Great adaptations: a summery Spanish menu
A summery Spanish menu featuring almonds used in two very different ways, adapted from recipes by the great Claudia Roden
Spanish meatballs with tomato and almond sauce. Photograph: Alan Betson
Cold almond soup. Photograph: Alan Betson
Cooks everywhere find inspiration in a vast array of sources, from flicking through a magazine, reading a menu, to eating in a restaurant and I’m no different. But ranking high on my list is the work of fellow food writers.
Egyptian-born Claudia Roden continues to inspire everyone who opens up one of her brilliant books. Now in her late seventies, Roden is a cultural anthropologist for whom food is as much about culture and history as taste. She has travelled widely and slowly, methodically taking in and absorbing the flavours and traditions of the food in countries such as France, Egypt (of course) and, most recently in her book with the self-explanatory title, The Food of Spain.
In almost alchemical fashion, she will put her own interpretation on dishes to produce recipes that are somehow uniquely hers yet still very much of the country, and of the people that inspired them.
Right, I think I’ve gushed enough about this particular foodie crush, let’s move on to the food this week, which you’ve probably guessed already, is inspired by Roden. Both recipes use ground almonds – but in very different ways. In one, the almonds are used to thicken a tomato sauce, which is poured over meatballs before they’re baked in the oven. Her sauce doesn’t have any tomatoes in it and I believe may be a bit more broth-like as it contains plenty of stock. I was a bit worried the whole thing might be a bit soupy, so I jigged it around and was very happy with the result. I can’t wait to make them again. Summertime isn’t always a meatball time of the year, but these ones felt quite light, and with the addition of some Parmesan or Manchego, they were incredibly more-ish. They are really tasty with a simple green salad on the side.
The other dish, a cold soup, uses the almonds in a far more subtle, silky way. Use the best olive oil and the best almonds (preferably the fat Spanish variety) you can find for this recipe. The addition of white grapes and vinegar lifts this smooth, summery soup out of the ordinary.
We used less water than the original recipe called for and ended up putting it through a sieve. The almonds were just too pappy. I was very glad to have some sherry vinegar to hand. It is a softer type of vinegar, perfect to add some acidity to what could be very flat flavours unless properly seasoned. A perfect starter for a light lunch or summer supper.
Food cooked and styled by Domini Kemp and Gillian Fallon