This recipe is intended as a celebration of garlic. Unlike many celebrations, though, it’s not a shouty, loud or brash one. Rather, by roasting the garlic until it’s sweet and mellow, this powerful and often aggressive ingredient becomes subtle, humble and, ultimately, delicious. It’s proof that garlic can be main flavour of a dish, without dominating or overriding all others.
The dish is a riff on a Spanish chilled soup called ajo blanco – white garlic soup. Traditionally this is made by blitzing almonds and raw garlic into a paste, adding bread soaked in water, water, oil, vinegar and blitzing a bit more … and that’s about it. Very clean and cooling.
But this one’s a bit more rounded, deeper and, dare I say it, interesting. Largely because it uses loads of sweet roast garlic instead of a little of the raw stuff, but also thanks to a good glug of dry sherry, almond milk and decent chicken stock. A splash of sherry vinegar at the end gives it some zing.
My suggestion is you serve this chilled, topped with fresh mint, sliced grapes and a dash of sherry vinegar. It’s extremely good like this – not least because it’s refreshing and zippy and perfect for a dinner party starter, particularly in the summer. Though bearing in mind the recent dip in temperature, be assured you could serve it warm at any time of year. Should you take the latter route, consider swapping grapes and mint for orange and almond flakes, or possibly roast or griddled figs (thanks Nick Balfe). Keep the sherry vinegar dash.
This recipe was originally published on the Borough Market website. Many more recipes over there, if you’re interested.
Roast garlic, almond and bread soup
Serves 43 large bulbs of garlic (4 medium)
1 banana shallot, finely diced
100g fino or manzanilla (dry) sherry
250g chicken stock
300g almond milk (unsweetened)
100g white sourdough bread (60g after crusts cut off)
30g whole almond / ground almonds
Hefty pinch of salt
If serving chilled:60ml almond milk
Preheat your oven to 170C.
Separate the garlic bulbs into cloves. Place in a roasting tray with approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well so all the cloves are coated. Put the tray into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Shake it a couple of times over that period and check after 25 minutes that the bulbs aren’t blackening. We’re looking for golden, soft and sweet.
Squeeze the soft garlic from each of the cloves into a bowl, discarding the skins. This is a bit of a pain – but is the only time consuming part of the dish. Once all the garlic flesh is removed, stir with a spoon so you’ve a mass of roast garlic paste. Put to one side.
In a large saucepan, sweat the shallot in a little olive oil until soft and translucent. Don’t colour. Once they’re almost done, turn the heat up for fifteen seconds then pour in the sherry so that it quickly reduces by half. Turn the heat to low again. Add the garlic and stir into the liquid so that the garlic and sherry are fully incorporated.
Pour in the chicken stock and the almond milk. Bring to a simmer. Cut the crusts off the bread and tear the dough into chunks. After five minutes, add to the soup along with the almonds. Cook for five minutes more, then pour into a blender or use a hand blender to blitz into a satin smooth soup.
Pour back into a clean saucepan. Add a hefty pinch of good salt and two teaspoons of sherry vinegar.
You could serve this straight away (with flaked almonds, oranges and another dash of sherry vinegar), or leave to cool in the fridge until you need it.
For those taking the chilled option: you will need to thin the soup a little with more almond milk. Ladle into each bowl and top with sliced grapes, a good sprinkle of mint and a dash of sherry vinegar.