Aïgo crazy for this soup

While the thought of garlic soup may have many of you running for the hills, bear with me. I was a doubting Thomas too. While I adore garlic, I’m acutely aware of its ability to dominate and overpower dishes. Like truffle oil, a little goes a long way, especially when recipes require raw garlic. I tend to err on the side of caution and use a few less cloves than recommended. When it comes to raw, less is more.

It was with trepidation that I began making Julia Child’s garlic soup, known as ‘aïgo bouïdo’, which means ‘boiled water’ in Provençal dialect. The Mediterranean soup originates from Provence and was historically enjoyed as a starter on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, spring water was boiled with aromatic herbs like sage and thyme then poured over bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

Julia Child’s garlic soup calls for an entire head of garlic

The soup is lauded for its health benefits, and is thought to be good for the liver, circulation and general wellbeing. So much so it inspired the phrase: “aïgo bouïdo sauvo la vido”, (boiled water saves your life). The beauty of the soup is that it’s incredibly easy to make from ingredients you’re likely to have to hand. It’s an ideal dinner party starter, as it’s sophisticated and intriguing, giving the impression that you’ve slaved over it for hours, when in fact it takes just half an hour to make.

Erring on the side of caution, rather than the 16 cloves of garlic Julia suggested, I opted for 12. In hindsight I wish I’d stuck with 16, as the garlic flavour ends up being so mellow, the soup could have easily carried the four extra cloves. All you have to do is boil the peeled cloves in three pints of water for half an hour with the following ingredients; a generous pinch of sage and thyme, two cloves, a bay leaf, four sprigs of parsley, three tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

The smell when the garlic and herbs are bubbling away took me back to my nana’s kitchen

While the soup is bubbling away, whisk three egg yolks until they’re thick and glossy. The next step is similar to making mayonnaise – add three tablespoons of olive oil into the whisked eggs drop by drop until the sauce starts to thicken. To prevent the eggs from scrambling, begin by adding a cupful of the soup into the egg mixture via a strainer to catch the cloves in. Then add more bit by bit.

There is a huge amount of flavour to be extracted from the cloves, so be sure to mash them up and pass as much as possible of that garlicky goodness through the strainer and into the soup. The broth is best served immediately. Mine paired marvellously with hot buttered olive ciabatta and an afternoon screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, set on the French Riviera, starring an impossibly suave Cary Grant and a bewitchingly glamorous Grace Kelly.

Give Julia Child’s garlic soup a go – the flavour is a revelation

Expecting something aggressively garlicky, it was the exact opposite – subtle, mellow and savoury, with wonderful aromatics from the herbs. The flavour is hard to define but impossible to forget. It was so tasty, I was tempted to do away with my spoon altogether and upend the entire bowl into my mouth. It was exactly as Julia described it: “exquisite and almost undefinable”, just how I like my men, though preferably with the charisma of Cary Grant to boot.

Published by lucyelizabethshaw

I'm a globetrotting wine writer by day and gluttonous food blogger by night. Having once written a wine blog that I dearly miss, in 2020 I will attempt to master the art of French cooking with a little help from Julia Child, having been inspired to do so after watching Nora Ephron's fantastically funny and supremely comforting Julie and Julia. Come and join me on my culinary journey...

One thought on “Aïgo crazy for this soup

  1. I seem to remember that Cary Grant served up a quiche Lorraine in To Catch a Thief. After your post, I think I can say he should have gone for garlic soup instead.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: