meThe culinary culture has its comfort foods, the simple and supportive recipes that always taste like home, and warm green He is one of the Portuguese, although the love for this robust soup of potatoes, vegetables and sausages has traveled with his people to Brazil. The culinary equivalent of the national flag, according to Tessa Kiros, Caldo verde means so much to Michelin-star chef José Avillez that he was once moved to tears by a bowl: “I was so moved by that soup that something changed inside of me.” – while Nuno Mendes describes it as one of the “most special and comforting dishes” in his country. A bowl will heat more than your cockles, but if you lack a Portuguese Grandma to show you the ropes, what is the best way to do it?
There’s consensus on the potato point, at least: Everyone who specifies a type recommends using floury potatoes that will break down during cooking to thicken the broth. It’s nice to leave a few cubes intact, but I don’t think it’s worth adding a waxy variety to make this easier as J Kenji Lopez-Alt suggests – even if you don’t have a blender to blend the potatoes, they are easily mashed, just like in the legendary Portuguese cuisine writer Recipe by Maria de Lourdes Modesto from the northern town of Marco de Canaveses, so you don’t need to cook them until they disintegrate on their own.
The green element is less clear: the Galician couve (or Galician cabbage) that is commonly used in Portugal is hard to come by in the UK. Kiros writes in his book Piri Piri Starfish that “you can use any dark cabbage: couve, cavolo nero, kale or even savoy.”, Rebecca Seal’s Lisbon mentions spring greens, American food writer Kitty Greenwald, adapting her Portuguese nanny Olivia Ferreira’s recipe, collard greens and “Mendes kale, which enhances the beautiful jade green color.” All of the above will work, but I find that even the curliest of kale loses its charm when soaked in broth, so I would go for plain nero cavolo or better yet sweet spring greens here.
Kiros is the only recipe to cook the vegetables separately, but like, by Lourdes Modesto, who advises readers to “avoid overcooking the cabbage,” I prefer it to be added last minute; If, like Mendes, you prefer a greener soup, place half the veggies in for a couple of minutes before blending and add the rest as shown below.
Almost all recipes start with an onion: Ferreira boils it with the potatoes, while Mendes, Kiros and Seal sauté it in oil first. I suspect the first method is more traditional, but I think the second is an improvement, because it gives the soup the rich sweetness of caramelized onion (although, for me, Kiros’ purple onion is too sweet, as well as making its soup a little strange color).
Ferreira is also the only one to omit the garlic, but again, while not absolutely necessary, it is a welcome addition to such a simple dish. The same goes for bay leaf, which is just a necessary herb – remember to fish for it before mixing.
Although it is perfectly possible to make this vegetarian by omitting the Chorizo and adding a pinch of the same spices (paprika, preferably smoked, black pepper and maybe a little more garlic), it won’t be the same – the contrast between the velvety potato, the sweet veggies, and the salty, slightly spicy sausage is what makes this dish. It also adds richness in the form of fat, so if you omit it, be sure to add extra olive or chili oil on top to replace it.
Portuguese chouriço has less paprika and more garlic than most Spanish versions, and it also tends to include more wine. Is easily purchased onlineBut if you can’t find it, Mendes assures readers that Spanish chorizo will do; I like Seal’s idea of using a cooking variety better, because it releases its oil more easily. Kiros grills it separately and serves it on top, Mendes cooks his with the other ingredients and mixes it with the soup, Seal uses it to flavor the oil and adds it again at the end, and Ferreira and de Lourdes Modesto simmer with the soup, but leave the pieces whole.
Although boiling the sausage with the soup for flavor is almost certainly the original way of doing things, I think it’s in its most delicious fried or roasted form, so I’m going to do both, although you can put it all in at once and halve the dishes.
Mendes points out that, “traditionally, green broth is made with water, but I prefer to use chicken broth for a thicker flavor; my compatriots will kill me, but I am ready to defend myself ”. Seal suggests chicken or vegetable broth, and everyone else uses water. The broth, of course, gives the soup more body, but I’m not sure I need the help; for me, the sausage is enough on its own.
Aside from the extra sausage, a drizzle of olive oil is a common garnish (Kiros recommends fiery oil or piri piri sauce, which is rarely a bad decision at all), and I’m wowed by the way Mendes stirs a bit. white wine vinegar to “cut the riches”, although I would put the bottle on the table and let people add it however they wanted. Portuguese corn bread is the usual accompaniment.
Perfect warm green
Homework 10 minutes
Cook 40 min
It serves 2 (and easily scaled)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
250g of floury potatoes, peeled and chopped
750ml of wateror chicken broth
200g spring green leavesor kale
Extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar, to serve
Reserve a third of the sausage, then use a sharp knife to remove the skin from the rest, then cut the meat into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Fry the diced chouriço until it begins to release its oil, then add the onion, lower the heat a little and fry until it is soft and begins to color.
Add the garlic and bay leaf, cook for a couple more minutes, then add the potatoes and stir to coat with the oil. Add the water, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and let it bubble gently until the potatoes are well cooked.
Meanwhile, finely chop the vegetables and slice the remaining chorizo. Fry the latter on a hot griddle or pan until slightly charred, then set aside.
Once the potatoes are cooked, scoop out a few chunks, along with the bay leaf (discard the latter), then mix or mash the soup, depending on how smooth you like it.
Season to taste, then add the veggies and cook for a couple of minutes until just tender.
Divide into bowls, top with the fried sausage and reserved potato cubes, and serve with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar to taste.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism