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Morning breath: Sopa de Ajo

People are funny about garlic. It seems to be one of those love-it-or-lump-it ingredients, doesn’t it? Standing firmly on the “love” side you have me, my sister, Yotam Ottolenghi, and roughly 60 million Italians (or most of them, anyway). In the haters camp reside many close to me: my best friend, my boyfriend, and my mum. No matter how many cloves of garlic a recipe calls for, Mum will always use one. Sometimes half.

Now I’m not crazy, nor (I hope) am I a stinky, garlic-breathed hag. I get that what this little onion does to one’s breath isn’t exactly nice (I’m not sure I’d be in a romantic mood after eating that Ottolenghi tart, either). But the actual taste? Or the smell of it, hitting a pan of hot olive oil? To me, that’s the stuff of dreams, and I defy any breath-fixated foodie to claim otherwise. Which is why, when I opened my most recent issue of Jamie magazine and saw this recipe, I knew that I’d have to make it.

Sopa de Ajo is a typical Spanish garlic soup, but with the addition of stale sourdough bread, smoked paprika and a poached egg. It may not sound like breakfast fodder (and indeed, would be yummy at any time of the day), but I think it’s perfect for a winter morning. A warming, silky and fragrant broth, with an egg for protein- what more could you want? Besides, if you eat this first thing in the morning, you’ll have all day to wash the garlicky taste out of your mouth, and your loved ones will never be the wiser. Works for me.

  • Sopa de Ajo
  • adapted from Jamie magazine
  • serves 1; easily multiplied
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed with a knife
    1/4 tsp. paprika (smoked, if you have it)
    2 very thin slices stale sourdough bread (equal to one slice of normal thickness)
    1 1/2 cups hot water (about 350ml)
    sea salt and black pepper, to taste
    1 large egg
    chopped parsley, to serve (optional)
  • 1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add the garlic cloves and gently fry for 3-4 minutes, until they get some colour and the oil begins to become fragrant. Remove the garlic to a small saucepan.

    2. Sprinkle the paprika into the remaining oil and add the slices of sourdough. After a few minutes, check the underside and turn the bread; the aim is to get them nice and golden on each side, but not burnt. When the bread is done, remove it to the saucepan with the garlic (tear it up to make it fit, if necessary) and pour over the hot water. Season well, cover and simmer soup for 5 minutes.

    3. Push the bread pieces toward the outer edges of the pan to make a “well” in which to poach the egg. Carefully break the egg into the space, cover pan and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the whites are set. Transfer soup to a bowl (discarding the garlic cloves), sprinkle with parsley and enjoy.


  1. Charles says:

    Oh wow, never heard of this – looks amazing. Definitely going to be giving this a try on the weekend coming up… I don’t think my colleagues would thank me if I did it during the week :D

  2. Hilary says:

    You know me, I can’t wait to try this! Mum would totally be like, “Hmm, do you think I could get away with one small clove?”

  3. Ele says:

    Ha, ha! It isn’t all that garlicky, anyway- the original recipe called for mincing the garlic, but I thought that removing the cloves would give a better texture. Makes it less strong, too.

    Oh, and if you do make this, definitely use good sourdough and paprika. With so few ingredients, each one needs to be delicious!

  4. Sarah says:

    Looks gorgeous. Thanks for the recipe! I’m your mum’s worst nightmare; I usually add an extra clove or two to whatever I’m cooking. I’m making the Ottolenghi caramelised garlic tart tonight and am going to be thinking about it all afternoon…

  5. Juliette says:

    Ever since I moved to Germany I have noticed how Germans are total freaks when it comes to garlic anything -they go off about the bad breath they will get, etc etc…my husband won’t eat any unless he’s not teaching the next day. Crazy I say! It’s healthy, brush your teeth, grab a mint, don’t stand so close…sheesh.

    I will have to try this soup when I’m back in the US! =)

  6. f. says:

    For the record, I’m on the garlic loving side, so much so that I’ve been know to double the garlic called for in recipes. I can’t wait to try this recipe out, I think when I make it I’ll add some sautéed greens (kale, chard, spinach even). Yummmmm!

  7. heather says:

    It’s funny because as I type this the smell of garlic keeps wafting my way. I’m marinating chicken thighs in a lemon-herb yogurt sauce with a hefty dose of smashed garlic. The cutting board is still sitting out, and the wonderful aroma is perfuming the entire kitchen. I’ve seen a recipe for this once before — I was intrigued then and I still am. Never a dud from Jamie’s magazine yet either! Must try soon. I wonder if it’d be good with leftover rosemary garlic bread, you know, because there isn’t already enough garlic in there already! Ha.



  8. hannah says:

    i’ve never heard of this, but i adore garlic. must make asap!

  9. Sally says:

    I’m with you on garlic. My Polish grandmother ate a raw clove every day for her health (it worked, she was amazingly fit) so I grew up not minding the scent of garlic on the breath (and this was more than a whiff). I’ve not checked out Jamie’s magazine so good to know too. Lovely recipe.

  10. [...] Even the pickiest eaters amongst my acquaintance adore garlic bread, for example. But after reading this post on the beautiful Kitchenist blog, it’s come to my attention that some people actively avoid [...]

  11. Vicki Randle says:

    My husband and I love garlic so much that we grow our own. We currently have over 100 planted in our garden waiting for the first hint of spring.

  12. Unless my sense of smell is right off I rarely notice garlic on anyones breath after we’ve eaten a garlic laden meal – unless it’s raw it cooks to a very mellow flavour anyway. This soup looks gorgeous – I”m with f (above) that I’d probably add a handful or two of chopped spinach. I’ve bookmarked this for when the weather isn’t in the high 30C every day :)

  13. Cook says:

    garlic smells a lot in this recipe ?..isn’t it ? Anyways, Thanks for the recipe