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Ajo blanco with melon

This picnic dish is best enjoyed with a cold sherry.
Matt Russell

Picnics should be simple,’ says chef and cookery writer Rowley Leigh. ‘So the kit should be simple: I have enamelled tin plates that are light to carry, Duralex glasses, proper cutlery (I am not a fan of plastic knives and forks) and plenty of plastic storage boxes with lids, which stack easily and are not heavy. As long as you don’t forget the bread knife and the bottle opener, that’s about all you require. I would rather eat recumbent like a Roman than go round carrying chairs and picnic tables. If it is good enough for Édouard Manet, it is good enough for me. The food should be equally unfussy.

Lots of different things piled on a plate just makes a mess and having too many ingredients or garnishes is an opportunity for accidents and attracting wasps. Logistics aside, the first fruits of summer – whether it is peas or gooseberries, melons or tomatoes – should sing clear and sweet. And they need not be messed about with.’

A vinegar and garlic bite cuts through the suave texture of bread and almonds in this refreshing soup. The cantaloupe works with this sharpness, but you could just pour the soup from a flask into glasses, forgetting the melon. It is best enjoyed with a cold sherry.

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Serves 6-8

300g blanched almonds
200g slightly stale white bread, crusts removed
6 cloves garlic
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into small chunks
100ml white wine vinegar
100ml good quality olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 ripe cantaloupe melon
8 basil leaves
  1. Methods

    Step 1

    Pour 500ml boiling water over the almonds and leave to soak. Cut the stale bread into cubes and combine with the whole garlic cloves and the cucumber. Sprinkle over the vinegar.

    Step 2

    Whizz the almonds with their soaking liquid and 1tsp salt in a blender or food processor until really smooth (it takes a while) then add the bread mix, whizzing again and adding up to 100ml olive oil, diluting with a little cold water if required to achieve a smooth, soupy consistency. Check the seasoning then chill in the fridge.

    Step 3

    Cut the melon in half and remove the seeds. If you have a melon baller, scoop out the flesh into neat balls. If not, remove the flesh from the skin and cut into neat cubes.

    Step 4

    Shred the basil finely and toss with the melon balls in a bowl and set aside to add to the soup at the last moment.

    Step 5

    To serve, pour the very cold soup into bowls, distribute the melon balls and shredded basil evenly between them, and add a little slick of olive oil to each.

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