Chilled Walnut Cucumber and Grape Soup
The thought of a chilled soup always makes me a bit twitchy, but I am usually pleasantly surprised. This one is a very lovely soup recipe I based on the Spanish, White Gazpacho (Ajo blanco) which uses blanched almonds. You only need a little cup of it as a starter as it is surprisingly creamy and rich, so this will serve 4-6 people. Make sure it is well chilled, as if lukewarm, it will be quite horrid.
100 g shelled walnuts
300 g white and black seedless grapes
75 g white breadcrumbs or about 2 slices day old white bread, crusts removed
2 spring onions
2-3 cloves garlic
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons sherry or white wine vinegar
300 ml iced water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Preheat oven 180 C. Tip the walnuts onto a baking tray and toast in oven for 5-6 minutes or until golden. (Use a timer. I always forget!) Tip onto a clean towel and leave to cool, then rub the nuts with the cloth to remove as much skin as you can. (don’t worry about getting it all off, just rub away what comes away easily.) Meanwhile halve the grapes.
2. Place the bread or breadcrumbs in cold water to cover, and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then squeeze out through a fine sieve to remove excess water. Chop the spring onions, peel and crush the garlic and peel and chop the cucumber.
3. Place the toasted nuts, chopped spring onions and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and blend until a paste has formed. Add the soaked bread. Whiz again, and with the motor running, gradually add the oil in a thin stream. (as if making mayonnaise)
4. When the oil has been incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, the chopped cucumber and whiz again until smooth. Pour in the iced water and process briefly to combine.
4 Strain through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing and scraping with the back of a ladle to extract as much liquid as possible. Season to taste with salt and a little black pepper, adding more vinegar if necessary. Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. (hands up, I didn’t have time, so I popped it in the freezer to chill down!)
5 Just before serving, stir the soup well, check and adjust seasoning as the flavour will change when it has chilled. Serve the soup in little tea cups or bowls adding a few grapes to each one.
Little notes…For a special treat a couple miniscule droplets of truffle oil brings out all the flavours…
Iced water – Measure the water when you need it, stir in a few ice cubes to chill it down and use as soon as possible.