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 resides 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 Id 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 its 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 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.
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