Cold Almond and Grape Soup

Badem Çorbasi

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The almond, now grown along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, is another delicacy that was cultivated first in Anatolia (and one of only two nuts to be mentioned in the holiest Christian, Jewish, and Muslim texts—the other being the pistachio).

I first had the cold version of this sixteenth-century Ottoman dish in Şemsa Denizsel’s famous Kantin restaurant in the posh Istanbul suburb of Nişantaşi. She was inspired by Spanish cuisine in deciding to include grapes. I like the addition of unripened green almonds (picked in late spring before the outer skin becomes tough and inedible) because they give a sour balance to this mellow soup.

Ingredients

  • 50 ml (12/3 fl oz) almond milk
  • 1 slice thick sandwich bread
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 160 g (52/3 oz) blanched almonds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 125 m (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) white wine or sherry vinegar

Topping

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • pinch of sugar
  • 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) olive oil
  • 2 green almonds (optional)
  • 180 g (6⅓ oz/1 cup) green seedless grapes

Method

Put the almond milk in a saucepan with 50 ml (12/3 fl oz) of water. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat. Cut the crusts from the bread and discard. Soak the bread in the boiled almond milk for 2 minutes. Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and set the milk aside to cool.

Dry-fry the garlic (unpeeled) in a frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes, shaking the pan constantly to evenly brown. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Peel away the skin and any burnt spots.

Place the blanched almonds, soaked bread, toasted garlic and salt in a food processor, and blend to make a fine paste. Slowly mix in the oil, then the almond-milk water, and then 200 ml (7 fl oz) of cold water. Pour the soup into a large bowl and stir in the vinegar. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Next, make the garlic chips. Finely slice the garlic lengthways into about eighteen thin pieces. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with sugar.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 3 minutes until it’s golden brown. Scoop the chips out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Quarter the green almonds. Cut the grapes in half. Divide the badem çorbasi soup into four bowls. Decorate with the halved grapes, almond pieces and garlic chips. Serve chilled.