Spanish cooks have always understood the power of garlic. In this humble soup, a classic of Castilian cuisine, garlic gives substance to a dish that would otherwise be plain to the point of austerity. Like chicken soup, sopa de ajo is famously restorative, known for warding off colds and flu, but even if you’re in the pink of health, it makes a very satisfying meatless Monday dinner. If you’re not a vegetarian, try adding a little chopped serrano ham along with the eggs.
Castilian Garlic Soup
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) olive oil
Six thin slices day-old rustic white bread (about 6 oz./170 g)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. finely chopped yellow onion
1 heaping tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked pepper)
6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) boiling water
1 sprig fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves minced
Fine sea salt
Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches as necessary, add the bread slices in a single layer and fry, turning once, until golden brown. Using tongs, transfer to a flameproof, ovenproof casserole dish, arranging them in a single layer.
Pour off most of the oil from the fry pan and return it to medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the pimentón and stir once or twice. Pour the contents of the pan over the bread.
Place the casserole dish over low heat and add the boiling water and parsley. Increase the heat to medium and return to a boil, stirring once or twice, then simmer for 5 minutes.
Crack the eggs into the soup, sprinkling a little salt on each one. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake until the eggs are just cooked, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve piping hot. Serves 6.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming, and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish, by Paul Richardson.