Most Portuguese meals, especially dinner, start with soup; many are thick and hearty, using whatever produce is on hand. Caldo verde, meaning literally green broth, is one of the most popular. It’s traditionally made with a local dark green cabbage called galega, closely related to kale which is a good substitute. When it’s in season, I make it with cime di rapa (turnip tops) another member of the cabbage family. Whatever greens you use, it’s important to slice them as finely as possible then just blanch them in the soup, taking care not to overcook them … it’s said they should look like grass. Although a few slices of fermented chouriço are traditionally placed in the bowl, you can make a delicious vegetarian version by flavouring a little olive oil with smoked paprika and garlic (typical chorizo spices) to pour over the soup. If using chorizo, I prefer a fresh unfermented one from La Boqueria that I briefly fry first so its oil adds to the flavour. Cornbread is the traditional accompaniment, and at Sweet Belem in Petersham Jose Silva bakes his grandmother’s version using a mixture of rye, wheat, white and yellow corn flours.
Serves 2 as a starter
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