This is a Portuguese bread and garlic soup, Sopa Seca de Alho, which reminds me somewhat of the Spanish Sopa de Ajo (while being quite different at the same time). Bread soups were, apparently, brought to Iberia by the Moors – think gazpacho, ajoblanco, migas, etc. With very few ingredients other than water, stale bread can be turned into something warm and appetising that fills you up, especially when working in the fields on a cold day.
The Portuguese have a large repertoire of bread soups, known as Açordas (typically from the Alentejo region). The most basic Açordas contain water and garlic, while the more exotic include prawns, coriander, bacalhau (bacalao), eggs, etc.
Sopa Seca de Alho (serves 2):
half a stale baguette, sliced as above (ideally sourdough)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1 pint stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 heaped teaspoon pimentón de la vera dulce
1 beaten egg
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
In an oven proof pan, fry the garlic in olive oil until it starts to brown a little.
Pour on one pint of hot vegetable or chicken stock (many recipes call for water, but I prefer a bit more flavour).
Stir in a teaspoon of sweet (dulce) pimentón de la vera and let the liquid simmer for a minute or so.
Push the bread down into the stock, so that it absorbs the liquid.
Pour a beaten egg over the top of the bread.
Put the frying pan into a preheated oven at 200º C for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top has browned. While this is called a dry soup, do not let the pan go completely dry – there should still be a little liquid in the bottom when done.
Serve with sardines, prawns, bacalao, scrambled eggs, etc.
I find this dish quite intriguing. The egg baked into bread has a slight custard flavour, the crust has a texture similar to crispy pork fat and the soft sticky lower side to the bread is quite unctuous. This really does turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. I ate sopa seca for lunch, but will be serving individual portions with a fish or fried quail’s egg on top, as a dinner party starter soon.