Uma sopa de amêndoa, alho e couve-flor com um charuto anchova

The Casa Rosada tasting menu changes with the seasons and if we know in advance a little about the likes and dislikes of the particular guests, I can tune it accordingly. I have recently added two items to the menu that I thought would be well suited to the tail end of winter and the first glimmer of spring.The first is inspired by a Spanish White Almond Gazpacho. For a long time I have  wanted to experiment with a warm version of this soup without losing the traditional Spanish feel of the main ingredients.I kept the bread as this would be a good thickening agent but decided to infuse it with cauliflower.With the help of a little manchego cheese I managed to achieve a savoury, creamy and slightly sweet soup. I wanted it to feel like a thick warm almond milk but with some other Spanish flavours.
Garlic almond and cauliflower soup
2 1⁄2 cups water, for blending
1 slice day-old white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
2 ounces blanched almonds (should be about 1/2 cup volume)
2 garlic cloves, fresh, skinned, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend thoroughly.Taste and season, adjusting as needed (vinegar, sugar, more salt, etc.) set aside. 

Good knob of butter
1 small cauliflower,finely chopped, white florets only
1 tablespoon olive oil
250ml vegetable stock (or a good cube)
150ml milk
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
50g grated manchego

Gently heat the butter and olive oil in a pan and with the lid on gently sautée the cauliflower, for 4-5 minutes.
Add the stock and milk. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes, with a lid on, or until the cauliflower is soft.Stir in the first seven ingredients that you have previously blended and set aside.
Blend the mixture in a liquidiser with the cheese until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve and season again if necessary. You can add a little more cheese for added flavour if you wish.If the mixture appears too thick,dilute gradually with extra milk until you reach the consistency of thick milk.Return to the pan and heat gently,stirring constantly,over medium low heat.Serve immediately with garlic croutons and garnished with slivers of toasted almonds.

My second innovation to the tasting menu was an anchovy cigar. We were recently served up an amuse bouche in a restaurant and were told it was an anchovy cigar.It was a grissini with a marinated, salted anchovy wrapped around the bottom third.It was very tasty but I thought a lot more "cigar" was needed to honour it with the title of an "anchovy cigar."I cast my mind back to the allumettes aux anchois my mother used to make as little tit bits to serve up with a drink when friends popped round.She rolled anchovy in very thin brown bread and that was it.Nowadays the norm for this recipe is filo or puff pastry,but I thought I would return to the brown bread idea and then throw in some more sympathetic companions like garlic, capers, parmesan and breadcrumbs and you have a more tasty cigar than tobacco could ever fulfill.

An Anchovy cigar
serves 4
1 loaf thinly sliced brown bread, crusts removed
2 tins of anchovy fillets
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
plentiful lemon juice
100g toasted breadcrumbs
50g parmesan, grated
50g chopped capers
chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves chopped

Mix together in a bowl the toasted breadcrumbs, anchovies,grated parmesan,chopped capers,parsley and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
With a rolling pin,roll the bread slices out until they become thin and malleable sheets.
spoon a line of the anchovy breadcrumb mix breadcrumb along the back third of each slice.Carefully roll the bread slices up rolling away from you until you have a tight cylinder.Sprinkle a little water just along the edge and press together well to seal the cigar.Tuck each end in and if necessary trim with a knife.Set aside.When ready to serve, lay the cigars,sealed edge downwards, on a baking tray lined with parchment.Brush a light coating of extra virgin olive oil on the cigars.Bake in a medium oven180C for about twenty minutes or until the bread becomes crisp.The timing here will depend on the freshness of the bread.Try and use the freshest bread possible. serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.


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