recipe

Credit: EARL CARTER

Almond cream with salted cucumber and dill oil

Greater knowledge and understanding of food production has definitely influenced people’s dietary decisions in the past few years. But even so, when it comes to thinking about how certain foods are produced and the effects that has on our bodies and our planet, people often fall into two distinct camps: couldn’t care less or absolutely obsessed.

Almonds are a curious thing to ponder. I have just arrived back from a trip to the United States that included a drive through what you could call a very dense agricultural area in the centre of California – most of which was planted with almond trees. These trees absorb 10 per cent of California’s water supply and, while they do produce a hell of a lot of food, the inputs can be enormous depending on the agricultural practices.

Good almonds are bloody wonderful, though. And the prevalence of people making their own “milk” is cool as. This technique takes it a little further and turns it into another food source. The recipe here can have a sweet application, too, by adding honey or sugar instead of the garlic or salt, and the seasoning potential is limitless if you spike it with oil or chilli.

Almond cream with salted cucumber and dill oil

Serves 4

– 500g whole raw almonds

– 1.8 litres water

– ½ clove garlic

– 5g salt

 

– 2 Lebanese cucumbers

– 15g salt

 

– 1 bunch of dill

– 200ml grapeseed oil

 

– 50ml honey

– 20ml white wine vinegar

– 20g Dijon mustard

– 80ml olive oil

 

– 10g dill seeds

 

Place the almonds in the water and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, blend the soaked almonds in a very powerful jug-style blender for about two minutes until they become a paste similar to the consistency of very thick pouring cream. Adjust with more water if necessary.

Pour the puree into a strainer that has been lined with sterile muslin or cloth of a similar density. Let the mix hang for about 30 minutes then squeeze and press the last of the liquid from the almonds. This takes some time, but be diligent as the final part of this process extracts the most oils and protein, which in turn thicken and flavour the cream.

Once the liquid is extracted, transfer it into a thick-based pot and bring to the boil while stirring with a spatula. This liquid should visibly thicken until it becomes the consistency of wet polenta.

At this point, transfer the mix into a large bowl and continue to stir while it cools. Once cool, grate half a clove of garlic into the mix and season with salt. The almond cream should have the same consistency as a hummus or a dip. If not, adjust either the amount of water or be mindful of how much is extracted.

Slice the cucumbers on the round to two millimetres using a mandolin. The consistency of thickness is imperative.

Place the sliced cucumber into a bowl and sprinkle the salt over the top. Let this sit for one hour then squeeze the excess liquid out. (These will store for a week or so in the refrigerator if kept for further use.)

Blanch the dill for about 20 seconds in salted boiling water then strain off the water. Do not refresh the herb. Bring the grapeseed oil up to about 70 degrees then place the two in a high-powered blender and blend for about 20 seconds. Tip this oil into a strainer that has been lined with muslin or similar and let it drain off into a glass jar.

Squeeze the last bits out and then let settle for an hour before decanting the oil off the water, which should be visible as a fine layer underneath. (This will store in a sealed jar refrigerated for weeks if kept for further use.)

Combine the honey, vinegar, mustard and olive oil in a glass jar with a fitting lid and season with a little salt. Shake the mixture to combine the ingredients.

To serve, place a large spoon of the room temperature almond cream on the plate and make an indentation with the back of the spoon, then add some of the mustard dressing.

Dress the cucumber in the dill oil and the dill seeds, then place over the top of the almond cream.

This can be eaten together as a starter or salad in the same fashion as a dip. Flatbread as an accompaniment is never a bad thing.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 9, 2019 as "The nutty compressor". Subscribe here.

David Moyle
is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.