My unmatched Citizens! I am currently ensconced in My secret lair at the Antarctic volcano, Mount Erebus – it is still quite chilly here, despite it being Antarctic Summer and despite the raging lava lake found deep in the caldera that mask My secrets from prying eyes! As such, whilst I plan world food domination from My immense war room, I frequently crave the warmth and security engendered solely by comfort food and caldo verde from Portugal ranks near the top of My list for “soup, beautiful soup”! Yes, the quote is from Alice in Wonderland – watch it sung below by Gene Wilder!
Caldo verde (Portuguese for “green broth”) is a popular soup in Portuguese cuisine. The basic traditional ingredients for caldo verde are finely shredded Portuguese cabbage or couve-galega (essentially a type of collard green), (or alternatively other leafy greens such as kale or mustard greens), potatoes, olive oil, black pepper and salt, mainly flavored with onion and garlic (some regional recipes favor slight variations, like turnip greens or added meat, such as ham hock, making it similar to Italo-American wedding soup).
Traditionally the soup is accompanied by slices of paio, chouriço or linguiça (boiled whole with the potatoes, then sliced and added to the finished soup when serving) and with Portuguese broa corn-bread or rye-bread for dipping. In Portugal, the popular soup caldo verde is typically consumed during Portuguese celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays and popular celebrations. It is sometimes consumed before a main course meal or as a late supper. This soup is served in a tigela, a traditional earthenware bowl.
Caldo verde originated from the Minho Province in northern Portugal (now known as the province of Entre Douro-e-Minho), where potatoes were cultivated early in the country and the dish was created by farmers as a dish to warm up visitors on cold days. Potatoes (brought to Europe from South America by the Spanish conquistadors) were being grown in Minho and other places as early as 1760, so it is likely that the dish existed as early as that time.
Today, it is a traditional national favorite that has spread across the nation and abroad, especially to places where a large community of Portuguese migrants have settled such as Brazil, Macau, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Toronto. In 2011, the Portuguese chose caldo verde as one of the “Seven Wonders” of the country’s gastronomy. In Porto, a clay bowl of the soup is a must-eat during the festivities honoring São João (June 23), either as a side to the ubiquitous grilled sardines or later in the night, to replenish your energy during the non-stop party.
References to the soup appear in many novels by Camilo Castelo Branco, as well as Eca de Queiroz, Júlio Dinis and Ramalho Ortigão, who are some of the writers and poets whose works sing and praise the dish. Famous Portuguese poet António Correia de Oliveira (1879-1960) who was nominated 15 times for a Nobel Prize without ever receiving one characterized caldo verde as “a marriage of flavors and livelihood.”
While poet Reinaldo Ferreira talks about this soup in a poem sung by famous Amalia Rodrigues, Uma Casa Portuguesa (a Portuguese House) which almost made it as the second national anthem “it takes very little, very little to simply brighten a life… love, bread, wine and hot caldo verde in a bowl”:
“Basta pouco, poucochinho p’ra alegrar
uma existência singela…
É só amor, pão e vinho
e um caldo verde, verdinho
As the national soup of the Portuguese, it is critical I not screw this dish up, lest I face the enraged wrath of whole embattled nations of Portuguese speakers – and for once, I have (almost completely) stayed true to the simplicity of the original recipe. I had the opportunity to try this dish when I was in Portugal a few months ago – and it truly blew me away with its freshness, its divine smoothness and superb flavor!
First off – the greens in the soup are a hotly-contested debate amongst aficionados of this recipe. As noted in this lightly-edited excerpt from the cookscook.com:
…the green is the Galega cabbage/kale with a tall white stalk which originated in Galacia, Spain, but has long been grown in Portugal as well. This tall cabbage is part of the brassicaceae family along with, but not limited to, Brussel sprouts, collard greens and tall kale. Unfortunately, it is not grown in the United States except by immigrants in their backyard gardens. Many immigrants, like my father before me and those of today, plant tons of the homeland galega so they can slice and freeze extra for the winter months and save fall seeds for the next season.
Then, when their reserves are gone, the supermarket is where they get collard greens. The collard greens have the flatness of the leaves like the galega cabbage/kale and are close in flavor. Curly kale, a heavier textured green, is mostly used in other soups and doesn’t lend itself well to the traditional cut for Caldo Verde. The stems of the collards or galega are trimmed from the leaves. The leaves are placed in stacks of 3-4 and rolled tightly like a cigar shaped and sliced crosswise into a signature cut of a very fine chiffonade that resembles thin blades of grass.
