Aïgo boulido

French garlic soup from Provence

There are many variants of this soup, the most basic of which is simply to boil some garlic cloves with a couple of sage leaves and a little olive oil. In this slightly more sophisticated version, the softened garlic is allowed to steep with fresh sage, thyme and a bay leaf, then puréed with olive oil and an egg yolk, and served over toast topped with grated cheese.

For best results, use firm, young garlic. It’s worth going out of your way to get fresh sage, which makes the soup deeply flavorful. Choose country-style French bread if you can find it — you’ll need one wide slice or or two smaller slices per bowl. And be sure to grate the cheese yourself, using a variety like like Comté, Gruyère or Parmesan.

The quantities below will serve 2 people.

8 garlic cloves
3 cups (75 cl) water
1/2 tsp. sea salt or regular salt
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

2-4 slices bread
1 ounce (30 g) Comté, Gruyère or Parmesan

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Peel the garlic. Bring the water to a boil with the salt. Add the garlic and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft.

Turn off the heat, add the herbs, cover the pot and allow to steep for 10 minutes more.

While the soup is steeping, toast the bread. Place in soup bowls. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the toast. Place the egg yolk in a small bowl.

When the soup has finished steeping, remove the herbs, setting aside a few sage leaves for decoration. Transfer the soup to a blender. Purée.

Stir a ladleful of the warm soup into the egg yolk. Transfer this mixture back into the blender. Add the olive oil. Blend.

Pour the soup into a clean pot and grind on some black pepper. Reheat gently — do not allow the soup to boil, or the yolk may curdle.

Pour the hot soup over the toast. Decorate with sage. Serves 2.

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