Ajo blanco and almond pesto with sourdough croutons
For the Ajo Blanco:
* 250 g whole blanched almonds, (preferably Spanish)
* 750 ml ice cold water
* 75g stale white bread, crusts removed and soaked In water
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 3 tbsp olive oil
* 3 tbsp sherry vinegar
For the pesto:
* 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 50 g whole blanched almonds
* black pepper
* 50g basil
* 4 tbsp pecorino cheese, grated
* 150ml extra virgin olive oil
* lemon juice, to taste
For the sourdough croutons:
* 150g clarified butter, (ghee)
* 2 cloves garlic
* small handful of mixed fresh herbs, such as flat leaf parsley, basil and chervil
* 1 sourdough bread, thinly sliced
* 150 g seedless white grapes
* 4 quail’s eggs, softly poached
1. First, make the Ajo Blanco. Place the almonds into a food processor and grind them as finely as possible. Turn the machine off and scrape any of the grounds nuts that are stuck to the side of the bowl.
2. Add 5 tablespoons of the iced water. Turn the machine back on and whiz until the almonds form a paste just runny enough to turn in on itself.
3. Squeeze any excess water out of the bread and add to the almonds, along with the garlic. Whiz again until smooth.
4. Add the olive oil and gradually pour in the rest of the iced water, until you have a very smooth mixture with the consistency of single cream.
5. Transfer the soup to a bowl and season to taste with sherry vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper. You should end up with a good balance of flavour between the almonds, garlic and sherry vinegar. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
6. Just before serving, check for seasoning again and adjust if necessary.
7. For the pesto, pound the garlic and almonds in a large pestle and mortar with a little salt.
8. Add the basil leaves, a few at the time, pounding and grinding the leaves against the side of the bowl.
9. Stir in the grated cheese and mix well.
10. Beat in the olive oil and lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Store in a screw top jar in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
11. Make the sourdough croutons. Pre-heat the oven to 200Â°C/gas 6. Gently heat the clarified butter and add the garlic and herbs and allow the mixture to infuse for several minutes. Brush the slices of bread with the infused butter; place them on a baking tray and bake for 5-6 minutes, until golden brown.