Thursday, December 14, 2017

On the MENU this Week. Starters for Christmas dinner

Usually the main course at Christmas is big, like a turkey or a roast and is accompanied by many vegetables, stuffing, gravy and roast potatoes. Even if you are being South African and doing it on the braai, you can expect to be super full after the main event as most people do 'go to town'. So starters need to be something light and luxurious and delicious.
This recipe is one of our all time summer favourites and would be perfect for a hot summer day.
Ajo Blanco - White Gazpacho
225g whole blanched almonds - 750 ml iced water - 75g stale white bread, crusts removed, soak in cold water - 3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 level teaspoon of sea salt - 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil - 3 Tablespoons dry sherry vinegar - 200g white seedless grapes, preferable muscatel, cut in half - sea salt and white pepper - Balsamic reduction
If you can only find raw almonds with their skins on, start with 250g and soak them in boiling water until the water is cold. Then sip off the shells and use the skinned nuts. In a food processor griand the almonds as fine as you can, they should stick to the wall of the machine. Turn off the machine and loosen the nuts, then add 5 Tablespoons of iced water and blitz until the almond paste is fluid enough to turn back on itself. Squeeze the water out of the bread and add it to the almonds, along with the garlic, combine till smooth. Add the olive oil and then the rest of the iced water until you have the consistency of single cream. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. You need a nice balance of almond, garlic and sherry. Chill for at least an hour or longer. Just before serving check te seasoning again. Ladle into bowls and distribute the grapes evenly. Dot with a little olive oil and the balsamic reduction.
If you are doing a non-traditional Christmas, how about a refreshing cold soup as a starter? Tomatoes and peppers are in season and really good at the moment
Tomato and yellow pepper cold soup
500g very ripe tomatoes, core removed – 1 sliced yellow pepper, seeds removed - half a red chilli, seeds removed – 1 peeled clove of garlic – juice of one large orange - 1 t sherry vinegar – 1 sesame hamburger bun – sea salt – freshly ground black pepper
Put everything in your liquidiser and blend till smooth. Put in the fridge till the next day then adjust the seasoning. Add just a little sugar if it is too tart. Serve chilled with sliced peppadews, black olives, torn basil leaves and a few toasted flaked almonds. You can add crushed ice at the last minute as well if you want it colder and less thick. Serves 4

Our wine pairing suggestion for the starter is some of the best and most interesting rosé wines of the week which we have recommended this year (See our wine suggestion here)

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