Tourin à l’ail is a simple garlic soup from the Dordogne in France. The soup is made throughout Aquitaine with some variations known as Tourain Blanchi à l’Ail. There are also people who like to mix onion with the garlic. In Languedoc-Roussillon (on the opposite, Mediterranean coast), tourin is referred to as, Soup des Vendangeurs (grape picker’s soup) – it’s made with olive oil instead of fat and lacks flour. Thickening should take place when the garlic is heated gently in olive oil, similar to the emulsification of garlic and olive oil in ailoli. Tourin à l’ail is commonly served (for strength) to the bride and groom on their wedding night.
Tourin is said to be an ancient dish and in it’s basic form contains no stock, just water. The bread would be stale and without cheese. You can imagine it being cooked in a single pot, over a fire, perhaps in the fields at lunchtime by vegetable pickers. In many ways it’s similar to the Spanish sopa de ajo and Portuguese sopa seca – hot meals that fortified and sustained the workers. In Provence they make a very similar boiled garlic soup called Aigo Bouido (“boiled water” in Provençal) – garlic and potato soups are common in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
Tourin à l’ail recipe (serves 2):
20 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 dessertspoon goose fat
1 dessertspoon plain flour
1 pint stock
1 large free range egg
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
cheese – Cantal or Gruyère (grated)
Heat a dessertspoon of goose fat (duck or pork fat can also be used) in a suitable saucepan.
Gently fry the chopped garlic in the not too hot fat.
I love the French language in some of the tourin recipes, where they say, blondir les pétales d’ail – quite literally, blonde the garlic petals, so fry the garlic gently until it is golden and not brown!
Stir a heaped tablespoonful of plain flour into the blonde garlic to make a roux.
Slowly add a pint of stock to the roux, a little bit at a time and keep stirring. I used pheasant stock (onion, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs, with 2 pheasant carcasses). The most basic recipes for tourin contain water, while the deluxe versions use chicken or vegetable stock. Cook gently for 20 – 30 minutes.
Take the soup off the heat. Separate the free range egg, and beat the white. Whisk or stir this into the soup to former des filaments – make filaments.
Beat the egg yolk with the white wine vinegar and a few turns of black pepper. Temper the yolk, meaning whisk it, with half a cup of the warm soup to stop it going lumpy. Beat the tempered yolk into the soup and heat gently for 5 minutes to thicken it. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Traditionally people add pieces of stale bread to their tourin, but with this deluxe version it deserves croutons. These can be easily made in the oven, using cubes of stale bread, a little olive oil, chopped garlic and ground herbs with salt and pepper. Croutons will keep in an air tight container (refrigerated) for several weeks, or frozen for at least a year.
Cover the croutons with grated Cantal cheese, then float them on top of the soup and sprinkle with chopped chives. You get a fantastic tang from the cheese and hints of onion from the chives. I swear I tasted mushrooms, though there were none at all in the turin – mushrooms are rich in umami, the fifth Japanese taste – it’s what we call savoury.
Serve with a decent glass of claret, such as Château les Martins Cotes de Blaye.
“Towards the end of your soup you can faire chabrol – a fine Dordogne custom, still observed quite unselfconsciously by many a local as he eats his soup. In a posh restaurant I do not dare faire chabrol. But usually, out of the corner of your eye, you can see someone unconsciously bold enough to do so. Instead of completely emptying the soup bowl, the custom is to pour into the dregs of the soup a little red wine. The warmth of the soup releases the flavour of the wine, which in turn enhances the flavour of the bouillon, and the diner raises the bowl to his lips and happily drinks it down. In the days of Jacqou le Croquant the practice was deemed to promote all manner of physical well-being. And a patois rhyme still sings of it’s health giving properties:
Qu’ei lou chabrol que ravicolo
Qu’ei lou pu grand tous medicis.
(‘It’s chabrol which revives your strength/Which is the finest of all medicines.’)”
Quote from “Life and Food in the Dordogne” by James Bentley.
Faire chabrol (or chabrot), refers to the way in which goats lap their water!
Thank you, Mad, for this enticing & tantalizing soup & its history. I can only dream about tasting it – though I did relish a cup of the most fabulous golden tomato soup with beautiful orange garlic oil jewels floating on top at the new MOMA in NYC this past autumn. That will have to “do me” for the time being.
Thanks Judith – that golden tomato soup with orange garlic oil jewels, sounds quite amazing!
Fascinating food story, Mad ! One of which I have been totally ignorant !! Being a huge garlic lover I simply have to try it your ‘posh’ version, i daresay with some of my 12-hour beef stock. Now I can see both food value and even an immunity boost in your version but what, besides being a strong hot drink,, did the historic way provide to those making do in the fields . . . ?
Thanks Eha! One hopes they were allowed some other vegetables for their evening meal…
I remember listening to a Radio 4 Food Programme on yeast and baking – they point out that old breads, made with the leftovers from beer making, contain vitamin B12 (which we normally obtain from meat) and can sustain life!
Thanks so much for the fab recipe and mouthwatering stories 👍🏻
Mad, not only have you introduced me to a new dish, I feel as if I’ve made a mini-tour of France. I would think the aroma of the soup alone would make the cook worthwhile. The faire chabròl seems a fine way to finish a soup.
Thanks Ron – I think you’ll love the soup and it’s really quick to make!
Discovered this soup when I lived in Dordogne. It is served at every function or dinner in town halls, local fêtes etc. Delicious and not too garlicky at all😃
Thanks Nadia – they even have a festival for it.
Ha ha – I don’t think it does taste that garlicky, though I do live on the stuff!
I have heard of this soup but had no desire to try and never gave it much thought until I read your description and saw your photos! All of a sudden I need this soup, some goose fat AND claret!! Btw, love the croutons!
Thanks Mollie – I’m sure it cures all sorts of winter ailments too!
I might have to have a preventative dose of that medicine, lol!!
Your soup and the story behind it has me thinking that I might enjoy working in a vegetable patch if this was what I would eat during a break. 😊
Thanks Karen – I think there are people working in the garlic and crocus (saffron) fields of Spain, who might still cook where they work.
I’m not sure my back would appreciate the work though!