Galega cabbage is NOT easy to find in the United States – if you choose to use this ultimately authentic green in caldo verde, you’ll have to grow your own. Thankfully, you can purchase seeds from this fine purveyor. I typically go for the slightly less-authentic but still acceptable kale leaf when making this recipe, since I sadly lack access to a home garden, being a dazzling urbanite (and yes, that is the second Gene Wilder video clip on this post – I am a huge fan of his, what can I say!).
I also very much enjoy a little spiciness in My caldo verde – as such, I typically add a single mustard green leaf, central rib removed and also cut into chiffonade. It is NOT traditional to mix mustard green and kale, but it IS delicious – use it or lose it as your individual taste demands. I also add even more heat in a traditional way – by adding a drizzle of fiery piri piri hot oil, as so many Portuguese are inclined to do. Genuine Gallo brand piri piri hot sauce from Portugal may be purchased from this purveyor. TRY BEFORE USING IT – it’s very potent indeed!
As to the 3 different sausage options of paio, chouriço or linguiça – I am an unabashed fan of chouriço in this particular recipe. Please note this is NOT the same thing as Spanish or Mexican chorizo – it is a totally different sausage that is closest to a kielbasa in flavor and texture. Kielbasa does make for an excellent substitute, but you can easily purchase real Portuguese chouriço from this excellent purveyor based in the Portuguese-American heartland of Fall River, MA, if you are so inclined (and you should be!).
Whilst the original caldo verde stock is made solely with water, I prefer a blend of chicken stock and water – it’s just a little richer that way in flavor and body. I also like to add a touch of roasted garlic to the broth as well as the classic regular garlic – again, feel free to omit if you prefer the classic recipe. Please note that while I personally prefer white pepper in this particular recipe, black pepper (freshly-cracked, of course!) is perfectly suitable for caldo verde. Portuguese olive oil is – of course! – a must in this recipe! I am quite partial to this brand.
My Citizens, caldo verde is a soup for the ages and it can be made quickly and without much fuss – yet it still packs a robust flavor and soothing texture that will make you dream of Lisbon and the glorious country that ALONE is Portugal! I look forward to My next visit at the earliest opportunity and hope to share many new Portuguese recipes beyond the many already here that I have generously shared with the entirety of TFD Nation!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Portuguese Kale and Sausage Soup – Caldo Verde
- 1/4 cup Portuguese extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 lb. mild chouriço, sliced into 1/4-inch coins – Hillshire Farms kielbasa is an acceptable substitute
- 1 large onion, diced
- Kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 small roasted garlic cloves, crushed (optional TFD addition, omit for classic recipe
- 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cups cold bottled water
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth
- 1 pound kale, stems removed, leaves rolled into a cigar shape and cut into chiffonade
- 1 mustard green leaf, stem removed, cut into chiffonade (heretical TFD addition – omit for classic recipe)
- Freshly-ground black or white pepper (TFD prefers white in this recipe)
- a few drops of vinegar in each bowl
- A swirl of Gallo brand piri piri condiment in each bowl (optional)
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the chouriço and cook until lightly browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the sausage to a plate. Try to let the sausage drain well into the pot; its fat will flavor the soup.
- Dump the onions into the pot. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
- Stir in the potatoes, add the combination of water and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the soup gently simmers. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.
- When the caldo verde is cool enough to handle, add in ½ the cooked chouriço and purée using a wand blender.
- Add the kale and mustard leaf (if using) to the soup, bring everything back to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 2 to 5 minutes. Season with more salt, if needed, and pepper.
- Ladle the caldo verde into bowls with a few drops of vinegar in each bowl (it helps to separate the chiffonade) and garnish with the remaining slices of chouriço and the optional drizzle of piri piri sauce. Tradition states that one slice and only one slice of chouriço is added to each bowl. It’s your choice, but I like several. The soup can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated overnight. Simply warm over low heat before serving.
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soup recipes are always useful—endlessly diverse, nourishing, comforting, flavoursome.
i will be making this with young local collard greens, which are coming along now on some farms…and some of the new potatoes, too. i can get local kielbasa as well, or i can get imported chorizo of the spanish type. per your instructions, it seems the kielbasa is the better option, and certainly i will adhere to my suzerain’s direction!
Thank you! 🙂
It’s made with collard greens, never kale in the mainland
Actually it’s in the same family as American collard green but its portuguese couves/cabbage aka couve galega