Garlic Soup: Pure Auvergnat Peasant Food

garlic soup

Turning rustic country fare into a slick restaurant best-seller has become so hackneyed these days that finding a post-modern reconstructed pot-au-feu for $45 in a hot new city dining spot can’t be far away. However, (and while we may be wrong) it might be a while before this garlic and wine soup hits high-end eateries — and not because it’s not restaurant-grade food, but rather because it’s the kind of dish that seems like it can neither be adapted nor re-imagined in a single way that wouldn’t detract from the original.

Do not to be discouraged by the glut of garlic called for, even if you’re cooking for those suspicious of its myriad charms. For, while it is unavoidably redolent of the “perfumed rose”, the flavor is mellow rather than aggressive, far cleaner than you might reasonably expect, and altogether heartier than a simple garlic and broth concoction would suggest.

garlic soup

This recipe is taken wholesale from Madeleine Kamman’s When French Women Cook, and if you don’t already own a copy of this classic tome, then you should endure no more of your life without it. It is evocative of the no-nonsense, waste-not philosophy of female-run home kitchens in pre-war rural France, where chickens pecked outside and extra dietary protein arrived under cover of darkness from the local poacher. Emblematic of the authentic, hearty and stunningly delicious food within its pages, Kamman’s garlic soup recipe comes from the rugged Auvergne — a mysterious and wild region of south central France rumored to still harbor wolves, even bears — via the hands of a distant grandmaternal, Occitan-speaking cousin named Victoire.

There are no pictures of food in When French Women Cook. This lack of illustration, far from confounding the reader and potential cook, actually encourages use of the imagination to mentally conjure what the text describes. Arriving at the completed dish, confidence in your ability to interpret a recipe is bolstered as you behold a meal that truly transcends what the bleak gulleys of your cerebrum had conceived. A rewarding experience corporally and spiritually, just steer clear of close-packed public places for the ensuing 24 hours — you will positively hum with garlic. Hum.

garlic soup

Soupe a L’ail et au Vin (Garlic and Wine Soup)


  • 3-4 heads garlic (40-50 cloves)
  • 4oz pancetta or ventreche, cubed
  • 3tbsp plain flour
  • 5 cups warm veal (or beef) stock
  • 1/2cup dry white wine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup cantal cheese (gruyere or emmentaler also work well)
  • 6 slices toasted country bread


  1. Separate each clove of garlic from the head and crush lightly with the side of a knife. Do not remove the skin.
  2. Reserve one clove. Peel it and chop it finely. Keep for later use.
  3. Gently render the cubed pancetta in a large stockpot, until pieces are golden brown.
  4. Add flour and stir into the fat. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Gradually add warm stock to roux, stirring constantly.
  6. Bring to a boil and add the garlic. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, mix the white wine with the egg yolks in a 1-quart measuring jug.
  8. After 45 minutes, strain soup through a sieve, or use a slotted spoon to remove garlic and skins. Return soup to pot.
  9. Add several ladle-fulls of the simmering liquid to the eggs and wine to gently heat (temper) the yolks.
  10. Then, add the egg yolk mixture back to the stock pot and stir well.
  11. Reheat soup until it shows a few bubbles. Do not allow to boil.
  12. Taste and correct seasoning.
  13. Mash the reserved garlic clove with chopped parsley (make a persillade).
  14. Place bread slice in bottom of soup bowl, top with cantal cheese, and ladle soup over top.
  15. Sprinkle the whole thing with persillade.
  16. Enjoy with a rough red table wine and extra bread. Finish meal with something minty, you’ll need it.

29 thoughts on “Garlic Soup: Pure Auvergnat Peasant Food

  1. mmmm, garlic soup! I planted garlic for the first time this year, and am so excited for my first harvest so I can make this recipe!

    BTW, I’m also a huge fan of Madeleine Kamman — her recipe for duck confit is stunning.

    1. good luck with your homegrown garlic, Julia. that is freaking awesome. Reading Madeleine Kamman reminds me that the world can be a wonderfully intriguing and deeply beautiful and restoring place. Eating her food proves it.

  2. I love a simple, rustic garlic soup! This has cold and flu season written all over it. The egg yolks must give the soup a much silkier texture (I use day old bread to thicken it). Man, I’m just getting over the flu and I wish someone had made this for me a week ago.

    1. Tina – glad you’re feeling better. we said exactly the same thing – that this is the kind of soup to cure what ails you, whether it’s a cold, a hangover or a bad day at the office. the egg yolks do make it wonderfully silky, which was unexpectedly glorious!

  3. Looks delicious. I am back to needing soup recipes because for the second time in the past month I am suffering from yet another bad cold!

    Once this was peasant food. Now I’m a peasant because I can’t pronounce “Auvergnois.

    1. Rachel – this is Amy – neither can I…. Jonny can speak french well. i can’t. you should see when we’re in france – usually i’m the talkaholic but there i’m a mute.

  4. Roger that on the peasant food phenom. Funnily enough, I was just reading AJ Liebling’s Between Meals where he grouses about not getting a good bowl of pot-au-feu anywhere in Paris. Amazing how trends come and go. The recipe looks scrumptious. One can’t have enough garlic in our house.

  5. Pedro – thanks for reading the recipe closely! I mistakenly left out the step (now re-inserted as #8) of straining the soup of the garlic cloves, skin and pancetta). We reserved it all, using the garlic (now easily removable from the skin) in some mashed potatoes and the pancetta to flavor some roasted brussel sprouts.

  6. Funny,
    I had chicken scarpariello on my blog yesterday, and mentioned that it was strictly “peasant food” at its best.
    I love garlic soup!
    I am sure I was a peasant in a former life!

  7. I have enjoyed garlic soup since the mid-90’s when I found a recipe by accident and fell in love with it. But those have all been either Spanish or Mexican varieties. So it was interesting to read through this for the similarities and differences. I will definitely give this version a try.

  8. Ahhhh….garlic soup! It has become part of our Christmas dinner tradition as the first course, before moving on to fondue. We used to have it on Christmas Eve, but we found ourselves emitting a rather pungent odor at Midnight Mass. I love your addition of the bread and cheese – it makes a good thing even better! Definitely an embellishment I will be adding this Christmas.

  9. What about dehydrating the garlic? We could make a powder and serve it with a baguette foam and jellified Cantal cheese and charge $32 for it. Are you with me? 🙂

    Okay.. i’m kidding. I rather give up cooking and become a monk than making that kind of food. I love, love, love garlic soup. The good old fashion way.

  10. I have seen several recipes for garlic soup and it sounds really good (I love garlic),but I have just never tried it-your version looks fabulous and the perfect way to get through cold and flu season!

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