Recipe of the week
Almond soup with melon: A Moorish delight, via Provence
There’s no better time than summer to enjoy “the sun-drenched cooking of the Mediterranean Sea,” says Alex Jackson in Sardine (Pavilion). At my restaurant in London, our focus is on the food of Provence, but the region’s cuisine is closely linked to the rustic cooking of coastal Italy and Spain, so of course we serve our own interpretation of ajo bianco, the famous Andalusian chilled almond soup.
You may need to do some targeted shopping for this recipe. “Simple summer cooking only really shines when the cook makes the effort to seek out the best ingredients available,” and our almond soup calls for a good ham, a Charentais melon if you can find one, and a splash of pastis, the star anise–infused aperitif. What’s more, “the sherry vinegar really is important here; its dark, deep character brings everything together very nicely.”
Scoop out the melon curls with a spoon and let the orange juices dapple the white pool of the very cold soup. The melon is wonderful against the anise note of the pastis. And the crispy ham is delicious with it, too, “because…well, it’s crispy ham.”
Cold almond, melon, and pastis soup
8¾ oz (about 2½ cups) almond flour (finely ground almonds)
½ garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a fine paste with salt
1⅓ cups cold water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp pastis
2 thin slices cured ham (serrano, prosciutto, or Bayonne)
1 ripe chilled melon (a Charentais, if possible)
Place almonds and crushed garlic in a blender and blitz until extremely smooth. The paste will reach a stage where it won’t get any smoother without the addition of water, so add just enough water to facilitate this. Continue, slowly, to blend paste while adding water until you are satisfied that the soup is suitably smooth.
When all the water has been added and the soup is the consistency of pouring cream, drizzle in olive oil. Add sherry vinegar and pastis, then season with salt to taste. Chill soup thoroughly in the refrigerator.
While soup is chilling, crisp up the slices of ham by frying them gently in a pan or skillet or by baking them in a low oven. Crumble ham into shards and set aside.
When ready to serve, spoon out curls of cold melon and place in serving bowls. Pour almond soup over melon, drizzle on additional olive oil, and top with ham. Serve very cold, with an ice cube in the bowl, if necessary. Serves 4.