I’ve sometimes wondered why people thought garlic helps to ward off vampires. Is it the “righteous” pungency; the undeniable whiff of, um, holiness? Hopes that vampire virus will be killed by garlic’s antioxidants, a belief that no one can chew on a mouthful of raw garlic and survive? Or, is it due to ‘Vampire disease’ or porphyria, the result of in-breeding among the European nobility – is Count Dracula just a misunderstood, new-age (light and garlic-) sensitive guy?
Whatever the reason, I was intrigued by a soup that was described as “[t]his one will keep your house safe from vampires for a year at least.”
This French garlic soup has venerable but mysterious origins. Francois Xavier of fxcuisine found this recipe in Larousse de la cuisine des familles (alas, I couldn’t find that book anywhere, even online), “presented as a family recipe from a Provence mama.” The soup is made with a garlicky olive oil roux, which is mixed with the roasted garlic, cooked to a smooth consistency and slight nuttiness, then thinned with water or stock and simmered to fragrant soupy-ness. There is very little else besides perfectly roasted, semi confited garlic bulbs (which I also blogged about last weekend) and a handful of herbs. Even the pasta to bulk up the soup is, I think, kind of optional.
This is not a Parisian glamourpuss. Light brown in colour, slightly lumpy in a stew-soupy way, it was a lesson in how brown food is not a food blogger’s photography dream.
But, one taste and I was hooked. Potage de creamy, complex and comforting garlic? Yes please!
I’ve made this soup a few times now, and have added some kind of riff every time. Egg yolks enrich the soup, turning it a glorious yellow and lip smackingly thick and savoury. The non-haut cuisine part of me loves serving this with crispy bits of bacon. I’ve also dished up the soup with barely browned garlic slivers, and roasted garlic spread on sourdough toast – Triple Garlic Soup. You know, just in case those vampires get any ideas.
Here is the recipe with my notes.
French Garlic Soup from a Provence Mama
(adapted from fxcuisine)
Serves: 4 as a light main course or 5-6 as entree
4 garlic heads
Half to one cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons flour (you can probably use GF flour)
1 litre water or mild flavoured stock (I’ve used water with good results)
2-3 sprigs fresh herbs: such as thyme, rosemary, or sage
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: thin noodles or pasta, broken into 2-3cm lengths
Optional: 2 egg yolks
Optional toppings: lightly fried garlic slices, crispy bits of bacon, a swirl of cream, crispy bits of potatoes or croutons, finely chopped parsley or chives.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150C (300F). Cut each head of garlic in half, don’t peel. (Boring white garlic is more compact, and the half heads stay in tact. The fashionable purple garlic is looser, and the top half of the garlic heads tend to fall apart. Not to worry, just make sure the bulbs are facing cut side down in the baking dish.)
2. Find an ovenproof dish large enough to fit all the half garlic heads in one layer. Put the garlic heads in the dish, and drizzle olive oil over the garlic until there is a thin layer of oil covering the bottom of the dish.
3. Roast in the oven for about an hour or until the garlic is soft throughout and nicely browned.
4. Place all the garlic cloves in a medium sized saucepan. Mop up the garlicky olive oil in the dish baking dish with flour and add to the saucepan. Mash up the garlic and flour mixture (you can also do this in a food processor, but a potato masher is fine for this job).
5. When the flour is thoroughly mixed with the olive oil, turn on the stove and the garlic-flour mixture for 2-5 minutes. You want a smooth oil-garlic-flour roux before adding water or stock. The longer you cook the roux, the darker the soup will be, and will have a slightly stronger taste.
6. Add water or stock and the herbs. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. At this point, you can add the noodles/pasta to the saucepan, and continue to simmer until the noodle/pasta are cooked and the soup has thickened (about 10 minutes). Or, I prefer to enrich the soup with egg yolks: add a spoonful of soup to the egg yolks, whisk until you get a smooth yolk-soup mixture; repeat with another spoonful of soup; add the yolk mixture back into the soup in the saucepan, and simmer over gentle heat until the soup thickens and becomes a brighter yellow.
7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; if you used water rather than stock, you may need to add more salt at this stage. Serve with optional toppings and thick slices of bread.