Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fennel and Almond Soup

I came across this soup by chance in a tea room at work. A tea room in a department that I don't usually inhabit. And one of the people there was eating a home made soup. Of course I had to know what it was. It turned out to be this soup, and my interest was naturally piqued. It seemed like fate. I had never had almond soup, but seen quite a few recipes over the years. Ajo Blanco is a famous Spanish chilled almond soup that I've really been wanting to make for some time. Seems I forget about it each summer though. I will have to make at some stage as part of my Delia quest, maybe this summer I'll get to it? Delia's Ajo Blanco (even the name sounds exotic) is made from whole almonds, and I presumed that this one would be too, but it doesn't, it uses almond meal instead. So I still haven't tried a proper almond soup....

Fennel and Almond Soup with Green Olive Smash
Serves 4-6
delicious August 2010

Gently warming, but not cooking, the olive smash really enhances the flavour

2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fennel bulbs, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3/4 cup (90gm)

Olive Smash

1 cup (130gm) large green olives, pitted
1/4 cup (50gm) salted capers, rinsed, drained
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Heat a large frypan over medium heat.
Toast fennel seeds for 2 minutes, stirring, until fragrant.

Add the olive oil and heat for 1 minute, then add the onion, garlic, fennel and celery. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until just tender, then add almond meal and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Pour over hot stock, reduce heat to medium, then simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste. Cool slightly, then puree with a hand blender, or in batches in a blender, until smooth.

Meanwhile, for the olive smash, pound the olives, capers and garlic in a mortar and pestle to a coarse paste. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the olive mixture and stir for 1-2 minutes until just heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, parsley and remaining oil.

Pass the soup through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, then stir over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to warm through.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls, topped with the olive smash and a drizzle of oil.

I remembered to my horror with my first taste of the soup that I REALLY don't like fennel seeds. I had of course known this previously, but clearly had some selective cognitive deficit whilst reading the recipe, preparing to make this soup, and then whilst making the soup. So given that this has 2 tsps of toasted fennel seeds, it was a bit like fennel seed soup. I usually quite like a fennel soup, but this one wasn't one of my favourites, and I don't think I'll be making it again. But there was the whole fate thing, AND I'd gone out to find the magazine especially so I could make this. I'd invested too much to give up.

I think olives are disgusting and inedible so I didn't make the green olive smash. I think that if you did like olives then it would lift the soup. Which it could probably use.

My hand blender always seems to struggle with fennel. I don't know if it's my somewhat antique hand blender now, or if it's just a typical result of fennel vs hand blender. Still it didn't make a particularly pleasing smooth texture. It was sort of course. I can never bother to dirty the proper blender once I've already dirtied the hand blender so didn't bother, and just ate it all week for work lunches as it was.

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