Tag Archives: garlic

“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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Chicken in white wine with lemon and garlic

In Spring, I like fresher and lighter meals but sometimes I still want these to have a wholesome, restorative content. This is a both a fragranced and subtle dish, perfect for springtime, but with lots of tasty and meaty juices. Use a crisp dry wine wine – something full of flowers like a Sancerre or a Gaillac would work a dream but a dry  Moravian Riesling such as ones we tasted in Prague a couple of weeks ago would have also been perfect. Of course,the winter version of this would be the very classic “Coq au vin”!

The combination of lemon, wine and garlic is irresistible and good for body and soul. The paprika lifts the lemony flavours nicely and prevent them from getting too sweet or syrupy, with its peppery kick.

Ingredients list:

  • One plump organic chicken
  • Lemon in brine or fresh sliced lemons (unwaxed)
  • Garlic cloves, 4 to 5
  • White wine, 500ml
  • Stock, 250 ml
  • Carrot, 1 medium
  • Bay leaves, 2
  • Paprika, 1 Tbsp ( choose a hot version)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Choose a nice organic chicken and a good dry white wine and this recipe is foolproof! Beyond these two ingredients, and so long as they are tip-top quality, you can relax and play around with the rest…

Hinting of flowers

A smattering of flowers

 

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This was inspired by a long sunny week-end in Prague where we tasted some fantastic local Moravian wines, all dry, crisp and wonderfully flowery ; a proud reflection the beautiful spring flowers adorning the city : From the lilac in blooms along the river  islands to slopes of blossoming orchards on Petrin Hill.IMG_3911 The lemon and paprika flavours are very present in Czech cuisine and so I decided to blend all of these memories into a simple and humble dish, such as this casserole. The sort of dish you will feel proud to put in front of your guests because of its wholesome quality and simple but stricking  flavours.IMG_3920

Wash and pat dry the chicken but leave it whole – it will be very easy to carve later. Fry the garlic cloves in a deep dish with a little rapeseed oil. Add the chicken and brown all of its sides in the garlic oil. Try not to burn the garlic so move things around briskly.

Add the wine, chopped carrot and seasoning and get it to a high boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for  about 45 min to one hour, adding the stock along the way so there is always about 2 inches of liquid around the bird. Leave the chicken breasts down so they soak up the juices as they cook and infuse in the lemon and garlic flavoured sauce. If using freshly sliced lemons, put those slices in at the beginning but if using lemon in brine, put them in half-way through as they will cook quicker than fresh ones.

Serve when the meat is falling off the carcass and you have no need for a knife ! I accompanied this meat with a celeriac and sweet paprika purée (mashed with olive oil) which worked really well.

Here to enjoy a view of Prague in Spring, from the balcony room of Terasa U Zlaté Studnē.IMG_3955

My best restaurant addresses in Prague:

  • Terasa U Zlaté Studnē, GoldenWell Hotel, U Zlatē Studnē 4/166, 11800 Prague
  • Bellevue, Smetanovo Nabrezi 18, Prague 110 00, Czech Republic
  • Wine bar in Snemovni square, near Saint Nicholas church in Mala Strana
  • Letna Beer garden, in Letna park, overlooking Prague

 

Weekend in Prague

Weekending in Prague

 

>Classic Cesar salad

>This is dedicated to a lovely boy who has recently adopted it as his favourite dish… A dish signed with love – and illustrated by a kiss shot at the V&A.


Classic Cesar salad
Ingredients list for the sauce:
I soft boiled egg
2 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove
1 spoon full of lemon juice
15 cl of virgin olive oil
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
1 tbsp of red wine vinegar

You will also need:
1 Romaine lettuce
A few thick slices of stale bread
Shavings of parmesan

This is a classic salad and it is a great “fast food” recipe: It is made by the time you dial the Pizza number and is much healthier…

First boil your egg (2 minutes from boiling point) in a small pan. Carefully peel the shell off: the egg white should be cooked but the yolk runny. If under-cooked it can be a tricky operation… However messy it gets, put the egg into a blender then add all the other ingredients one by one.

Blitz for a few seconds. It will go paler and thicker, a bit like a mayonnaise.
Now cut up your bread and fry the chunks in olive oil quickly. Dry on a kitchen towel.

Wash your lettuce and cut it up into a large bowl. Pour the sauce evenly. Scatter the “croutons” and parmesan on top. The creamy white sauce over the green leaves make a very pretty dish! No wonder it’s a restaurant favourite.

If you wish to make this a fuller meal, you can add fillets of cooked chicken or sliced ham. But I prefer it pure and simple and true to the original!

>Taramosalata: Another dip for tomorrow’s homemade bread!

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Ingredients list:

Smoked cod roe 1 whole or about 200g

1 large lemon

Salt and pepper

Ground breadcrumbs 2 tbsp

Full milk 4 tbsp

Garlic clove 1

Olive oil 1 small glass

Pinch of cumin to serve

Mix the milk and breadcrumbs. Take the fish eggs out of the packaging then if necessary peel the thick darker skin and scrape it with a sharp knife. Put all the ingredients in a blender and slowly add the oil. If the mixture is too liquid, add some breadcrumbs. If it is too liquid, add lemon juice or milk, according to flavour. Mix in a bit of pepper and cumin.

Dust with cumin and serve with toast or pitta bread.

I get my smoked cod roe from Waitrose supermarket: it is sold in a plastic vacuum-sealed pocket in the cold store. You can use fresh cod roe and steam it before use, as I have done before, but you then miss a lot of the nice smoky flavour that you get in the Taramosalata they serve in the sea-side tavernas of Greece… This is so easy and delicious that you will never buy the processed version again!

>Bourride de baudroie

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Bouillabaisse comes from Marseille but this fish soup is rooted somewhere between Arles and Sète, the beautiful fishing port where Paul Valéry asked to be buried in the most heavenly cemetery on earth : “the marine cemetery”.

A sun-baked location on the sloppy hills that overlooks the sea below, it is inhabited by slender cypresses and seagulls.

Here I break my resolution to only post recipes that take under half an hour to produce! But this soup is so rich in flavours and images, so laden with the finest from the sea and the freshest from the fields, that it would be a great shame to leave it out when I’ve just made it. It is in fact very unfussy and almost impossible too mess up… All you need is a great fishmonger and you’re off!

Ingredients list:
Baking potatoes 2
Leek 1
Carrott 1
1 garlic clove
zest of one orange
Fennel bulb 1
Bay leaves 3
Fresh thyme 1 small bunch
Parsley 1 small bunch
Fish stock 1 1/2 litres
White wine 500ml
Monk fish tail (1 large one)
Small white fish such as brim or whiting 2 whole
A few fresh prawns (if you can)
For the aïoli:
6 fresh garlic cloves
Egg yolks 2
olive oil 25cl
Salt and pepper
Mustard
First fry your small fish (whole but gutted) in a cast-iron pan with the herbs and seasoning. When it is nice and brown, add some water. You need to cover the fish and let it simmer a bit. If the broth is too bland, add a Maggi cube to strengthen it up.
Leave to rest while you prepare your main pot: Slice the fennel, chop the leek, the carrot and potatoes. Add to it the garlic, finely grated, bay leaves, and wine. Put on a medium heat and add the monkfish when it is bubbling.
Strain your pan with the small fish into a sieve, then with a fork take out all the flesh and the prawns if you use them. Put the juice and the flesh into a blender and blitz away. Add seasoning to taste: it must be full of flavours and rich enough to stand up to the Aïoli- that’s next!
Pour into the pot and cover. Leave the soup to simmer but not reduce to much.
For the Aïoli, I use the upside-down attachment that came with my blender and is supposedly dedicated to coffee or spices: that way, I find I seem to always get it to “gel” – though I always do cross my fingers! This is almost a mayonnaise but full of the smoothness of garlic so – unlike mayonnaise- I find it pretty easy to get right!
Put a little mustard in the blender to start it up, then the garlic and salt. Pour the olive oil very slowly and steadily. The mix needs to start becoming creamy and smooth straight away, then you build it up slowly with the oil, until you get the right quantity. It is pungent and raw!
Keep aside in a bowl and serve with the soup and thick slices of toasted bread to spread on…