Portuguese cabbage soup Caldo Verde

Many national dishes have humble origins and are unlikely to grace any fancy recipe book next to gastronomic courses with noble products.

With water, potato and this cabbage the northern Portuguese made Caldo Verde, green broth, and Portuguese all over the world still eat it with pleasure and as an antidote against homesickness.

Most people are poor and have been poor over the centuries and these people did their best with what was available.

The Dutch, for instance, eat kale and endive as vegetables while elsewhere these greens are only good to feed cattle.

Kale is getting a comeback due to a U.S. originated trend for its healthy nutrients while endive “andijvie” mainly exists as a word in English but not as an ingredient.

The same applies to Portuguese cabbage, the Gallician cabbage or Braganza.

On the outdoor market here in Saint-Germain-en-Laye there is a green grocer with Portuguese cabbage. In fact, there is a large Portuguese population around here. Many were political refugees during the military dictatorship (1926-1974) and scores worked in the vegetable growing industry on the fertile grounds around the Seine River, at a short distance from the markets of Paris.

You could make the soup with kale, especially in the Netherlands were you can buy bags of shredded “boerenkool” at the moment for less than a euro for a pound. The Portuguese cabbage on the town market was 1.50 euro a kilo, while kale here cost more than 10 euro a kilo due to its rarity (note to Dutch vegetable growers – fill up your truck and drive to Paris or London)

I added some chorizo (“chourizo” in Portuguese) to the soup, others also use onion, cilantro or other ingredients but this one stays close to the original and tastes good.

You need to wash the cabbage and remove the tough stems, then cut the leaves as fine as possible. I did it by hand with a long knife which rendered slightly wide strips of cabbage, and used a hand blender towards the end to cut up the greens a bit more. It also minced the chorizo slices.

 

Ingredients

  • One kilo of Portuguese cabbage (leaves 500 grams of leafs)
  • Some 400 grams of potatoes (the crumbling variety)
  • Garlic (I used four cloves but that is a matter of taste)
  • Two litres of water
  • Four table spoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A chunk of chorizo sausage cut in slices, without skin

Steps

  1. Put water in a pan, add salt and bring to the boil.
  2. Peel and cut the potatoes, remove the skin from the garlic cloves.
  3. Wash, drain, prepare and cut the cabbage leaves into thin strips.
  4. When the water boils, add the potatoes and garlic and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. After that, use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and garlic into a bowl and use a fork or a masher to mash the mixture.
  6. Add the mixture back to the quietly boiling water; add the olive oil and stir.
  7. Put the cabbage strips into the water and stir.
  8. Add the chorizo and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
  9. Taste and add pepper and salt.
  10. Serve hot, or let it cool for a later serving.