When we heard about Sopa Castellana during our stay in the Madrid area, we knew we had to give it a go. Sopa Castellana is a Spanish garlic soup with paprika, Serrano ham, eggs and pieces of baguette and we haven’t tried a soup like this yet. We liked the soup a lot, same as every garlic soup we ate (we wrote about Slovakian here), we attended to reproduce it at home and include in our regular menu.
Spanish garlic soup, or Sopa Castellana, is also called sopa de ajo, or garlic soup. The first name we mentioned was derived from the place of origin of the soup, i.e. Castile. The soup is known in different variations in several regions of Spain, but the origin is attributed to the region of Castile and León. We managed to try this delicacy in Toledo, which lies in the region of Castile La Mancha.
Apparently, this soup has been eaten since antiquity for health and maintaining strength, it was served with one or two eggs, which is very similar to today. In some regions there is also Lenten soup eaten during Holy Week fasting. As you can guess, it does not contain any meat in that case. The traditional version of this soup is also different from the version we have tried, and as the food of the poor, it contains only water, stale bread, garlic and paprika.
We were a bit surprised by the egg in the soup, but after trying it, we approved immediately! Watch out for things like eggs, ham or baguette, the soup is really filling and nutritious. The only thing which might discourage you is eating this nourishing hearty and warming soup in the Spanish heat! We would be more willing to serve it in the colder months and one would benefit from it as well.
Testing travel’s recipes at home is not always successful. However, the Spanish garlic soup aka Sopa Castellana turned up perfect at the first try! The version we present below, is even more improved. If you are going to Spain and you have the opportunity to bring delicious Serrano ham with you, we urge you to do so.
Ingredients – Spanish garlic soup
2 liters of vegetable, chicken or beef broth
10 cloves of garlic
150 grams of Serrano ham, coarsely sliced (the best are the leftovers form slicing the whole leg sold in chunks, can be found in every shop cutting fresh ham) (or pancetta)
1-2 eggs per serving of soup (recipe makes 3-4 servings)
One large baguette or two medium
Two teaspoons of sweet paprika
A teaspoon of smoked paprika
5 tablespoons of olive oil
Method of preparation – Spanish garlic soup
Spanish garlic soup is quite simple and quick to prepare, it does not require a lot of work. Start by preparing the bouillon, in case of an emergency you can use one in a cube. Peel the garlic and cut into slices, you don’t have to be super thin, cut the ham into pieces.
In a pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, fry for a few minutes until the garlic turns golden, but be careful not to burn it, then it will acquire a bitter taste and the soup will not be good. Add the ham and fry for 2-3 minutes, so that the flavors combine, and add the paprika at the end of frying. Reduce the heat so that the paprika do not burn, and after a while pour the soup with broth. Cook for 20 minutes on medium heat, the soup should not boil.
Cut the baguette into thick slices, you can fry it in olive oil and rub it with garlic, but if you don’t feel like playing with it, then skip these steps. The baguette can be stale, you can bake it in the oven and make croutons with it or just serve it fresh – depending on how much time you have. At the end of cooking, season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. We do it at the end, because a lot of salt comes from the ham during cooking and it’s easy to overdo it. Put the croutons into the soup so they soak up the soup well, add the eggs and poach for 2-3 minutes.
And if you would like to try exactly the same soup as we did, and eat tasty and cheap in Toledo, be sure to visit Bar Ludena. The service there is a bit sluggish (but very friendly!) and you need to make some time for lunch or dinner, but we assure you there will be no regrets!