Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Ground Almond soup, could this have been a medieval favourite?

Following my post yesterday on Spanish hams and their Medieval ancestry I have discovered something even more exciting in terms of its Medieval food heritage. And all whilst enjoying my holiday here in Gibraltar. Staring at me from a chilled foods counter in the "Eroski" supermarket was ground almond soup! Intended, like its cousin vegetable gazpacho soup, to be eaten cold this thick pureed concoction is made with very few, but all natural ingredients. 

The ingredients of "El gazpacho de almendras ajoblanco" , an obviously still popular dish from rustic Andalusia, are (and I am testing my abilities to read Spanish here): water, almonds, lemon juice, virgin olive oil, ground bread, vinegar wine, salt, and garlic. And all are staples from Medieval days too...cooks then  were fond of ground breadcrumbs as a thickening agent. 

I am a little surprised the soup has only 7% almonds - now I am a little less excited since I thought it was almost purely an almond milk concoction! Certainly in Medieval times water would not have been added to the mix unless the whole batch was to be boiled.

Here is my discovery, in a Tetrapak of course. Its not a dish I shall be replicating for the Medieval or Tudor dollshouse though. I think it lacks a little presence!

Almonds were a very versatile cooking ingredients whose flavours was much appreciated by the medieval palate. They were put to many uses in both sweet and savoury dishes, certainly they were very important in Medieval cookery. Almond milk was used in the range of “white food” or blancmange dishes incorporating shredded white meat or fish. Used with eggs or butter and various flavourings it made sauces that counteracted the excessive saltiness or smokiness of preserved meat or fish. Fried whole almonds were popular as a garnish for many dishes.

Cultivation of almonds, which are related to apricots and cherries, goes back into pre-history. The food historian Alan Davidson notes that today the almond is actually the most important commercially produced nut. It was introduced to Europe from Asia, via Spain, by the Phoenicians in the 8th century. Well, here in Gibraltar at the southern tip of Europe, and surrounded on three sides by Spain, those trading Phonecians did came calling and they settled awhile leaving archaeological evidence, including fine glassware for which they were reknowned 

"El gazpacho de almendras ajoblanco" is starting to make historic and geographic sense now. My excitement levels are rising once more. And I have not even tried the chilled soup yet, maybe tomorrow for lunch...