Tag Archives: white

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

13 Aug

This is a fusion of two of the most well-known Spanish summer soups: Gazpacho and Ajo Blanco. Gazpacho is traditionally a tomato based chilled vegetable soup and Ajo Blanco is a white version, also served chilled, made with almonds, garlic and olive oil.

They have their roots in southern Andalucia from around Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga and they are both believed to have originated with the Moors.

I was looking for white grape recipes because I walk by these bunches of Moscatel grapes every morning watching them grow sweeter and darker with the heat of the sun.

I found a recipe for White Grape Gazpacho which I really liked the idea of. I have to admit that I am not all that fond of cold soup, in fact I never eat it. I realise that this is sacrilege coming from the birthplace of Gazpacho but I can’t help it, I’ve tried and I’m just not feeling it. I don’t like olives either, I know, por dios!

For some strange reason the fact that it was a cold soup with fruit, rather than vegetables, made it more appealing to me. It may have been to do with the soaring temperatures and the inability to think about eating anything even the slightest bit warm. Whatever the explanation, I was happy to try it.

I’m so glad I did, this is a really refreshing soup. It has to be really cold though, I mean ice-cold, and you have to eat it quickly before it starts to get warm.

The Ajo Blanco cream came to me because I thought it needed a swirl of something on top. You could use creme fraiche but it’s a bit French and I saw Rick Stein making (well he was actually watching someone else making) Ajo Blanco on his new series, A Taste of Spain. The traditional garnish is some Moscatel grapes. So I decided to turn the tables and use Ajo Blanco as my garnish on the White Grape Gazpacho. The two work so well together.

This would make a really elegant summer starter/appetizer for entertaining. It looks impressive but is surprisingly easy. Just chill and serve.

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Honey Flow Farm & Spain Recipes

For the White Grape Gazpacho:

  • 350 gr white grapes (moscatel would be lovely, deseeded) I used seedless. Plus extra for garnish, halved
  • 10/12 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • a small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber (1 Spanish pepino) peeled and diced
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (1 small cebolleta), finely chopped
  • 220 ml (1 cup) veg stock
  • 220 ml (1 cup) iced water (I use 3 ice cubes crushed, and water)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all the ingredients apart from the stock and water together in a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Remove three-quarters of the mix to a food processor, pulse a few times then add the stock and iced water and process until it liquid but still with some texture. Then add in the rest of the ingredients from the bowl and pulse once more. Taste for seasoning and chill for at least 2 hours. Put your serving bowls in the freezer to chill too.

For the Ajo Blanco Cream:

  • 75 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 50-75 ml (1/2-3/4 cup) cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Put the ground almonds, garlic and sherry vinegar in a food processor and blend. Then add the olive oil and blend to a smooth paste. Add the water, a bit at a time until you reach the consistency of thick pouring cream. Season with the salt, taste, cover and chill for 2 hours.

To serve, ladle the cold Grape Gazpacho soup into the frozen bowls and top with a generous swirl of the Ajo Blanco cream. Top with a few halved grapes and some of the toasted flaked almonds.

Buen Provecho!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

A lone goat wandering down the middle of the road. We stopped the car to say hello, she was very friendly!

Rufus looking very serious, “Stop taking pictures of me!”

Have a great weekend,

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White Grape, Manchego and Fennel Seed Tartlets

16 Jul

Grapes are just coming into season here now. Where we walk with the dog there are vines, heavy with juicy bunches growing along the fences at the side of the paths. Every day they ripen a little more with the intense heat of the sun.

I’ve never cooked with grapes before. At the restaurant we had an Andalucian salad with Manchego cheese, grapes, Serrano ham and a Jerez (sherry) vinegar dressing that sold very well in the summer.

This got me thinking about the grape and Manchego combination. The Washer Up used to make a Manchego & Red Onion Tartlet that was delicious. He cut the puff pastry into triangles a little bigger than the triangle of cheese and made a red onion marmalade to go on the top. It was a very popular starter.

My version just swaps the red onion marmalade for a grape compote. I used elderflower cordial in the compote because it is the very essence of summer but you can use grape juice if you can’t get any. I bought mine in Ikea.

