Aïgo boulido

French garlic soup from Provence is called aïgo boulido, which translates amusingly as ‘boiled water’. Well, you can believe me — it’s a lot tastier than hot water. The garlic is boiled until soft, allowed to steep with fresh sage, thyme and a bay leaf, puréed with an egg yolk and olive oil, and served over toast topped with freshly grated cheese. Pale yellow, creamy and deeply flavorful, it’s a delight to the palate and the eye.

Aïgo boulido / French garlic soup from Provence

Although less famous than it’s illustrious cousin, French onion soup, garlic soup is served throughout France. In the north, the garlic is typically cooked in chicken broth with potatoes, carrots and cream or butter. Sometimes smoked garlic is used. In the southwest, where garlic soup is known as tourin à l’ail, it may include onion, flour and wine vinegar. The provençal version tastes like sage-infused aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), but is far lighter.

Even in Provence, there are many versions. As Andrée Maureau, author of the wonderful cookbook Recettes en Provence, explains, ‘A chaque famille sa recette‘ — each family has its own recipe. She provides several versions, the first of which consists simply of garlic boiled with sage, thyme and bay, unblended and served over toast. This may hark back to the days when hikers in the Alps of Provence made the soup using herbs they gathered and water from bubbling brooks, which they boiled for purposes of purification.

Possibly because it’s a family thing, or perhaps because the regional aspect of French cuisine persists to this day, garlic soup is rarely seen on Parisian bistro menus. In fact, I owe the inspiration for this post to my sister-in-law, Mary Foran of Oakland, California. I guess that means it’s a family thing for us, too. Mary encountered a recipe for garlic soup in a novel and ran it by me to check on its authenticity. That sparked my curiosity. I’d been wanting to try aïgo boulido, the version from Provence, for a long time, looked into it and finally made some. Very glad that I did!

Happy cooking.

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2 Responses to Aïgo boulido

  1. RobinThomas says:

    Mary’s soup was delicious!

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