Recipe and photos contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Veronica Shine
From north to south of the Iberian Peninsula, the garlic reigns as a staple in the diets of Spain, the Mediterranean region and Hispanic countries. Garlic seems too featured as an enhancement in the majority of household dishes. There are several types of garlic grown in Spain with some pungent, robust or sweet. White garlic is the most familiar but at hand is a purple tinge variety, from Las Pedroñeras, in the province of Cuenca, fondly known as the capitol of the garlic. Although Las Pedroñeras is the principal place of cultivation and production, garlic farming has spread throughout other neighboring provinces such as Albacete, Ciudad Real and Toledo. Gourmet chefs from around the world consider the purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras the best. There is more of this variety exported out than stays in Spain. It contains a fine texture, and a full fresh flavor and a hint of citrus, noticeably different from normal garlic.
Dependable recipes use only a few, simple ingredients, like garlic and yet are unwavering as a delicious dish. This is the case of Cream Garlic Soup featuring garlic as the star in a hot bowl of soup. This particular recipe uses Iberian ham which provides sustenance to the people who live off the land.
Iberian ham is a dried cured ham. Not only is it expensive but next to impossible to locate in most markets in the Western Hemisphere without putting a dent in your pocketbook. You can use as a substitute a heavily smoked ham hock or such hams as Black Forest or York ham.
It is ironic that these uncomplicated recipes have made their way to some of the trendiest restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona. Its honest taste and heritage win over diners and food critics alike. You can create Cream Garlic Soup which is the rave each winter in Spain, right in your own kitchen. Although ham added to it is common in Spain, you can use chicken, shellfish, mollusks, such as clams or mussels, as an alternative to mix to the basic soup rather than the ham.
Yields 4 servings
2 quarts beef stock or chicken broth
4 slices crusty bread, sliced ½ inch thick
4 cloves of garlic crushed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch saffron (optional)
1 pinch of parsley
¼ pound of thin sliced Iberian dried cured ham
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
1. In a sauté pan or shallow pot over medium heat, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2. Add the crushed garlic and cook until lightly browned and soft.
3. Add the bread slices and fry on both sides.
4. Sprinkle with a little paprika, parsley and saffron and add the broth to bring to a boil.
5. Lower the temp, cover and allow the soup to simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the consistency is a thin cream-like liquid.
6. Remove and place in oven-proof crock bowls.
7. Boil the eggs in boiling water for 10 minutes, let cool peel and grate them and place to the side.
8. In a non-stick skillet, add the remaining olive oil and ham pieces and cook until the ham is crystallized.
9. Include a portion of ham to each of the soup bowls and salt to taste.
10. Place the bowls into the preheated oven of 350 degrees and cook for 4 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and combine the grated eggs and croutons and serve.
For extra color, add more paprika.