Soul Food - Cooking Caldo Verde

“Caldo Verde defines the culture and the people: warm, soulful and easy to love” George Mendes - My Portugal

January. Love it or hate it, there's no denying that it takes a little more effort to get through this month with a cheery disposition than say, May...  But there are elements to January that I have really grown to love and I do think that if we embrace the charm of this cold, dark, grey month (!), it can actually be a rather wonderful and restorative time.  Forget the clichéd insanities of dry January, grueling detox plans and 6am boot-camp sessions…  I’m talking about the joy of having time and space to breathe after the madness of Christmas and plan for the year ahead. Time to be thoughtful about what we are eating and time to enjoy the process of cooking fabulous comfort food that feeds body and soul.

Caldo Verde is considered one of Portugal’s most traditional dishes; an extremely simple but very tasty soup made from potatoes, greens and chouriço.  I know it was eaten almost daily in my father’s house when he was a boy and I’m sure in every other home across the country.  But you will still find it on the majority of restaurant menus today, which I think speaks volumes. 

It originated in the northern province of Minho and should be made with a specific type of cabbage, called galegas.  However, it is not always possible to get hold of these greens, especially outside of Portugal.  The next best thing is curly kale or tender spring greens, when in season. 

Considering we are in January, curly kale it is!

I have loosely followed George Mendes’ recipe from his book 'My Portugal', but made a few small  changes along the way.  I am a firm believer in a little creativity when it comes to the kitchen! I have also chosen to use our Red Wine Chouriço in this recipe as I think the seasoning and spices give it a really lovely depth. 

Serves 4:

Cartuxa Extra Virign Olive Oil  as needed

Porco Preto Red Wine Chouriço  1 piece (5inch /12cm)

White onion  1 small, thinly sliced

Garlic  4 cloves thinly sliced 

Flor de Sal  as needed

King Edward Potatoes  4 large (735g) peeled and cut into 1 inch / 2.5cm chunks

Curly Kale / Spring Greens  455g 

Heat a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and coat the bottom with oil, then add the chouriço, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cook and stir occasionally until the onion is tender but not browned.

Add the potatoes to the onion, garlic and chouriço and enough water to cover everything by 1 inch / 2.5 cm. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 30 minutes. 

         

Transfer the chouriço to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle cut into thin slices and you will notice that the fat has rendered in the cooking to leave you with a lovely moist sausage.  Meanwhile, continue simmering the potatoes, replenishing the water as needed to keep it 1 inch / 2.5cm above the potatoes, until they’re very, very soft.

Then prepare the greens.  In Portugal, this is called the “caldo verde cut”.  Strip the leaves off the tough stems, then stack a few leaves and roll them very tightly into a cylinder.  Cut the cylinder crosswise into very, very thin strips and then lengthways into 1 inch / 2.5cm pieces. Transfer the chopped greens into a steamer.

When the potatoes are falling apart, blend them in their cooking liquid until really smooth and silky. Season well and then stack the greens in the steamer on top of the potato mixture. By steaming them over the potatoes they soak up maximum flavor and retain their colour.  It will only take a couple of minutes and be sure to catch them when they still have some bite – nothing worse than soggy greens!

    

 I like to fry off the chouriço at this point as well, as it adds a lovely crispy texture to the soup.

Combine the greens and potato mixture. To serve, top with the chouriço slices. Finish off with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a pinch of flor de sal.

 

And that my friends is simple, hearty, tasty, SOUL FOOD.