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Chilled soups. You either love ’em or hate ’em. My theory is that the haters have never tried ajo blanco because one small sip of this iced beauty is enough to turn anyone to the light side. And when sampled after a long day’s work in the Spanish fields, one can only imagine how truly satisfying this creation would have been under a hot sun.
Translating as white garlic, ajo blanco is also sometimes known as white gazpacho. It’s Malaga’s version of Andalucía’s gazpacho and, instead of using ultra-ripe tomatoes and green and red capsicum, it makes use of the region’s famed almonds. From there, it’s similar to Andalucían gazpacho in that it’s puréed with garlic, thickened with day-old bread and spiked with a hint of sherry vinegar. Sweet slivers of white grapes, used as garnish, are the icing on the proverbial cake and the sum of these parts add up to an elegantly simple whole.
The key to a perfect ajo blanco lies in thorough chilling. In the old days, the chilling was accomplished by adding ice-cold water from the well (which also served to thin the concoction), but these days a good chilling in the refrigerator will do the trick. Under no circumstances, according to the purists, is ice to be added.
The origins of the soup is a bone of some contention. Some say it dates back to the Islamic conquest; others claim it was a peasant dish adapted for city tastes some time during the 19th century. Once pounded by hand in a mortar and pestle, modern technology makes puréeing a cinch. So there’s really no excuse not to try this one, perhaps paired with a nice glass of sherry. And, after that? No doubt a good siesta.
When the weather turns hot, MoVida’s take on this hits the spot. While you’re at it, check out their new sherry bar, MoVida Next Door. 1 Hosier La, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9663 3038.