Ajo Blanco or White Gazpacho

This is a Spanish dish with Moorish influences. There are probably many similar recipes, I don’t claim it to be unique – but the story behind it is unusual. (the origin of this image is a series of sixteen recipe postcards I drew many years ago)

recipe for ago blanco or white gazpacho

I was in Córdoba in Spain for a few days (for work and many years ago) and staying at a five star hotel (not at my expense). Being by myself I wanted to make my evening meals more interesting, so chose things from the menu when I had no idea as to what they were. This was where I first ate Ajo Blanco.

IT came, looked nice and with my first spoonful was pretty sure that there was a fly in my soup (not the start of that joke). I edged it onto my spoon and put the half chewed beast on the side of the plate.

Before calling a waiter I thought I’d stir the soup up make sure there were no more. There were about a dozen of them. That’s when I realised it was a half chewed raisin. The soup was fabulous and the raisins gave it that note of sweetness against the drier flavours of garlic and almonds.

Notes
I always buy ground almonds now. They come much finer than I can grind them and give a less ‘grainy’ finish to the soup.

The baked stew that never was

This is a family recipe. There are probably many similar recipes, I don’t claim it to be unique – but the story behind it is unusual. (the origin of this image is a series of sixteen recipe postcards I drew many years ago)

a postcard recipe for a baked stew

When my wife and I were first married we visited my parents frequently on a Saturday. We had the same meal every time, which was this baked stew followed by a cherry tart with cream.

Decades later we were reminiscing and about that first year of our marriage. We both laughed at the memory of being served the same meal on every visit and decided that we ought to cook it ourselves. So we asked my mother for the recipe – she had already entered the first stages of dementia and her reply was a firm and angry denial.

“Don’t be so stupid, I’ve never cooked anything like that in my entire life.”

So one cold winter evening we sat down and tried to write the recipe from memory. On Saturday my wife went shopping and I prepared the meal from our notes. With one or two minor alterations this has become a staple winter warmer and an ever popular supper party treat (in the absence of vegetarians). Both our children use the recipe and other family and friends have also borrowed and cooked it.

The length of time it takes to cook allows the meat to tenderise beautifully and the flavours blend and enhance. There is rarely any left.

Notes
We always use a cast iron pot to cook this in.
Chuck steak is a cheap cut. Names of cuts of meat vary around the world.
You brown the meat a small batch at a time or the steam will prevent it from browning.
You do need to check that it doesn’t dry out and burn in the final stages, just add water.
Temperatures are for a fan assisted oven.
The first stage can be done in the morning if for a supper party (less hassle later).