In Portugal it seems as though every meal begins with caldo verde – green soup. My friend Ilda’s family in the far northeast of Portugal, where caldo verde originates, eat it everyday without fail. chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage and couve galega kale crowd into a potato and onion broth in a soup possessed of enough savour and solidity to form the centre of a light supper flanked by a romaine salad dressed with lemon and salt and a good crusty bread. It’s also just the right touch served before a main of grilled fish.
You can adjust the water content of this soup to thin it or thicken it as you desire, or fry the sausage before adding to the soup, but to get this absolutely right you must use the Brassica known as Couve Galega (in English it is called Collard Greens, Tree Cabbage, Walking Stick Cabbage, or Jersey Cabbage), and in order to obtain it in the UK it is generally necessary to grow it yourself. couve galega has large, flat, paddle-like leaves that somewhat ridiculously crown a tough, gangly stem that will rise to head-height. Its strong flavour is at its best in winter, but the leaves can be harvested year-round. Its heads of flower buds can also be steamed and eaten like broccoli. For this soup the leaves are tightly rolled and then very finely julienned – again, this texture is absolutely necessary to get the soup just right. There is hope, though, for those without the right Brassica. Curly kale will work, and I would imagine that it might also be possible to use cavolo nero, savoy cabbage or spring greens as well. I found one caldo verde recipe calling for simple cabbage, but this Irish-Portuguese bastard child will never find employment in my kitchen. Would this be Cald O’Verde?
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
750g potatoes (about 6), peeled and thinly sliced
1.5 to 2 L cold water
1 roughly 200g Chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
400 to 500g Couve Galega, very finely julienned
In a saucepan or stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil briefly (don’t allow them to colour). Tip in the potatoes and keep stirring them until they’re warmed. Add the water, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes begin to fall apart.
Purée the mixture in a blender or with a hand-held food processor. Stir in the sausage and simmer for about five minutes.
Finally, add the salt and pepper and kale and cook for a further five minutes until the kale is cooked but still with some bite to it. Dish up into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.
The sausage may also be fried before adding to the soup, which adds a different dimension to the flavour. Drain the fat off the sausage before adding to the soup or, if your conscience or cholesterol levels allow, pour that in too. It will only add to the flavour.
Here is some music to listen to while you cook: