Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Delicious Recipe for Caldo Verde

I have never been to Portugal, but I have eaten Portuguese food in large quantities on the other side of the world. As I have mentioned before in this column, I lived for many years in Hong Kong, which is situated on the south China coast, on the east bank of the Pearl River estuary. Just across the way, on the west bank of this great river, lies Macau which, until 1999, was a Portuguese colony. Indeed, it had been Portuguese since the 16th century. It was a place full of narrow, little streets, Baroque churches and here and there, eye-catching, ochre-coloured, public buildings. It was very different than Hong Kong with its towering skyscrapers and frenetic pace of life and during the 1990s, my wife and I often escaped there for weekends.
Macau was also seedy and run-down but it had character and, above all, it had good, Portuguese restaurants. It is there that I first encountered caldo verde, which means nothing more than, green broth. This soup probably is to Portuguese cuisine what Irish stew is to that of Ireland and I suspect that every Portuguese mammy has her own recipe for what is a national dish.
In its purest form, caldo verde contains nothing more than potatoes, garlic, couve gallego (a type of kale) and water. Over the years, other ingredients have been added to such an extent that it now sometimes bears little resemblance to its peasant progenitor. I love caldo verde for its potato flavour combined with the bitter taste of winter greens. It does not pay dividends to stray too far from its rustic origins. The recipe which follows has, I believe, the right balance. I recommend it to you as appropriate fare for these cold, winter days. As with all soups, it can be eaten as a starter but, served with good, crusty bread, it is a meal in itself.
900g floury potatoes
1.5l vegetable stock
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
250g chorizo
500g kale or savoy cabbage*
3-4 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

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