This garlic soup may not have many ingredients, but Spanish sopa de ajo is packed with flavor and warmth. It's easy to make, rustic and comforting. Just what you need on a cold day.
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You'll find variations on garlic soup in a number of different cuisines, some of them with a dizzying number of garlic cloves in there. Many of them are blended, while others like this are more chunky. That said, all the 'bits' become wonderfully tender in the broth so it tastes surprisingly smooth.
Despite the relatively simple nature of this soup, you'll still find a few variations of this around Spain. This version is what's often considered the original and is made with broth, garlic, bread, olive oil and usually paprika and eggs.
Castilian garlic soup
This version comes from the Castilian region in Central Spain and is in fact sometimes called Castilian soup. Most other regional versions start with this base and either add one or more other ingredients, such as tomato and green pepper in Rioja, or swap something like adding cauliflower but not paprika.
Old "Castile" is the central region now Castilla-La-Mancha and Castile y Leon. It's an area of high plains and a relatively dry landscape, made famous through the tales of Don Quixote.
I remember traveling across the region by train a few times when I lived in Spain and it really does feel like the high plains goes on forever, with only the occasional town. At least these days, much of it is being put to good use with wind farms.
This soup is said to have been developed by shepherds to take with them over long travels with their herd. It was a great way to use up leftovers and kept them sustained. The ingredients are also easily transported, not to mention cost-effective.
Special occasions and any occasion
In the past, this soup was a popular choice got weddings though that's less common now. It is, however, still popular during Semana Santa in some areas - the week known as Holy Week that is the run up to Easter Sunday. Given that many limit or give up meat for Lent, and the long processions in many Holy Week celebrations, this hearty soup is a great fit.
But this soup certainly doesn't need a special occasion to enjoy it. Especially given the simple ingredients and how quick it is, it's something you can enjoy any time. Plus, it's great for using up leftover bread as well.
Steps to make this soup
- First you fry the bread and garlic in a little oil which helps to build flavor, then add the paprika.
- Add the stock and a little fino sherry or wine. These soften the bread and makes the garlic less pungent.
- Then you add the egg and let it poach in the broth.
- Carefully lift out the egg intact as you serve up the soup, and top with a little fresh parsley.
This sopa de ajo takes a few humble ingredients, and transforms them into a wonderfully flavorful bowlful. Comforting, tasty and just the thing to warm you on a cold day.
Try these other simple soups:
- Cock-a-leekie soup (Scottish leek and chicken soup)
- German pancake soup (Flädlesuppe)
- Roasted apple and acorn squash soup
- Plus get more Spanish recipes and comforting winter recipes in the archives.
Sopa de ajo
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 oz country-style bread 90g, or baguette (gives around 2 cups of diced bread)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 cups light stock 720ml, eg chicken or vegetable
- 1 tbsp fino sherry or dry white wine if you don't have any (or 2tbsp, to taste)
- 2 eggs
- ½ tbsp chopped parsley to garnish
- Peel and slice the garlic and cut the bread into a relatively shall dice.
- Warm the oil over a medium heat in a pan large enough to hold the soup. Add the garlic and soften for a minute.
- Add the bread cubes, toss in the oil and cook for a couple minutes so they gently brown. Keep a close eye on the garlic so that it doesn't brown too much - if it gets a little brown, remove it from the pan until the bread has browned a little.
- Once the bread is gently brown, add back the garlic if removed, and add the paprika. Stir through to mix. Add the stock and sherry, plus a little salt to taste. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer.
- Crack the eggs into the soup, cover the pan and leave around 2 minutes so the eggs lightly poach - you want the whites just cooked but the yolk still soft. If needed, spoon a little of the hot stock over the egg to help cook the top.
- Serve the soup with the egg in the middle of the bowl, with the bread and broth around it, and sprinkle with parsley.
Some versions add the egg more as egg drop - if you prefer this, gently beat the eggs before adding. Stir the soup so it is moving a bit then add the egg and continue to stir so it cooks and separates at the same time. If you choose this method, you will probably need less eggs (even half) but you can judge to taste.
You can use smoky or spicy paprika, as you prefer. Sweet would be fine as well, but the flavor is less distinct so the others add more to the flavor of the dish.
Some versions add some serrano ham into the soup, crisping it slightly with the bread or as a garnish so feel free to add some (or other variations as mentioned above).
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I first shared the recipe for sopa de ajo on Curious Cuisiniere where I am a contributor.