Spanish Food 101: Sopas

A culinary journey through Spain via the unparalleled medium of informal oral testimonies. This is written in English. If you would like a Spanish/Spanglish translation may I recommend reading slower, louder, and adding the letter “o” intermittently to the end of words. This is the eigth part in the series of this crash course in Spanish cuisine. An introduction to this tale can be found by clicking here, and you can see the earlier forays of this adventure by scrolling down and reading more of this blog, which I would recommend that you do anyway. 

I recall having a conversation with someone in the past who was physically repulsed by the idea of cold soup. I gave a similar response on hearing that it is not uncommon for Andalusians to put ice in their red wine. Then you visit Spain and find that it’s too hot to function for most of the day suddenly makes the idea of cold soup and cold wine sound incredibly appealing. In a country with the summer heat and humidity of Spain, neither room temperature wine nor hot soup appeals.

Soups that are served hot in the winter may also be served cold in the summer. We should all be year-round soup eaters. Hearty, filling and refreshing, a soup is a wonderful start to a meal.



The Spanish soup that we have all heard of. I write this from the very sweaty, poorly air conditioned Terminal 2 at El Prat Airport. A gazpacho sounds very good right about now. Always served cold,

The family tell me that they prefer to make gazpacho from scratch for taste, but sometimes it’s impractical and so all the gazpacho that I ate came from a carton (also in cartons: brown sugar. The carton industry in Spain is really in its prime).

Always served cold, an invention of hot, hot Andalusia. Its main ingredients are tomato, cucumber and garlic, a refreshing trio indeed – the garlic from the carton scarcely came through, and there was a slight picante ting from a spice. On different occasions we sprinkled jamón, pepper and cucumber inside, which was necessary texturally for the otherwise wholly smooth carton gazpacho would be for all intents and purposes a slightly different tack on a Virgin Mary mix, albeit marginally thicker.

The son does not like tomatoes, which begs the question of exactly just how Spanish is he? His parents make him eat the gazpacho, for children shouldn’t be spoiled, but it is through a grimace. A grimace at a national dish and a national ingredient.



The son, however, very much likes vichyssoise. The youngest daughter doesn’t, as she doesn’t like milk. If you have three children, I learned, it is very rare to please everyone. They all like the beach and swimming pool at least. Sometimes the son has vichyssoise while the rest of the family has gazpacho; sometimes the daughter gazpacho when the rest of the family has vichyssoise; and sometimes the family stick to playing hardball and everyone has to eat what they’re given.

As you may be able to tell from the name, this soup originated in France (or, says Julia Child says, American. But we can’t always trust celebrity chefs, or Americans. Coining terms like “au pair” and “vichyssoise”. What’s wrong with English, hey? What did our veterans fight for??). Catalunyan cuisine takes some influence from France, and the family take additional infuence from France as a result of their house in the mountains there.

A thick, cold soup made of boiled, pureed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock. It tastes very French, like a soup that Pierre would make and the whole family would enjoy. Potato and leek, ptch, American. And for the winter it can be served hot, which I imagine is quite lovely and something that the Covent Garden Soup Company probably has made a variant of.




An Australian workawayer in Andalusia told me about this, saying that a Couchsurfer that he stayed with in Grenada made it several times for him and his wife. He spoke about it so passionately. “A true exhibition of the freshness of Spanish ingredients” he said. “I’ll make it before I leave.”

“What’s it called again?”



“No, salmorejo.”

“I’ll stick with salaam-alaikum soup.”

Spanish has always gone well for me. And he never did make it. Nor did anyone else, so this remains a dish for me to try.

Quite similar to gazpacho, though thicker and a little less fresh. It originated in Cordoba – the city that the Australian said was his favourite city after Porto; slightly odd favourite city choices for this New York/Paris/Florence girl – and is served cold in summer and hot in winter.

The main ingredients are tomatoes, bread, oil, and garlic, and it may be garnished with serrano ham or boiled eggs. Why serrano over Iberico? Cost and availability I expect, for surely it is not taste or texture.

While I am yet to try it, I must say that I was and remained underwhelmed at the ingredients and cooking process of salmorejo compared to just how much gusto he spoke about it. Then again, talking about pizza brings tears to my eyes so the proof is always in the eating (also “she seems like the kind of person who is passionate about soup” is something that I say about dull people. And from memory, there is only one soup I have ever actively recommended).

Caldo de Cocido


The first cours on Christmas Day. Cardos (thistles), pinones (pine nuts), a variety of cerdo (cured and fresh pork knuckle, snout, and corpo, for you should use as much of the animal as you can), carne de vache, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and garbanzo beans (chick peas for us Englishes). There are many variations on this recipe, but this is the family’s ingredients list so here you have it. And, as December is prime eating time, it is served caliente.

This is the most Chinese-looking of the Spanish soups, in that it is the only that has not been pureed. Show me what is in my soup, and have a broth (caldo de cocido literally translates as “cooked broth”) not a puree. A peasant dish, a traditional dish, a dish to prepare you for the…fish or turkey main course. All the animals for the holidays!


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