It was as a student in Spain many years ago, that I first experienced the real power of food as medicine.
It was 1993. I was a 20-year-old student living in the beautiful city of Seville. It was Semana Santa (Easter week,) a huge deal in the spanish calendar. Being a national holiday, the student residence where I was staying was closed. Having no-one to celebrate the holidays with, a kind friend asked if I would like to spend a few days at her family home in a small village up in the mountains. It was an opportunity for an adventure, and having no other plans, I excitedly agreed.
Although I have very fond memories of my time in the Sierra – looking back, I realise just how naïve and unprepared I was for the culture shock I was about to experience.
Although still early Spring, it was local custom to take a nap in the afternoon – not just to avoid the hottest part of the day, but to ensure there was enough energy in the tank for the evening festivities, which rarely commenced before 9 or 10 pm. Unable to sleep during the day, I quickly found myself on the merry go round of partying until the early hours of the morning, indulging in all manner of exotic, rich dishes late into the night, and not hydrating myself properly during the day. On top of all this, the emotional stress of being far from home and only able to communicate in a foreign language (with a very particular local dialect) soon left me feeling pretty ill.
Completely run down, and without much of a clue about what to do with myself; it was my friend’s grandmother who quietly stirred her healing intentions into the most comforting and nurturing bowl of soup I’ve ever tasted in my life. Thank you Mrs. Campos for your crash course in food as medicine.
Here’s a slightly adapted (my cornish version) of the recipe that was handed down through the generations. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
The Best Ever “Feel Better” Recipe for Crave-able Garlic Soup
I’ve always wondered why the old herbals referred to this hot, pungent bulb as “poor man’s treacle.” Although I can’t find any specific references, I’m guessing it’s because when roasted, garlic becomes soft, jammy and sweet, taking on a mellow, almost nutty flavour, like a rich gooey treacle.
Before you worry that the amount of garlic in this recipe means you’ll have to wait a fortnight before venturing out in public, the way it’s cooked means you’re less likely to smell the garlic on your breath. That said, as a pungent gut cleansing herb, (garlic destroys harmful bacteria in the gut,) a hearty dose of garlic may cause you to be a little windy (in a healthy way 😊)
This soup is packed with onions, leeks and garlic – all members of the allium family. Due to their anti-inflammatory effects, regularly eating vegetables from this food group is believed to provide a wide range of health benefits such as helping to lower cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and offering cardiovascular protection. The addition of thyme and dried seaweed only serves to increase the nutritional value, making this a truly healing bowl of immune boosting herbal goodness.
- 3 to 4 heads of garlic (yes you read that right, it is heads – not cloves!)
- 2 small onions
- 1 leek
- 1 tin of butter beans or chickpeas
- 1 small pot of double cream (120 ml)
- 1 glass of organic, white wine (optional but recommended!)
- A handful of fresh thyme
- A sprinkle of cornish seaweed – I like their organic kelp
- Olive oil
- Salt and cracked black pepper to season
*It goes without saying that for medicine making, organic produce is always best.
How to Make Garlic Soup
First, you’ll need to roast the garlic.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
- Slice off the bottom of the garlic heads, just enough to expose the cloves. Although this step may seem unnecessary, omitting it will later involve the incredibly fiddly and time-consuming process of having to release the individual cloves from their jackets.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper
- Wrap in foil and bake for 40 minutes until soft and squishy
- Cool thoroughly before squeezing out of the skins (very satisfying!)
- In a large pot, melt 30g of butter.
- Finely chop the onions and leeks, and add to the pan on a low heat. Cook until transparent.
- Throw in a small handful of thyme and dried seaweed along with a glass of white wine. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.
- Add a litre of warm water to which you have added two chicken, or vegetable stock cubes. For added medicinal benefit, I believe the original recipe also utilized chicken bones.
- When your roasted garlic has cooled, press the cloves out of their skins and add straight into the pan
- Allow the broth to cool slightly before adding half of the mixture into a blender. Reserving the other half of the soup creates a nice texture when recombined.
- Return the blended liquid to the pan which you will have taken off the heat. Slowly, and taking care not to add it too quickly so it splits, pour in the pot of double cream
- Add the butter beans or chickpeas and reheat
- Season with rock salt and cracked black pepper (or a few flakes of parmesan cheese!) before serving
Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic contains a compound known as allicin, a powerful antibiotic – hence it’s other nickname of “Russian Penicillin.” This is why eating raw garlic can help fight against bacteria, fungus, yeasts and even some viruses. However, raw garlic can irritate the gut lining and is not well tolerated by people with gastric reflux who would do better to ingest it after macerating the bulbs in honey, or infusing them in oil or vinegar.
Garlic stimulates the flow of bile and gastric juices, aiding digestion and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut where a large portion of our immune system lives. Garlic is also highly nutritious, containing 17 amino acids, 8 of which are essential (they can’t be produced by the body.) Its chemical components stimulate cellular detoxification, restoration and rejuvenation, making it an excellent herb to eat and enjoy as part of a cleansing programme.
A few more ideas to experiment with:
- Roast garlic as described above, and stir into buttery mashed potatoes
- Crushed garlic can be added to butter and tossed in the pan when lightly stir frying spring greens
- Melt garlic butter on to sourdough toast
- Macerate in oil or vinegar to make a vibrant salad dressing
To make a fresh lemon and garlic sauce; Take three peeled garlic cloves, one cup of yogurt or kefir, two tablespoons of lemon juice, one dessert spoon of mustard powder, two tablespoons of tahini, and a pinch of salt. Whisk together with a fork.
If you like the idea of food as medicine and want to uplevel your daily diet to include more healing dishes like this, I invite you to check out my 10 day herbal rejuvenation programme which can be undertaken as a one to one guided cleanse, or as part of a supported group.
*A note of caution. People taking blood thinning medication should be wary of eating garlic in large doses or taking supplements. Breastfeeding mothers should also be aware that eating raw garlic can cause the baby to have wind.