This is not a novelty dish but the one of greatest soups in the world. Basically this is my adaption of a classic French recipe. The soup exists in two distinct forms: the first thickened before serving with an elision of oil and egg yolk, a mayonnaise in effect and served with a poached egg; the second more Spanish in influence with saffron and potatoes and served with bread and grated cheese. For those in a hurry and fearful of beating hot soup into cold mayonnaise the second is easier, tastes great and is just as authentic. The saffron adds a depth to the soup and makes the dish robust enough to take a little carelessness with herbs that make it an easier prospect for the amateur cook. Remember you can always add MORE garlic to taste. The boiling process changes the taste of garlic entirely. You are allowed to be bold and adapt the soup to your tastes and those of your guests.
2-3 heads of garlic.
2 Quarts of vegetable stock
Bunch flat leaf parsley, including stalks
Thyme, bay leaf, sage, marjoram or oregano according to availability about half teaspoon of each chopped
2 Tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil per head
3 cups of diced potatoes, a salad or boiling potato is required. The skin may be left on the potato to give a rustic appearance.
Saffron, pounded in pestle with a little stock and left to infuse for two hours or overnight.
Decent fresh French bread: if this is not fresh or from a supermarket, toast the bread lightly and brush with olive oil. Decent parmesan cheese or pecorino Romano grated.
This recipe will feed 6 to 8.
The better the stock the better the soup but if you have not the time to make your own vegetable stock (use a celery, white onion and carrot base) substitute with either 2 stock cubes in water and increase the amount of garlic or stock cube with half water and half white vermouth. If the garlic is fresh and in season you may merely use water as they would in Provence. Make sure the latter stock is brought to the boil for five minutes before using it.
Peel the cloves of garlic. You may put these in boiling water for 30 seconds as this will ease the peeling process.
Place all the ingredients except the potatoes and saffron in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to medium simmer for 15 minutes and then a low simmer for another 15 minutes. Leave stand until tepid.
Pour the soup through a fine sieve. Force the garlic and other ingredients through the sieve with a spoon.
Purists will remove the herbs but for this version with saffron and potatoes that is too refined. If you intend to serve with a poached egg then the herbs are best put in a small muslin bag and removed before sieving. In this case you will also need to thicken the soup with an elision of egg yolk and oil before serving. You can poach eggs before your guests arrive and keep them in paper towel in the refrigerator. Remove these from the refrigerator about an hour before you serve the soup. They can then be slid gently into the hot soup as it is plated. Remember to keep the soup hot and allow a minute or so for the chill to be taken off the eggs. Melba toast is a refined accompaniment for this version.