Everywhere we went in Portugal we started noticing one dish that was on the menu, or to be found ready made in the chiller aisle of larger supermarkets. Eventually we noticed that each time we went to Eurasia restaurant the soup was always quite similar, a wonderfully simple but tasty potato and greens soup. Looking back it was only when we returned home and were looking for some Portuguese inspired recipe ideas that one particular dish seemed to jump out at us; Caldo Verde (translates as 'green broth'), otherwise known as the national dish of Portugal. With all the times we had been to Portugal it took us far too long to realise the importance of this soup. A simple Internet search revealed that the vegan versions of this soup were very popular the world over and after looking back through some of our vegan recipe books, it could be found in those too. Sometimes the obvious is right in front of us and we still don't notice it!
Recipes for this soup can be quite varied and traditionally it contains chorizo sausage, but it always contains potatoes, onions and greens (usually kale). Sometimes chili is added for a little heat. It's one of those dishes that you can just adapt by adding whatever vegetables you have to hand or that need using up. When we returned home from Portugal our over winter kale harvest was begging to be used before the Spring herd of slugs and snails attacked, so it was the perfect time to discover and experiment with this recipe.
If this dish has one defining characteristic it is that the main body of the soup is blended first and then the finely chopped greens are added and cooked for a short time only; just enough to soften them. Like many other simple 'peasant dishes', the deceptively simple ingredients produce a dish that is 'greater than the sum of it's parts'. Usually it is started by frying an onion in olive oil but for an even healthier version just add the water, simmer the ingredients and add a drizzle of good quality olive oil when you serve.
Basic Caldo Verde Soup
1 large onion (diced)
4 large potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups kale or other greens (finely shredded)
2 tablespoons olive oil
- Add the onion, garlic and potatoes to a pan and add boiling water to cover the ingredients by one inch. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
- Blend to a smooth consistency with a hand blender.
- Add the shredded greens and bring back to a boil, being careful not to catch the soup on the bottom of the pan (add more water at this stage if the soup appears too thick). Simmer for 5 minutes and serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.