I'm a big soup fan and winter meals at our place typically center around soup and salad. But up until a few years ago, I had never heard of chilled soup or had one, apart from Gazpacho. Soups usually bring to mind a brothy, steamy cup - something to warm both the body and the soul on a cold winter's night. Cold soups were an interesting discovery for me, because it meant I could have one of my favourite food forms - soup - even during India's hot and humid summers. I have experimented with quite a few chilled soup recipes over the years, including a Hungarian one for sour cherry soup, which tastes quite luscious on a hot May afternoon in Delhi.
Recently I was watching Planet food on Discovert T&L and I saw an episode on Spain hosted by Padma Lakshmi. Complete aside here - but why would anyone get her to host something about food? First of all, she doesn't look like she can taste any food without bringing it back up soon thereafter. Second of all, she doesn't sound either knowledgeable or enthusiastic enough. thirdly, she doesn't seem to build up any empathy with the various people she is meeting/ helping with their cooking. Fourthly, the channel makes her help out various people while they are cooking, and these interludes are pure comedy - she's so awkward in the kitchen. Fifthly - and i will stop ranting after this and get back to cold soups - she always has the same pat expression when she tastes anything - first she'll put a tiny bit in her mouth, then she'll make those 'wine-tasting' type of movements with the lower half of her face while the forehead screws itself up in an attempt to make it seem as if she a. knows something about food and b. is thoughtfully assessing its taste, whereas she is more likely to be thinking - where can I quickly spit this out before the calories get me; and then she always, always says, "Mmmm..." - it's very annoying to watch a fake foodie!
Anyhow, to get back to Spain, PL met up with an American journalist who is settled there and writes about Spanish food who made her a batch of Gazbacho and a cold almond soup. It had been a while since I had made that at home so I whipped up a batch this weekend, to satisfy my need to cook and my son's love of soup. It's a nice, velvety soup and very light despite the almonds.
1 cup blanched almonds
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tbsp sherry vinegar
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 slices of day old bread
3 cups cold water
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish - bunch of muscat grapes
1. Put the bread to soak in 2/3rds cup water
2. While it is soaking, puree the almonds and garlic in a blender until finely blended
3. Squeeze the bread to release most of the water.
4. Add the soaked bread to the almond-garlic mix and blend
5. Add the olive oil little by little, blending after each addition, until you have a fine, smooth emulsion.
6. Then add the sherry vinegar and blend once more.
7. If you have a large blender, add the water and blend everything until nicely mixed and smooth. otherwise you can scrape out the mix in the blender into a tureen, add the water and whisk/ beat together for a couple of minutes until everything is finely mixed.
8. Add the salt and pepper to your taste.
9. Chill for 2-3 hours, or if you're not a pre-planning person, just make the soup with cold water and a few cubes of ice.
Serve garnished with halved grapes - you can go to the trouble of peeling them as well, if you wish but I like to save myself the bother. You can also add toasted almond flakes to make it richer.