I’ve gotten many requests for more food/recipe posts so I’ve decided to start a regular monthly posting I call “My Portuguese Food of the Month” and “My Portuguese Wine of the Month”. I plan to post these towards the end of each month from what my most memorable food/wine experience(s) were here in the last 30 days. This could be a recipe or a particular wine I tried or something that I ate and drank quite often that is usually influenced by the season and weather. The post will always have an accompanying photo though I won’t try to pretend that I’m a good photographer, meaning I usually have the help of Instagram, along with my attempts to get a decent shot with my own camera. However if you have the delight of seeing a fantastic photo on here, it will most likely be from my fantastic photographer and fellow American in Portugal friend Rochelle Ramos (@AcquiredLife ) , who was so nice to also capture the pro shots for my tour site So hope you enjoy my food and wine picks and I am really going to try hard to update more often now!*
May in Lisbon is normally a strange weather month. When most of us are expecting increasingly warm, sunny days after they began to appear in March and April, here in the city we actually encounter a retro-winter where we get bouts of very windy, cold days with rain mixed in with some typical late spring days. Today in fact, is one of those retro-winter days, brrr! It’s no surprise then that this wacky weather dynamic gets plenty of us sick, especially an immigrant like myself, who still hasn’t gotten used to these fluctuating changes even after 5 years here. This year I was unlucky enough to pick up both a stomach bug and a nasty cold during the month, ughh. Obviously then I wasn’t really in any mood to cook or eat much while I was sick, but I at least needed something simple, healthy and easy to make to keep me going. So soup of course! And Portuguese style soup is by far the best and easiest way to make soup ever, trust me on this.
Traditional Portuguese sopa is a base purée of vegetables and garlic, which you just boil up with a good sprinkling of sea salt and olive oil then blend together in the pot with a hand mixer. Almost any type of root vegetable combination can be used but there are usually two types of combos, which I call “green” and “orange”. The “green” combo is a base puree of boiled onions and potatoes (they are pureéd right in the cooking water) with cooking greens like nabiça (turnip greens) or shredded couve Galego (Galician cabbage) that are added after and cooked up. The latter one with the cabbage is known as the popular caldo verde or “green broth” that also has slices of chouriço added at the end. For the “orange” veggie combo, this can include cenoura (carrot), or abóbora (pumpkin) or both, along with cebola (onion), nabo (turnip), alho francês (leek) and alho (garlic). Feijão (beans), feijão verde (green beans), espinafres (spinach), agrião (watercress) or legumes (usually a mix of chopped carrot, cabbage and green beans) are sometimes added to the purée at the end. This also gives them their particular name, which you’ll see on a restaurant menu, like “sopa de espinafres” (spinach soup) for example.
There is only one exception to the traditional style of Portuguese soup, and that is canja -chicken soup. Usually made with galinha – a larger, fattier hen compared to the smaller, leaner frango, canja is pretty much the same as your typical brothy chicken soup and can be as simple as you want it. The simplest: a whole or half chicken boiled up in sea salted water and olive oil then the meat taken off the bone, shredded and added back with either rice or small pasta, easy as that. Want a little more? Add some carrot, onion and maybe a little bit of garlic with the chicken to boil then repeat the last part. If you want a complete Portuguese canja though, you need to add a little bit of fresh hortelã (mint/peppermint) to the soup at the end, which the locals say this is the best for a sore tummy or a stuffy nose and indeed it gave me relief when I used it.
These are the types of soups that got me through my sick days, below are my own “twists” on a Portuguese “orange” soup and canja. Try them out the next time you get sick and let me know if you love them just as much as I do!
My Portuguese “Orange” Soup: Sopa de Abóbora e Courgette (Pumpkin and Zucchini Soup)
– 2lbs of pumpkin (or you can use 1 butternut squash)
– 1 med zucchini
-1 med red onion
-1 med yellow onion
– about 6 big cloves of garlic, smashed
– sea salt (about 2 tbsp)
– extra virgin olive oil
Roughly chunk up all of the ingredients and throw into a shallow pot and fill with water covering the veggies about 1in over (they’ll float to the top soon after anyways). Add about 2 good pinches (aprox 2 tbsp) of coarse sea salt (Portuguese sea salt is the best!) and a good splash of extra virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup) and mix up a bit with a wooden spoon. Cover with a tilt to vent and let it come to a boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer till veg are soft and easily break apart (about 10-15mins). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary then purée right in the pot with a hand blender. Garnish with croutons and pumpkin seeds.
– 1 whole chicken with skin (about 2 kilos or 4-5 lbs.), cut into quarters
– 1 large or 2 med carrots, sliced into thin, half moons
– 1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia), chopped
– 1 bunch fresh parsley, destemmed, you can choose if you want to chop it or throw it in as is
– 1 cup of rice or orzo pasta
– a generous helping of sea salt (about 3 Tbsp.)
– extra virgin olive oil
– a couple sprigs of fresh mint (optional)
Put all of the ingredients into a large pot and fill with water, about 3/4 of the way up. Cover and let it come to a boil then reduce to low and simmer until chicken is starting to fall off the bone. Meanwhile boil the rice or pasta in a separate pot with sea salt and olive oil, drain and reserve. Remove chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and let cool enough to remove skin and shred the meat. Return meat to pot and heat soup back up if necessary, add mint leaves at this time if using. Serve with rice or pasta at the bottom of a bowl then ladle in soup. Enjoy!