We've recently (finally) signed up for a vegetable box delivery - once a week we have an assortment of organic vegetables delivered to our door. We went with Abel and Cole after they were recommended by several friends, and are very pleased with them so far. Aside from the fruit and vegetables the specialize in, Abel and Cole also act like a small online grocery store, and we're enjoying batches of fruity soy yogurt as well as some incredible fresh fish and meat. What having a veg box also means is that we're landed with plenty of vegetables (a good thing, don't get me wrong) and have to think of ways of using them before they go off. It's helping us increase our vegetable intake while cutting down on the meat a bit, and whenever we're stuck with how to pull of the trick of cooking armfuls of vegetables at once, we revert to soup.
I found this recipe for a Portuguese soup on the BBC website, originating from the Hairy Bikers (for anyone not familiar with their show, they are what they say they are: two large, bearded bikers who ride around different continents and sample and cook local food. Great job if you can get it, I say). I was interested in the soup not just because it used the vegetables we needed to cook with, but because I don't have a huge amount of knowledge of Portuguese cuisine.
What I do know about Portuguese food, in fact, could be written on the back of a matchstick. I know that they love pork, as a lot of continental Europe does. I know that they were a great sea-faring country and so brought touches of their cuisine around the world (for example, firey-hot Indian Vindaloo is a corruption of the Portuguese term 'vinho de alho' or 'vinegar and garlic' which is what the meat is prepared with). I also know of their reliance on cod and salt cod in particular, illustrated by the story a friend told me about how a power outage when she was a child forced her family to get a take out meal since her mother couldn't cook that night's cod, and it lives in her memory as one of the more exciting nights of her childhood.
So the Portuguese soup? It was very tasty but I felt it could have been better with a slight tweak of both the recipe and my behavior. The recipe only calls for 1 chorizo sausage but I would be inclined to add 2-3 (Mr A&N pouted that I was making him eat peasant food when, the last time he checked, he hadn't been a peasant for at least 2 generations). I also always suffer from adding too much liquid to my soup stock since I make the stock in my large pot and always feel the chicken looks so lonely without more water around it. I would next time follow what's said and only add the amount called for. It was still a very good and hearty soup, and nicely livened up by the swirl of spicy oil added on the top. I'm intrigued to find out what else Portuguese food has to offer me.
Caldo Verde, from the Hairy Bikers
makes 1 large pot
- 2 nice fat onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 60ml/2¼fl oz olive oil
- 1 chorizo sausage
- 6 large potatoes
- 1.5 litres/2 pints 13fl oz good vegetable or chicken stock
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- large bunch of greens or cabbage
- smoked paprika and olive oil, for dressing
- In a frying pan, sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent.
- Chop the sausage into small chunks and add to the onion.
- Sweat the onions and sausage for a few more minutes and then add the diced potatoes. They will absorb all the flavour from the sausage.
- Transfer the mixture to a large pan, add the stock, seasoning and bay leaves, and cook until the potatoes are soft.
- Meanwhile, very finely chop the cabbage.
- When the potatoes are ready, mash them into the broth to make a thick base.
- Blanch the greens in boiling water for one minute to take off any bitterness, drain, then add to the simmering broth.
- Add as much cabbage as the broth will support - if you want heavy soup add loads of greens, if lighter, add less, and simmer for a few minutes.
- Mix the smoked paprika with some olive oil to make a dressing, and drizzle this on top of the individual bowls of soup.