It is said that sopa de ajo recipe (Spanish garlic and bread soup) originated from Castilian shepherds who created and enjoyed this simple, warming dish during the cold weather. This peasant soup is still made today also as a cure for common cold. Considering garlic health benefits, known even to ancient cooks, sopa de ajo makes a lot of sense. It is a great example of surprisingly humble ingredients coming together in a tasty, comfort food cooked in no time. It is also easy on your pocket and supports well-being.
Bread & garlic make it hearty and honest, paprika adds wonderful robustness, saffron – depth and earthiness, and the whipped egg – a gentle and silky finish.
Regrettably, I’ve never been to Spain. Castilla, where the sopa de ajo comes from, is the “land of bread” and not a piece get wasted. I like this. (Most of Spanish people are Catholics and if they have to dispose bread, they’ll often kiss it first. This is a symbol of respect.) This also seems to be the only garlic soup to my knowledge, which has gone on to become a classic culinary symbol and earned the comfort food badge. That is a great achievement and even though the ingredients make absolutely no sense whatsoever I could not allow myself for an ignorance due to my garlic love principal.
Stale bread, garlic, egg, a bit of paprika and water, and … that’s all? Seriously?
When I cooked sopa de ajo first time the main thing that struck me was the earthy & rich aroma. I did not expect that. Frankly, I had very low expectations from the start. It must have been the idea of a fried and water soaked bread with an egg floating on the surface of luke warm water. Thin liquids get cold quickly if they’ve got little to hang on to and all I could imagine was eyes of oil floating in between egg threads.
Bread fried with paprika infused oil, plus the garlic and saffron water created a brilliant aroma and flavour of comfort. It all came together in a tasty and aromatic harmony.
Sopa de ajo? It is a “si” from me!
After a bit of research I found that there aren’t many variations of sopa de ajo, except for the ones that contain an addition of cured ham, or/and meat or vegetable stock instead of water, or/and a pinch of saffron. One old recipe included a splash of sherry (that was a Cuban variation). Ham & saffron seemed a bit posh for essentially a peasant dish and I felt that especially ham takes away from the authenticity. (Ham sort of worked well when I used a meat stock, otherwise it tasted a bit odd.) I must admit that the saffron delivered a great oomph though.
All in all sopa de ajo is a tasty, hearty soup, which should be made every time there is some stale bread in your household. I am glad I gave it a go and I am very pleased I can add it to my “comfort garlic food” slash “what to do with leftovers (read: stale bread)” drawer. El fin. 🙂
- 1 l of water (or low sodium vegetable stock)
- 6 garlic cloves - very finely chopped
- 250 g stale, seedless bread (sourdough, French or country style is best) - crust removed, sliced to ½” cubes.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pinch of saffron
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon hot pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) or 1 tbsp ground paprika
- 6 eggs (or 12 pheasant eggs, they look cute:))
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a deep pan, bring water (or stock) to boil. Add garlic, saffron and simmer for 15 min.
- In a frying pan, heat oil up and fry the cubed bread until golden brown. Sprinkle paprika & cumin over frying bread and continue cooking on a slow heat for 1 minute.
- Transfer the spices fried bread into the pan with water, garlic and saffron. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Lower the heat, so the water is not bubbling.
- Break raw eggs into the boiling hot soup, mix the soup with a ladle so the eggs fall apart (unless you chose to serve the sopa de ajo with poached eggs). Simmer for a minute and then serve immediately while still very hot.