You can not speak of Portuguese cuisine without mentioning its famous caldo verde.
What is caldo verde?
Caldo verde is a soup originally from the former province of Minho, north-west of Portugal, now known as the province of Entre Douro-e-Minho. This recipe was subsequently adopted by the entire country.
Caldo verde, literally “green soup”, is a traditional Portuguese and Brazilian dish made with potatoes and kale.
What cabbage is used in caldo verde?
This green cabbage used to make this Portuguese soup is a leafy kale. It does not form a ball like cabbage commonly known in most countries, but it is a very large cabbage with stems and leaves. It is found in all Portuguese markets either whole or with leaves and stems already thinly sliced.
In Portugal, the most used cabbage is collard greens typical of the Minho region, but you can use another large leaf cabbage. For my part, I chose to make a Portuguese kale soup as an alternative to this collard green soup.
But beware, the leafy cabbage that you choose for this soup should be very green because depending on the variety, kale leaves can be purple, dark green, bluish-green or pale green.
Caldo verde soup is traditionally served with Portuguese sausage called chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça, but other meats can be used instead. For my part, I chose the version with chorizo .
This is a soup served throughout the country, from peasant families to luxury hotels during all the holidays without exception. It is such an institution that the soup was elected in 2011 as one of the seven wonders of Portuguese cuisine in third position after alheiras de Mirandela (traditional sausage made with bread and a mixture of several meats) and cheese from Serra da Estrela (a mountainous region in Portugal). The other four were elected wonders were arroz de marisco (rice with seafood), sardinha assada (barbecued sardine), leitão da Bairrada (suckling pig fully cooked in a bread oven) and pastel de Belém(Lisbon typical flan).
How to serve caldo verde
Caldo verde is more of a canvas that you can work with to create your own. For example, sometimes green cabbage is used in place of or in addition to collard greens or kale and pepperoni or sausage is used if chouriço (Portuguese chorizo) or linguiça are hard to find. Some people make this soup with beef or boneless pork stew meat, and some even incorporate some white beans for a heartier soup.
Each region of Portugal has its own version of pork sausage, so the local sausage will typically be used. However, potato, onion, garlic and especially olive oil cannot be substituted.
The caldo verde soup is traditionally served with broa, a fermented corn bread with yeast, popular in Portugal and Brazil. The only difference between the Portuguese and Brazilian version is that the Brazilian version of broa is generously flavored with fennel.
Caldo verde in literature
Camilo Castelo Branco, Eca de Queiroz, Júlio Dinis and Ramalho Ortigão are some of the writers and poets whose works sing and praise the so-called “Portuguese green juice”.
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
Big thanks to my Portuguese friend Cecile and her mother for their valuable advice to make this delicious traditional Portuguese soup. I just loved it!
- 4 cloves garlic , chopped
- 2 scallions , chopped
- 1 lb collard greens (or leafy kale), cut into very thin strips
- 2 lb potatoes , peeled and diced
- ½ lb chouriço (or chorizo), thinly sliced
- ½ cup virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoons
- Heat ½ cup of olive oil over medium / low heat in a large pot.
- Add the scallions and cook until they are tender and transparent without browning.
- Add garlic and sauté 20 seconds.
- Add the diced potatoes.
- Mix well and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Then add 4 cups of boiling water and bring to boil.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
- Remove the pan from the heat and reduce everything with the help of a hand blender (depending on desired consistency). If the soup seems too thick, add a little water.
- Put the pot back on low heat and bring to boil.
- Add chouriço and cabbage. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Adjust the seasoning.
- Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and serve with broa bread.