Ajo Blanco

Chilled Almond Soup with Grape Granita

It has taken 3 years, but finally people now walk into MoVida during the summer time and ask for ajo blanco. Initially, customers were a little wary of a cool soup made of bread, almonds and garlic, served with a sweet grape granita. It started slowly. A few heat-exhausted customers stumbled in on a hot summer’s day and Andy, our bar manager, served them a small glass of this refreshingly smooth white liquid, which cleared their palates and enlivened their bodies and spirits — they were sold. Word has got around and now it’s an integral part of the summer menu.

Ingredients

  • 250 g (9 oz) blanched almonds
  • 135 g ( oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 250 g (9 oz) muscatel grapes or any other sweet grapes
  • one 2 cm (¾ inch) thick slice 2-day-old pasta dura or other firm crusty bread
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 900 ml (32 fl oz) chilled water
  • 90 g ( oz) alioli
  • 2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar

Method

Put the blanched almonds in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Pour the sugar into a saucepan with 310 ml (10¾ fl oz / cups) water, bring to the boil then simmer for 15–20 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by one-third. Set aside to cool.

Wash the grapes and remove them from the stem. Cut the grapes in half and remove the seeds with the tip of a knife. Purée the grapes in a food processor then strain the liquid into a bowl through a fine sieve, pressing lightly on the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the pulp. You should have about 170 ml ( fl oz / cup) of juice. Mix the juice with 80 ml ( fl oz / cup) of the sugar syrup. (Keep the remaining syrup in a jar in the refrigerator for other uses, such as cocktails or jarabe/ syrup in desserts.) Pour the grape and sugar syrup into a shallow cake tin.

Freeze for 2½ hours, or until the mixture is starting to freeze around the edges. Scrape the frozen edges back into the mixture with a fork. Repeat every 30 minutes for about 3 hours, or until evenly sized ice crystals have formed. If you are preparing the granita ahead of time, store it in the freezer and scrape once again just before serving.

Cut the crusts from the bread and discard them. Cut the bread into 2cm (¾ inch) cubes. Cover the bread with cold water and soak for at least 2 hours.

Drain the almonds and put them in a food processor. Squeeze the excess water out of the bread and add the bread to the food processor with the garlic. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Blend for 1 minute then, with the motor still running, add the chilled water, a little at a time, to create a thick ‘almond milk’. Keep blending until it is as smooth as possible.

Strain the almond milk twice through a very fine sieve. Gently stir the solids to help the liquid through. Do not push them through, as this could introduce small pieces of almond that would give the soup a gritty feel.

To make the soup, pour the alioli into a bowl. Gently whisk in the almond milk, a little at a time, until it is all used and the mixture reaches a smooth, even consistency. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Place a heaped tablespoon of granita in the bottom of six chilled bowls and pour the soup over the granita. Sprinkle over a little sherry vinegar and serve immediately.