Caldo verde, literally meaning “green broth” is a timeless Portuguese recipe. Caldo verde represents the essence of Portuguese cuisine: simple, rustic, satisfying. Using only five ingredients, most of which are always on hand, it is a humble soup that packs a lot of flavour. I grew up eating caldo verde on a regular ol’ weekday after school because it’s that easy to whip together but it’s so delicious that it has a place at weddings and other celebrations too.
Caldo verde makes me proud to be Portuguese and I get so glad when I hear that my non Portuguese friends or coworkers have tried making it at home themselves. This usually goes something like this:
Well meaning friend: “Marilene, I made Caldo verde last night, it was sooooo good.”
Me: “Oh yeah…that’s so great! Definitely one of my favourite soups.”
Well meaning friend: “Yeah and it was so easy. Just boil some potatoes, add some kale and voila, delicious soup!”
Do you see anything wrong with this picture? You probably don’t unless you grew up in a Portuguese household. So I’m going to take some time here to dispel a very common myth about this dear peasant soup. Caldo verde is made with collards people, NOT kale. In fact, Portuguese people don’t even know what kale is. If you go to Portugal right now, you will see collards planted on everyone’s front lawns. Smooth, flat, wide leafed collards. What you will not see is…kale. No curly kale, no dinosaur kale, no purple kale. The word kale can’t even be translated into Portuguese! I don’t understand where this notion that my country’s beloved soup is made with this foreign greenery but it must be stopped before our whole culinary history is marred by kale. So please, before proceeding, go out and buy yourself some collard greens. Kale is not allowed beyond this point.
Apart from the whole kale vs. collard thing, there are no other rules for caldo verde. The preparation of the soup varies between regions and even between households. My mom doesn’t put garlic in hers but I think it adds a certain depth of flavour so I add some cloves in. And it makes a difference, because my nephew has said that my caldo verde is the best he’s ever had (don’t tell my mom, it would crush her).
There are a few other tips I’ll share here because when a recipe has only 5 ingredients, you have to really get every step right in order to extract the best flavour. It is very important to chop the collard greens super finely. This is called “chiffonade” which is a french word meaning “little ribbons”. For caldo verde, little doesn’t cut it, you’re looking to chop those collards into tiny, minuscule, slivers of green. Roll the collard leaves into cigars and rock your freshly sharpened knife back and forth over the collard cigars until you get something that looks like this:
The next tip is to blanch the collard greens. This extra step really adds to the texture and flavour of the soup because if you add the collards in raw, they take forever to cook and they impart some bitterness.
The type of chouriço you buy is also important. Portuguese chouriço is not the same as Spanish or Mexican chouriço. My homeland’s chouriço is a smoked, dry pork sausage heavy on the paprika. It is found in many grocery stores in the deli section and can definitely be purchased at any Portuguese grocer that is worth it’s weight in collard greens. Now that we’ve chosen the right green, let’s not mess this up with the wrong sausage okay?
My final tip is to drizzle the soup with some high quality, flavourful olive oil. This elevates an otherwise peasant soup to new flavour heights. The olive oil swirl looks pretty and finishing a dish with olive oil is a very fancy technique used by famous chefs at big deal restaurants so go on and help get this soup out of it’s farmer clothes and into it’s little black dress.
I hope you enjoy my take on this classic soup. Let me know how it goes in your kitchen.
|Caldo Verde: Portuguese Collard Soup|| |
- 600g white or yellow flesh potatoes
- 1 medium sized onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 200g collard greens (1-2 bunches depending on the size), stems removed
- ½ Portuguese chouriço, cut into thin slices
- Sea salt & pepper to taste
- High quality olive oil
- Peel the potatoes and chop them into medium sized chunks. Drop them into a soup pot filled with 1.5L of water.
- Peel the onions and chop those into medium sized chunks. Drop the onions into the pot with the potatoes and water. Peel the garlic cloves and drop those in whole.
- Place pot on high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, season with 1 heaping tbsp of salt. Allow to boil until potatoes are soft, approximately 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the collard greens. Finely chop the collard greens as explained above in the post. Aim for super fine. Place the shredded collards into a steamer basket and rinse them with cold water. Set aside.
- Fill another medium pot with 2" of water and place the steamer basket with the collards inside. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot and steam the greens for 1 minute.
- Once the greens are soft but still bright green, remove the steamer basket and run very cold water over the greens to "shock" them. Allow to drain.
- Once the potatoes are soft, turn off the heat and use a hand blender to puree the potatoes until you have a smooth, creamy broth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the collard greens to the broth stirring frequently. Allow the soup to boil and cook the collards for about 10 minutes or until soft.
- Taste the soup again and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and add 3-4 slices of chouriço to each bowl of soup. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy!