Sopa de ajo or sopas de ajo means garlic soup, a traditional meal made with pieces of bread, garlic, pimentón de La Vera (Spanish sweet and smoked paprika), olive oil, water (or broth) and eggs. In other words, a quick, cozy and comforting soup to warm up your palate.
In the Spanish language, the word sopa can have several meanings and two of them are related to this recipe: one refers to a broth in which other ingredients are cooked, while the other refers to thin slices of bread —usually stale bread— soaked in a liquid, in plain English, this is a bread and garlic soup recipe.
This garlic soup, of certain humble origin, may originate in the ancient kingdoms of León and Castile. It is also a morsel deeply rooted in that region, especially in religious traditions, for example, in Zamora —a province located in the northeast of the Iberian peninsula— there is a custom to enjoy these hot and satisfying sopas de ajo early in the morning of every Good Friday (Holy Friday).
Beyond all the facts discussed above, the so-called sopas de ajos is a delectable soup that is enjoyed throughout the year but especially in the cold and silvery winter days as an almuerzo, a small meal previous to lunch (generally at noontime), or to warm up and satisfy the palate at dinner time. In summary, we recommend you to enjoy this simple and authentically Spanish flavor.
- 4 cups (150 g) stale bread
- 5 cloves (25 g) garlic, thinly sliced or minced
- ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pimentón de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika)
- 6 cups (1½ liter) water or broth of your choice
- 2 free-range eggs
- Salt to taste
- Tear the bread into small pieces or cut it into thin slices.
- Put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium-high temperature. Wait until the garlic starts to come golden-pale to turn off the heat. Add the Spanish smoked paprika.
- Add the bread to the saucepan, mix it with a wooden spoon and let fry the bread very quickly.
- Pour enough water or broth to the saucepan and mix carefully.
- Let the soup simmer for few minutes -it may take less than seven minutes- so that the bread absorbs some liquid and loses its hardness.
- Finally, pour the eggs slowly while stirring constantly so that the egg whites end looking like threads. Season with salt to taste and keep it warm until you serve it.
Tips for perfect sopa de ajo or garlic soup
- The most traditional, simple and peasant garlic soup would carry only water and might not include eggs, nevertheless, you may find some recipes that call for a broth made of Spanish cured ham bones, beef, vegetables or chicken and vegetables.
- Cutting perfect slices of stale bread can be difficult so that we recommend you to tear it in small chunks, but do not use all the very fine breadcrumbs that break off when you tear it.
- If you use fresh bread then cut it into thin slices and let them dry for one day. You can use the oven for drying them also.
- You can add diced Spanish cured ham —will be named sopa Castellana then— or chorizo before adding the pimentón. The flavor of your soup will be greatly improved.
- The pimentón in Spain comes in two varieties: pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika) and pimentón de Murcia (paprika without smoking), however, the first one is used more frequently.
- Pimentón de la Vera comes in three different varieties: sweet (dulce), bittersweet (agridulce) or hot (picante). Use any of them, in other words, you are free to even mix them or use the one you like best.
- Mixing the yolk into the liquid will help you give a creamier texture to the soup but, if you do not want that creaminess, mix the soup only when you pour the egg whites.
- Try frying a cup and a half fresh sliced porcini mushrooms along with the garlic and some diced Spanish cured ham. The flavor of the soup will become glorious and sophisticated, nevertheless less authentic.
- If you come to Spain and by any chance, you have the opportunity to visit the city of León, do not miss visiting El Gaucho, a bar right in the center of El Húmedo —one of the oldest quarters of the city and very famous for its tapas joints—. Ask for some “Bierzo wine” and a pottery cup full of warm and creamy sopas de ajo as a tapa.
Finally, serve this tasty and robust Spanish garlic soup as a tapa in earthenware cups or bowls, just as it is served in “El Gaucho” from León, or use the ones you have got at hand. Garnish each cup with chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and do not forget to bring wooden spoons for each cup.