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Summer Eats: Portuguese Kale Soup (Caldo Verde)

An excerpt from the new book How to Clean a Fish: And Other Adventures in Portugal.

Book Cover How to Clean a Fish

Food plays a big role in Portuguese culture. We can sit around a table and eat and tell stories for hours. During our stay in Costa da Caparica, food—selecting it, cooking it, and eating it—became a significant part of our days. Cooking helped me, in particular, feel more connected to my surroundings. I’m grateful to family and friends who shared meal ideas and recipes with me.


Portuguese Kale Soup (Caldo Verde)
This recipe is from my kitchen!
Serves 6, as a soup course

This is a tried-and-true version that I have adapted from my mother’s recipe. In Portugal, the “verde” comes from using collard greens. In Vancouver, I started using curly kale and I think I like it better than the original. My mother, of course, would add a cup of mashed white beans for extra oomph and nutrition. I often leave that out because it’s a hearty soup anyway.

You can adjust the amount of water or number of potatoes based on how thick you like your soup. Start with the amounts I’ve used
below and go from there. For a vegetarian version, leave out the chouriço. It won’t be quite the same, but it’s still tasty.

  • 1–2 chouriço sausage (adjust the quantity depending on how much you like meat)
  • 3–4 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 medium russet potatoes (about 3/4 kg), peeled and sliced for
  • quick cooking
  • 5–6 cups of water, depending on whether you prefer a thicker soup
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus coarse sea salt to taste
  • 1 bunch kale, washed, tough stems removed, and finely shredded

If you’re using sausage, pierce with a fork, place in a pot, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and let cool, then slice thinly, cover, and set aside.

In a soup pot, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft but not brown (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté another few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic (use low heat). Add the potatoes, water and salt, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Mash the potatoes or purée with a hand mixer or in a food processor. Bring the pot back to the stove and heat through, then add the kale and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. I like the greens to be still crunchy and not limp so I’m careful not to overcook at this stage.

Ladle the soup into bowls and add chouriço if you like. Serve piping hot.

Appears with permission of the publisher from the book How to Clean a Fish: And Other Adventures in Portugal, by Esmeralda Cabral, published by the University of Alberta Press. Available wherever books are sold.


Book Cover How to Clean a Fish

Learn more about How to Clean a Fish:

How to Clean a Fish describes an extended family stay in Portugal, full of food, adventure, and the search for home. Offered the opportunity to live in Costa da Caparica for an extended period, Esmeralda Cabral jumped at the chance to return to the country of her birth. Together with her Canadian-born husband, children, and Portuguese Water Dog, Maggie, