Seasonal local food recipe No.202 – Caldo verde (Portuguese greens soup)

I first came across this nourishing national dish when exploring north Portugal on the back of a motor bike. We were on a tight budget, so cooked this soup often on our camp stove.

Every village market had a stall heaped with dark green leaves of couve galega (collard greens) – an open, flat-leaved cabbage that’s not dissimilar in texture and flavour to spring greens or kale. Behind this stall a woman was cutting the leaves into fine strands using a hand-operated shredder, ready to cook.

How do UK cooks make a reasonably authentic version of this traditional poor man’s soup?  Answer: with kale. So here’s my own version, with thanks to food writers Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater. For advice on how to make a proper Portuguese caldo verde, go to Azelia’s Kitchen.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 litre water or stock
300g red Russian kale or Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) or spring greens, finely shredded
150g chorizo or spicy sausage, sliced (optional)
black pepper

Cook a finely chopped onion and clove of garlic in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Add 3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced, cook them for a minute or two, then pour in a litre of water or stock. Simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft then crush them gently.

Meanwhile prepare the kale. Cut out the stalks and roll the leaves up tightly like a cigar before cutting them into wafer-thin strips. Thickly slice the chorizo or spicy sausage.,

Stir the kale into the soup and simmer for barely five minutes. Fry the sausage briefly in a nonstick pan. Remove it, leaving the fat behind, and drop it into the hot soup. Serve immediately with a small pool of olive oil floating on the surface.

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