefruit… I am just back from Morocco where citrus groves adorn the immaculate parks and roads of Marrakech. I have brought back many scents and spices in my luggage but before I lay it all out on here, I give you a lemon infused pudding that should warm your soul with the fragrances of sun-scorched bazars and lemon scented gardens. Morocco is an assault on all of our senses, but the sense of smell is the most abused and ravished of all… Anything else seems bland and monochrome for a while afterwards…

Rioting colours in a dish

Rioting colours in a pottery dish

Ingredients list:

  • Lemons, thin skinned and unwaxed, 4
  • Sugar, 175g
  • Eggs, 4
  • Ground almonds, 175g
  • Bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp

Top and tail the lemons and rinse them under hot water.

Put them whole into a large pan with 600ml of water and cook on a slow boil for 1 hour. Making sure there is always enough water: you should end up with about 300ml of liquid – add some if you do not!

Open the lemons and take out the pips.

Put it all through a blender with the cooked juice and make up a thin semolina-like, quite soupy mixture. I sometimes put this through a fine sieve if it looks to rough or if there are impurities.

Mix the sugar and the eggs and beat on high speed until creamy.

Add the ground almond and the bicarbonate. Add the lemon purée.

Set into 6 to 8 small “dariole” moulds or one shallow tin.

Bake in the oven at 180º for 30 to 35 minutes and serve at room temperature, inside the pans.

It will raise a little and produce an intensely lemony creamy pudding. You can also try this with clementines or thin-skinned oranges.

Serve a warm, sweet mint tea with this to transport you right back in Marrakech…

Intense lemon

Intense lemon

WHAT TO DO IN MARRAKECH:

Go and spend a night in the desert and experience the beautiful skies of Africa at La Pause,30 km out of Marrakech,just before the village of Agafay. Have a memorable beef “tagine”, under a low hanging Touareg tent, served by candlelight.

Dine with a view over the lit Koutoubia tower in the Café Arabe, near the Mouassine Mosk in the medina.

Go for a drink at the Mamounia hotel and have a stroll in the beautiful gardens of Churchill’s favourite hotel.

Visit the delightful Musée de la Palmeraie, route de Fés, and explore the Andalous garden, the cacti garden and the water garden with its little hut in pisé (a traditional mud and grass building), then admire the contemporary art in the galleries that lead from one part to another. This museum is a little out of the beaten track but worth the visit for its soothing calm and the absence of tourists… 

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

Lunch above the shops after browsing the souks by climbing to La Terrasse des Epices. Mist is sprayed around the arab-style shaded eating areas and the cool bar has a view over the old markets. Later get tempted by the beautiful craft sold all around the maze-shaped alleys. Everything looked tantalising to me…

 

Almond, lemon, ricotta and polenta cake

If summer is not coming to us, we will conjure it up in our plates! We will force it into our dishes and how best to do that than to use the enchanted flavours of Sicilian lemons, unadulterated ground almond and exotic polenta in order to create a “spirit of summer” cake? Seasonal and gluten-free.

Baking is soulful and a proper pick-me-up when all else is a disappointment including the longing for sunshine. This cake will fill your kitchen with the scents of a lemon grove and the lingering taste of sunnier places… You can serve it as pudding or eat it for breakfast as they do in Sicily, or better even : have it with a cup of tea outdoors! Any CHANCE of a picnic this week-end?!

Ingredients list:

  • Butter, 50g
  • Sugar, 280g
  • Eggs, 6
  • Fine polenta, 150g
  • Ground almond, 200g
  • Baking powder, 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Honey, 2 Tbsp
  • Zest of 5 lemons and juice of one
  • Ricotta, 300g
All the scents of summer

All the scents of summer

IMG_3708Pre-heat the oven to 160.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy and add the eggs one at a time.

Zest each lemon carefully – better to choose organic and unwaxed lemons if you can. Juice one of them and keep the others for a Granita de limone.

Fold all the remaining ingredients and pour into a lined and buttered cake pan.

If you have some lemon extract, you can add a few drops for a more intense lemon taste. Bake for just over an hour at 160 °. It is ready when the middle is still ever so slightly wobbly. The result is a dense and intense cake with a silky and melting texture. Irresistibly lemony…

Serve cold with yogurt and on its own.

This quantity will fill a dish 23 cm in diameter. The recipe is inspired by an australian site: www.goodfood.com.au With thanks!