Sopa de ajo or sopa castellana is a very old Spanish soup, typical of Castilla y Leon.
The soup has four key ingredients: stale bread, garlic, smoked paprika and water, which clearly signify its peasant origins. It was also an essential source of nourishment after the Spanish civil war when rations were scarce and stale bread was the only thing available. The essence of its humble ingredients, the simplicity of its preparation and the sublime big meaty flavour the dish provides, makes sopa de ajo one of the most iconic dishes in traditional Spanish gastronomy and a serious winter warmer. I can still remember like if it was yesterday, watching my Grandmother cook it on a cold rainy Sunday and trying it for the first time. A true food memory that never leaves you. These days you don’t tend to see sopa de ajo in many restaurant or tapas menus, so if you do see it…please order it! The beauty about sopa de ajo is that you can play with a wide range of other ingredients and toppings, like slowly poached eggs, shredded pork cheek meat, fried botifarra sausage or meaty pieces of salt cod loin. I like to use half chicken stock and half water in my sopa de ajo to give more depth and structure to the soup. I also like to fry some serrano ham before I add the garlic and bread, that way I flavour the oil and sprinkle the crispy ham right at the end to provide some delicious salty texture.
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