Garlic soup, Basque-style, from Basque Country.

garlic soup
Basque-style garlic soup

With winter starting officially as of this past Saturday, I’m finding myself seriously craving some soup. I’m more than ready to make some pressure cooker pho, pasta e fagioli, and even some carrot-ginger soup in the next few weeks, but the soup I am planning to make before all of those is a Basque-style soup that is definitely meant to soothe what ails you because it’s often made as a hangover cure. In the headnotes for this recipe in Basque Country, the matriarch of the family was the person sent to make this soup to ensure that late-night revelers and early-morning workers would have something of substance to eat, and when I first made this soup last March, I was sorely in need of a mental hangover cure and latched onto this one as a lifeline.

Meat trimmings!
Meats for the broth!

This is not only a great soup to eat, but it serves as a wonderful culinary project that isn’t difficult so much as it simply requires time for it to get it right. The base of the soup is a broth called salda, which is a combination of beef trimmings, beef bones, chicken pieces, and some aromatics. It’s so good that it is served in Basque restaurants on its own in mugs once the weather turns cold, and while you could skip this step and use a ready-made beef broth or stock in its place, taking the time to make this is really worth the effort.

What’s notable about this soup is that it’s one of the few Basque recipes that employs a hefty amount of paprika or pimentón, which is likely due to the fact that this soup originated in the Castile region and has since been adopted across all of Spain. Instead of putting some poached eggs and a big piece of toast in the middle of the bowl which I have done in the past, the bread is left to soak all night before it gets reheated and some eggs are whisked in for added heartiness. It’s a marvelous thing to behold, and a wonderfully restorative soup to enjoy after a solid workout on a Sunday morning. All of the flavors mellow nicely overnight, as the garlic and paprika aren’t nearly as sharp, and the bread becomes a wonderful, soft, pleasant thing to eat when paired with ribbons of cooked egg. 

So long as you make this soup a day ahead of time, you can enjoy it any time of day afterward, be it breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. As you enjoy your holiday celebrations, consider adding this to your to-make list to help feel more like yourself after a particularly notable night of debauchery, or simply when you need a lovely bowl of soup to dive into because you need to soothe your soul.

Garlic Soup (Baratxui Zopa)

Lightly adapted from Basque Country by Marti Buckley

  • 4 ounces slightly puffy flatbread or baguette bread
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon (not level) Spanish paprika/pimenton de la vera
  • 8 cups of beef and/or chicken broth or salda (recipe follows)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste if needed
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar to taste (again, optional)
  • 3 large eggs

Break the bread into 1-inch cubes/slices and set aside. Reserve one tablespoon of the olive oil and heat the rest on medium-high heat in a large saucepot. Fry the bread cubes until golden, and then take out and set aside in a small bowl.

Add the rest of the olive oil and the garlic to the pot, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, from 30 seconds to one minute. Stir in the paprika, and then add the broth and the salt and bring the pot to a boil. Add the bread back to the pot, and then lower to a simmer to let the bread slowly break down for 30 minutes, and then add more salt if you feel it’s necessary along with the vinegar.

Let the soup cool, and store in the fridge until ready to cook. When ready to do so, heat over medium heat and whisk the eggs well and add them to the soup, stirring to break the eggs into ribbons. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

Beef and Chicken Broth (Salda)

From Basque Country  by Marti Buckley

  • 7 oz beef shank
  • 1 lb beef bones
  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh or chicken carcass if you’re like us and hoard them
  • 2 leeks, halved and cleaned well
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 parsley sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 

In a large stockpot, combine the shank, bones, and chicken thigh or carcass along with 12 cups of water and bring to a boil on high heat. Following the boil, lower to medium and let it go, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. 

Add the leeks, carrots, onion, parsley, and salt and reduce the heat to a simmer, continuing to skim off any foam. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and let go for another two hours.

Strain the broth through a sieve and either store for posterity’s sake or use in the garlic soup.

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