The fennel seeds idea came from a recipe for Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia in the Ottolenghi Cookbook. I am slightly Ottolenghi obsessed at the moment. The fennel seeds add an interesting flavour and texture, and the Spanish do love their anis so it finished off the dish nicely.

If you strain the compote before it cools you will also have a grape and elderflower syrup to drizzle over the finished dish, but it’s not essential.

Remember to put the frozen puff pastry in the fridge to defrost the night before you need it.

White Grape, Manchego & Fennel Seed Tartlets Recipe

makes about 6 or 7 tartlets, vegetarian

For the Grape, Elderflower & Fennel Seed Compote

  • about 400 gr seedless white grapes, stemmed & halved
  • 50 gr caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar & pestle

Stir the grapes and sugar in a large saucepan so all the grapes are coated and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the elderflower cordial and half of the crushed fennel seeds. (Keep the rest for sprinkling on the tarts later).

Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 -25 minutes. Pour the compote into a sieve over a bowl to collect the syrup and let the grapes drain well.

Store the grapes and syrup, covered, separately in the fridge until needed.

For the Tartlets

  • 1 block frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 6 or 7  5mm thick triangular slices of Manchego cheese, rind removed
  • grape compote (see above)
  • the rest of the crushed fennel seeds (see above)

Dust your work surface & rolling-pin with flour and roll out the block of pastry, with the narrowest end facing you, into a long thin rectangle about 2 or 3 mm thick.

See photo above. Place one of the slices of Manchego onto the beginning (nearest you) of the pastry rectangle so it is pointing like an arrow to the right. Cut around the cheese leaving a 5 mm border all the way around. Turn the cheese arrow round so it is pointing to the left above the first triangle and do the same. Continue alternating like this until you have run out of pastry. You should get 6 or 7 triangles.

Score a 5 mm border with sharp knife on each pastry triangle but don’t cut all the way through. Trim the short side of the triangle to make it neat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and place your pastry triangles on it, spaced apart. Put 1 small teaspoon of grape compote in the middle of each of the triangles and spread it out slightly. Don’t go into the 5mm border.

Brush the pastry borders with egg wash and sprinkle a few of the crushed fennel seeds on the borders too (save some for garnishing the finished tart). Cook for about 12 minutes until browned and risen. Keep an eye on them though.

You can keep them like this until you are ready to serve. Then preheat the oven again if necessary, top each with a slice of Manchego and bake for another 2 minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Top with another teaspoon or so of the compote and sprinkle with a little of the crushed fennel seeds. Serve on a flat plate with a simple green salad and drizzle over the grape and elderflower syrup. If your syrup has set in the fridge just heat it up with a bit more elderflower cordial.

These make a great light lunch or starter but you could also quite easily serve them as a dessert/cheese course. They’ve got that sweet cheesey danish pastry feel that would work for afternoon tea too.

They taste just as good at room temperature and would be perfect for a summer picnic with some sparkling elderflower cordial or a nice bottle of chilled cava.

Buen Provecho!!

Things that made me smile today….

Our new friend the Shetland pony. He likes us because we take him carrots.

The Washer Up calls him “Donkey” (from Shrek), I think it might be the teeth!!

Buen Fin de Semana!

Individual Cauliflower Cheese Pies

27 Feb

I used vegetable suet and wholemeal flour to make this pastry. I’ve had this packet of vegetable suet in the cupboard for a while and not really known what to do with it. Proper suet is a made from the fat deposits around the kidneys of an animal. I know, disgusting. Vegetable suet (I used Atora Light) has 3o % less fat and is made with vegetable oil. Much more appetising, don’t you think?

Suet can be used to make dumplings, pastries, pies and puddings.  The classic Steak & Kidney Pudding is made with suet pastry and so are most of the traditional Pork Pies. But don’t let that put you off!

The vegetable suet was really easy to work with, so much easier than using butter. You just stir the suet granules and flour together and add water. That’s it, no messy rubbing butter into flour business. You don’t even have to chill it before you use it (although I put it in the fridge while my filling cooled down). It’s definitely a much quicker option if you’re pressed for time or just very impatient, like me.

Don’t be scared about the pastry being that soggy, doughy pudding pastry either, unless you like that sort of thing! Even using wholemeal flour it turned out to be light, flaky and delicious. I followed the pastry recipe on the box (which was for a quiche) but you can send off for an Atora recipe book if you want to make that strange, soft pudding pastry. 

I knew I was going to make a cauliflower cheese because I had a cauliflower getting bored at the back of my fridge. I toyed with the idea of making dumplings with the suet and doing a Cauliflower Cheese Cobbler (which I will definitely try next time) or even a Cauliflower Cheese Quiche. But I am a sucker for individual pies (don’t like sharing, only child!) and The Washer Up wanted to see if I could make his favourite pork pie-like pastry with the suet, so pies it was.

Instead of making a white sauce with butter & flour for the Cauliflower Cheese, I cooked the leeks in the butter and put the cauliflower florets in a freezer bag with the flour and seasonings and shook the bag to coat the cauliflower. This way when you tip the floured cauliflower to the butter & leeks you get the white sauce base to add your cream or milk to and only use one pan, result!! This is a Nigella trick she uses to make her chicken & mushroom pot pies. Anything that saves time and washing up is a definite bonus….

Individual Cauliflower Cheese Pies

makes 4 small individual pies, vegetarian

  • 150 gr self-raising flour (I used wholemeal self-raising)
  • 75 gr vegetable suet (Atora Light)
  • 3 or 4 tbsp iced water
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch or less size florets
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & sliced
  • 30 gr butter, plus extra for buttering pie dishes
  • 30 gr plain flour, plus extra for flouring
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • a few sprigs thyme leaves chopped, about 1/2 tsp
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 pot creme fraiche about 200 ml
  • about 100 – 150ml veg stock 
  • 50 gr mature cheddar, grated
  • 50 gr Greek feta, or Lancashire crumbly, crumbled
  • 50 gr manchego or parmesan grated
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing

Butter & flour your pie dish/dishes and put them in the fridge. If you like you can make your pastry first and leave it in the fridge while you make and cool the filling. Mix together the flour, suet, salt & pepper in a bowl and stir in enough iced water to make a firm but not sticky dough. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge.

Heat the butter over a medium heat, in a large frying pan with a lid.  Fry the leeks in the melted butter with a pinch of salt for a few minutes until softened. Meanwhile put the cauliflower florets, flour, nutmeg, thyme, chilli flakes, salt & pepper in a freezer bag, seal it and shake it so that the cauliflower is coated with the seasoned flour. Tip the contents of the freezer bag (including the excess flour) into the pan with the leeks, stir and cook out for about 2 minutes.

Add the creme fraiche, stir to coat the cauliflower, then add in 100 ml veg stock, stir, cover and leave to cook for about 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower is tender crisp.You can add some more veg stock if it is too dry. Then add in the cheeses, turn off the heat and stir to melt the cheeses.  It should be a thick cheesy sauce clinging to the cauliflower with not too much liquid or the pastry might get soggy. Check seasoning and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200 C and take the pastry out of the fridge. Cut the pastry into four and roll out one piece at a time to a thickness of about 3 mm. Cut about a third off of the pastry and set aside for the lid. Push the pastry into your dish, you may have to cut bits off if it overlaps too much and stick bits in the gaps, this is fine. Just make sure it’s about the same thickness all the way round so it cooks evenly. Fill it right to the top with the cooled filling and push it down well.

Roll out the reserved third to about 3 mm thick and use another pie dish to cut a circle the same size as the top. Keep any pastry offcuts in cas you need them. Roll the circle out a little to make it slightly bigger, but not much.  Brush the edges of the pastry that will be touching the lid with the beaten egg then lay the lid on top. Push it down with your fingers, then crimp around the edges with a fork to seal it. Trim of the excess pastry round the edges, make 2 holes in the top with a sharp knife and brush the top with beaten egg.

Repeat with the other 3 pies and cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until puffed & golden brown.

Serve hot straight out of the oven with a simple green salad or some green beans, it’s delicious. Equally good served at room temperature for lunch with some beetroot chutney if you want to go down that ploughman’s/ pub lunch route.

Ahhhh.. Pub Lunch. There are not many things I miss about the UK but lunch (or even just a packet of cheese & onion crisps) in a pub garden on a sunny day is one of them. That, and Grandad’s pickled onions. Which would be great with this, by the way. Maybe Michelle could bring some over in May (hint). Now, you really wouldn’t want that to break in your luggage……………..!

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