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Provencal Garlic Soup

12 December 2013 / 12:12:16  GRReporter
2574 reads

 Danielle Lachana

 

We now arrive in France, and specifically in the southern region of Provence, which is especially renowned for its many days of Christmas traditions.

Here the ritual festivities start on Saint Barbara's day (4th December).

Saint Barbara

 

On this day, wheat seeds are planted on cotton wool in three saucers: if the wheat grows straight and green then the new year will be prosperous.

The saucers of wheat are first placed in the family Christmas cribs then later become an essential feature on the Christmas Eve table, together with 3 white tablecloths and 3 white candles, the number 3 representing the Holy Trinity. This provides the setting for the special Christmas Eve menu - ''Le Gros Souper'' (The Great Supper) to which today's dish belongs.

The ''Supper'' starts with 7 (the number represents the Virgin Mary's pains and sorrows) simple, meatless dishes, in contrast to the abundant second part of Le Gros Souper which comprises 13 desserts (and to which we will return in next week's article).

An official list of dishes was created in 1998, but every family tends to follow their own - the idea being based on frugality and simplicity. The dishes are generally quick or easy to prepare in advance, so that the family can have more time to relax together. The 7 rigorously meatless dishes generally include some set items, namely salt cod, plenty of stewed vegetables, savoury vegetable tarts, salads and today's simple and economical Garlic Soup, which is known in Provence as ''Aigo Boulido''.

Despite its name and the quantity of garlic this is not actually a strong-tasting dish. It is actually a very light soup, more like a broth, which is noted also for its therapeutic properties, especially in aiding the digestion. This is probably why, although it originated as a component of Le Gros Souper, it is now often used after all the partying to soothe the stomach!

*** 

RECIPE

(Serves 4)

 

 

 METHOD

Bring the water to boil in a pan. Add the salt, garlic and olive oil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the garlic has softened.

Remove from the heat and add the sage (and bay leaf and/or thyme if using). Note: If you are not using fresh sage leaves

be very careful with the amount of dried sage as the taste can be over-powering.

Cover and leave to infuse (off the heat) for 15 minutes. Bring back to the boil, take off the heat, and remove the garlic, sage and any other herbs. (The easiest way to do this is by straining the liquid through a sieve into a bowl.) Check the seasoning and add extra salt if required.

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually whisk a ladleful of broth from the pan into them. Gradually add another couple of ladlefuls, whisking continuously. Still whisking, pour the egg mixture gently into the pan of broth. The secret here is to add the eggs gradually and keep whisking so that the eggs don't over-cook and curdle.

Pour into bowls and add the bread. I prefer to lightly toast or grill it first and rub it with 2 cloves of sliced peeled garlic.

Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the bread.

The soup can also be presented in large cups instead of bowls.

  Serve hot and Bon appétit!

Tags: Christmas Provencal Garlic soup Gros Souper Great Supper Recipes French Mediterranean Provence
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