I love garlic! The idea of garlic ice cream and garlic jam (both of which exist) do not scare me at all! I eat raw garlic on peanut butter when I’m fighting a cold or flu. And I always have garlic in my kitchen as a household staple.
If you love garlic as much as I do, and you’ve have never had garlic soup, you are going to be blown away! At least I was, the first time I ever tried it.
It was a cold, dreary November day in Hungary. Hungary is a beautiful country, but like much of Europe and the Northeastern US, November is probably one of the worst times of year to visit. So why did I choose that gray month to visit? Well, its a bit of a complicated and long story. But the short version of it goes something like this.
I was studying at a Development School in Denmark, where I was hoping to be trained to work with small villages in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Three months into my stay at the school, my boyfriend flew in from the US and proposed to me. We’ll save the story of how it took me leaving the US for him to realize how much I meant to him…. for another day.
Well, I said “YES.” But I was torn between following my aspirations for development work in Africa, and returning home with my new fiancé, to face uncertain career prospects. Of course, my heart won out over my career sensibility, and I decided to leave the school and return to live with Thomas. But not without touring the rest of Europe while I was there. My aunt lived in the Dordogne region of France, where I enjoyed the marché‘s and the last of the autumn warmth. By the time I got to Hungary, to visit my good friends from graduate school, it was November. And it was gray. And cold. Visiting a city when its gray is ok. And Budapest is a beautiful city. I even captured it in black & white film, which was so appropriate at the time.
But then my friends took me to their house in the country, alongside the famous Lake Balaton. This is where they spend their summers, they told me. Key word being “summers”. While it was lovely, it was very, very cold and there was a harsh wind coming off the lake that chapped my cheeks. Just as I was beginning to lose feeling in my fingertips, we came across Charlie and Agota’s favorite restaurant: a round little building, sitting atop a small cliff, over-looking the lake. The restaurant had enough room for maybe 8 tables, at most. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with warm and cozy kitchen smells, that helped my body relax just a bit. As my friends translated all the menu options, the one dish that cried out above all others was garlic soup. I’d never had garlic soup before. But it sounded like the perfect thing. And it was! It warmed me from inside out, and the taste was so addictively robust that I still remember it, today, more than ten years later.
I tried to find the recipe for this Hungarian soup online, but wasn’t very successful. So here is my version, which is of course allergen-free. If you love garlic, you must try this! It’s is the perfect food for healing someone who is ill because of garlic’s natural antibiotic properties. But you don’t have to have the sniffles to enjoy it. Its comfort food, anytime!
1 large head garlic
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
A drizzle of olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
5 small to medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh basil, chiffonaded
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Slice the top off one of the garlic bulbs and place it in a garlic roaster, or wrap with foil. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until lightly golden and oozing. Let the garlic cool. Using a butter knife, remove the garlic cloves from their paper shells, and place in a bowl.
In a medium-sized heavy-bottom stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and the garlic is softened, about 5 minutes more. Add roasted garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the broth, potatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to medium-low and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until creamy. Alternatively, you can process the soup in a blender in batches and return to the stove to heat through.
Serve soup with basil chiffonade in each bowl.