Sopa de ajo (garlic soup) is the quintessential peasant food.
Peasant food has always suited me. It leaves me feeling nourished but never too full. When I’m not feeling well, it’s always what I turn to give me energy and help me fight whatever it is that ails me.
Sopa de ajo, or sopa Castellana, said to have originated in the Castile region of central-northern Spain, was first made by shepherds who, only carrying stale bread, garlic, and water, would simmer these ingredients in a small cauldron over a fire on cold nights in the wild.
Nowadays, it’s a wildly popular soup all over Spain and some additional ingredients have been added to give it a bolder flavor and more sustenance. The addition of spices, ham, and eggs has turned this simple yet delicious soup into a masterpiece. It’s yet another dish that soothes the soul!
Sopa de ajo is commonly served in Spain around the time of Lent (no meat!). It’s also a common offering at weddings
- Bread. The bread is key. It must be crusty; stale bread is actually preferable. We will make ours stale. I’ll get to that in a minute.
- Garlic. Always look for garlic with firm, large cloves and no visible blemishes. Soft, discolored garlic will show its age by sprouting (See the bottom of my garlic bowl as I write this.).
- Broth. While this soup is classically made with water, we will use chicken broth to fortify the flavor.
- Smoked paprika. Paprika gives this soup a sensual depth.
- Chorizo. While serrano ham is widely used in Spain, I have decided to spice things up a little bit by using chorizo instead. Spanish chorizo is made with garlic and smoked paprika, so it will complement our soup nicely.
- Eggs. A lot of authentic sopa de ajo recipes whisk eggs into the simmering broth (think eggdrop soup), but we will drop whole eggs right in the soup just at its finish.
Making the soup
Here are some important parts of the method to keep in mind:
- Using very dry bread is key. The bread is added to the soup at its early stages and very dry bread will stay intact through the cooking process. I cube the bread the night before I make the soup and let it dry out on a cookie tray in my oven. I then make flavorful ultra-crunchy croutons.
- This is a very quick soup to make from start to finish. Just 20 minutes give or take. It must be eaten immediately. The bread will absorb all the liquid if it sits and you will have a yummy bread pudding rather than soup!
- You will crack whole eggs right on top of the soup at its finish and they will cook in the broth. You will know when they are cooked when the whites turn opaque. Then it’s go time!
Ladle the soup into a bowl and top with an egg. Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over the top. That’s it!