Spring has made a full, undeniable appearance at last! It’s not only in the air, it’s all around this little country. I feel a new rush of life throbbing in the grass, singing in between open windows, coming out of nooks and crannies of our concrete blocks. Trees have come out in all shades of white, yellow and pink, our parks and public gardens are covered in drifts of dandelions. And my friend’s garden up in the hills abounds with bear garlic, among other plants. She was only too happy to bring some down for my cooking experiments.
Slovaks are partial to garlic and they go very generous on it in their meals, sometimes to the point when garlic overrides all other flavours. In case of garlic soup, however, this is a good thing and surely something you’re looking for. What you want from a garlic soup is a good punch, a powerful kick to your immune system, and the pleasant heat spreading all over your body.
I’ve been making garlic soup for years now following no particular recipe but my taste and cooking hunches. When I decided to bring a recipe to you, dear reader, it was because I knew what an important place the soup has in Slovak diet. So I went on the internet to check a few Slovak cooking sites, and found quite a few recipes that used bear garlic or wild garlic, if you like. Not only have I learned about how plentiful this herb is in our forests and woodlands, but also how easy it is to replant its root bulbs in your garden.
So here is my first cooking experience with bear garlic. I started with a generous handful of the herb, which yielded a soup of thinner consistency.
The same recipe but two generous handfuls of the bear garlic gave a denser, almost sauce-like soup packed full of phytonutrients .
And here is the recipe I used:
Bear Garlic Soup
4 medium-sized potatoes
1 l water or vegetable stock
a handful or two of bear garlic
200 ml cooking cream (12% fat in Slovakia)*
salt, white pepper to taste
ground caraway seeds
4 slices leftover bread for croutons
oil or butter for frying
grated cheese (optional)
*Cooking cream of this fat content would probably qualify as ‘single cream’ in the UK. ‘Creme fraiche’ can also be used, but that is much higher in fat.
Take the cream out of the fridge. Rinse and finely chop the bear garlic.
Peel and wash the potatoes. Pour the water or vegetable stock in a cooking pot and boil the potatoes in it until soft and tender. Season with the salt and white pepper to taste, add the ground caraway and chopped bear garlic. Put aside.
Cut the bread into cubes and place in a pan with a little oil or butter. Brown over a medium high heat until firm and crunchy.
Pour the cream in the potato-garlic stock and blend well using a blender. Bring the mixture to the boil and remove from the heat.
Serve hot in soup bowls with the croutons and grated cheese sprinkled over the top of each helping.
A bowl of this simple, wholesome soup filled my body with a delightful warmth and a surge of pure, ‘green’ energy.