London was hotter than hot last week. The sun was blazing. Temperatures were high and, at least in Notting Hill, agony turned to anger as the revelations about Grenfell Tower began to trickle out and sink in. There were protests. Threats of riots. Marches in the street. London was hot last week in all the ways.
On Wednesday when I hosted a Creating for Good planning meeting for us to map out ideas for our next projects, (we have a few really exciting things in the works that we will be sharing soon) there was no way I was turning on the oven. Six women were coming over and the temperature inside the flat was the same as outside: Stifling.
When everyone arrived we gathered on the outdoor deck, hoping that the sun dropping down on the horizon would bring respite from the heat. It did not. So we had drinks piled high with ice, a magnum of extremely chilled Mirabeau rosé and a platter of grilled vegetables served with homemade labneh, hummus and bowls of Ajo Blanco.
The ajo blanco, aka white gazpacho, will live in infamy as the soup that saved us on that hot Wednesday night.
Ajo Blanco isn’t exactly the trendiest of soups. It’s kind of weird. It’s called a gazpacho but with no tomatoes. You have to soak bread overnight to make it. You mix sweet stuff and savoury stuff. It’s all the things that seem wrong with cooking. The result, though, is at the same time dense, complex, subtle, rich, velvety soup that is ultimately customizable to make a bit sweeter, more garlicky, richer or lighter. Once you make it the first time you can add and take away to your heart’s content to bring this motley crew of ingredients together to make the right soup for you.
And I’m not saying it was just the heat but even my husband, who swears off cold soups like vegans avoid visits to steakhouses couldn’t resist. He popped outside to check on us and to share his opinion on the heat and was encouraged to try the soup. He took a small, cautious bite. Not one to hide his opinion I was expecting the worst but as he dipped his spoon a second time, this time for a much larger bite, he looked around at the six of us all staring at him expectantly – and declared, “Okay, now THIS is good.”
The heat is off.
Ajo Blanco (White Gazpacho)
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 3 cups crustless 1” cubed sourdough bread (plus a few extras for garnish)
- 2 cups seedless green grapes, halved
- 2 cups peeled, chopped cucumber
- 1 cup whole blanched almonds
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk greek yoghurt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for serving
- 3 tablespoon sherry vinegar plus more for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- Combine garlic, bread, grapes, cucumber, blanched almonds and 500ml water in a medium bowl; season with salt. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
- Add to a blender and purée, adding water by tablespoonfuls if too thick, until smooth. With motor running, gradually add oil and vinegar and blend until soup is emulsified. Add yoghurt and blend for just long enough for it to be homogenous. Season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired. Strain soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; cover and chill until very cold, about 2 hours. Serve into bowls containing a few almonds, a few breadcrumbs and a few grapes.
- Makes 10 starter-sized portions or 6 main course portions.
Belle Année http://belleannee.com/