Spanish cuisine is not exactly known for its vegetarian dishes, and as such, being vegetarian and writing a blog about Spanish gastronomy may seem to be a bit of a paradox. For this reason, a lot of this blog has recently turned to dessert recipes. This isn’t necessarily a reflection of my own diet…but they’re sometimes the only traditional, meatless recipes that I can find.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t traditional dishes in Spain that don’t include meat. “Sopa de ajo” is both traditional and (sometimes) meatless. The core of this dish, “garlic soup” is meant to be made without meat. Of course, variations exist and cooks will sometimes add chorizo, ham, or other pieces of meat into the soup.
About a month ago, I dug into my first bowl of “sopa de ajo” in Spain. “Sopa de ajo”, also called “sopa castellana” is particularly popular in the region of Castilla y León. With my class, I had spent a few days walking the Camino de Santiago, historically –and to this day— the most famous pilgrimage in Europe. The Camino de Santiago leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where it is said that the apostle James was buried. (Note: St. James actually never set foot in Spain.) Our small part of the Camino didn’t take us all the way to Galicia; we ended our trip in Burgos.
The night before, in our “albergue” (a shelter for pilgrims), all of us had spent the coldest night of our lives. I was literally so cold that I wasn’t even able to sleep; trying to cover all parts of my body – head included – with my blanket and sleeping bag. The next day, in Burgos, didn’t much help either – Burgos is the coldest city in Spain. Once the coldness seeps into your bones, it’s hard to shake it.
For lunch I stopped with a few friends at a restaurant in Burgos that offered a “menú del día”. The first dish was “Sopa de ajo” – how good warm soup sounded! And so I ate it, which helped melt the coldness from my bones. The ride back to Madrid in the heated bus also helped.
Sopa de ajo con huevos (Garlic soup with eggs)
about 2/3 cups of day-old bread, chopped finely
1 tbsp minced onion
1 tsp Spanish paprika
6 garlic cloves
6 1/3 cups boiling water
6 eggs (optional)
salt, oil and parsley
Fry the bread in a pan with olive oil; add 3-4 tbsp olive oil and fry the minced onion and garlic. When golden, remove from the flame and add the paprika. The paprika gives the bread a red color. Place the bread in an oven dish, remove the garlic mixture from the pan and toss them on the bread. Add boiling water and season.
Slowly cook for ten minutes. Put it in a heated oven and let it form a crust. Remove from the oven, put six eggs on top and place once again in the oven, until the whites of the eggs are cooked. (This last step – as are the eggs — is optional.)