Ajo Blanco and Salted Lebanese Cucumber by Roy Brett of Ondine

We all know gazpacho as the most famous of cold soups, but ajo blanco is an equally delicious alternative that dates back to Moorish times. Although gazpacho may be more well known, ajo blanco is actually the original cold soup as the recipe predates the arrival of tomatoes and peppers in Europe. It is a creative use of ingredients from southern Spain including almonds which are a key part of the recipe. It is thought that the recipe was created due to the climate being one of the hottest in Europe.

The main ingredients in ajo blanco are stale bread, moistened with vinegar and water. These humble ingredients are then thickened with nuts and spiced with garlic. Another major difference between ajo blanco and gazpacho is that ajo blanco is much richer due to the base being made of bread. Once the soup is well chilled, the natural creaminess makes it a uniquely refreshing and delicious dish. It’s a lovely starter for a summer lunch or dinner and it tastes even better eaten al fresco.

I always find it incredible that these simple few ingredients can create such a bold flavour. The use of staples such as bread, milk, garlic, apples and the all-important sherry vinegar create a very satisfying flavour combination that makes your taste buds sing! At Ondine, we add Lebanese cucumbers to the dish which we lightly salt to give a little more substance and texture. This means it’s a robust starter but light enough for the summer months. For me, this has the perfect balance of creaminess whilst also being punchy and refreshing with the cucumber and kick of garlic alongside the acid of the Granny Smith apples and sherry vinegar.

This recipe is also a perfect dinner party starter as it’s light and full of life. As the recipe is vegan and gluten-free, it also caters for any dietary requirements that you might have around the table. As well as being packed with flavour, the dish also looks stunning with the cool green of the cucumber against the pale creamy white of the soup. You can also make the ajo blanco ahead of time so you can make the most of time with your guests and hopefully the sunshine!

This dish will be on our menu throughout the summer at Ondine alongside a range of other new dishes which highlight the glorious Scottish fruit and vegetable that this season brings us. From heritage tomatoes to pavlova with local strawberries, this is a very exciting time of year in the kitchen. The colours, smells and of course, the taste of the produce available from ingredients grown all over Scotland is such a joy pleasure to work with. Since we opened our doors ten years ago, every day in the kitchen is still an exciting time and we look forward to the next ten years of great produce and amazing Scottish ingredients!

Ondine is located at 2 George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. For more information, visit https://www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk.

Serves 4 as a starter


For the ajo blanco:

225g gluten-free bread

80g whole almonds, toasted

2 garlic cloves

300ml almond milk

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, core removed and quartered

30ml sherry vinegar

For the salted cucumber:

8 Lebanese cucumbers

20g sea salt


Small bunch of mint, stalks removed

Small bunch of green grapes, halved

50g almonds, toasted and crushed

100ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil


1. First, make the ajo blanco. Simply add all of the ingredient to an electric food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Once smooth, chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

2. Next, make the salted cucumbers. Cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthways. Lay the quarters on a tray and sprinkle over the sea salt. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before rinsing the cucumbers well in cold water. Set aside on a drying cloth skin side down.

3. To assemble this beauty, simply ladle the ajo blanco into your serving dish and lay the cucumber slices on top. Sprinkle over the grapes and the crushed almonds. Rip the mint roughly and delicately sprinkle over the top. Finish with a drizzle of rapeseed oil and serve.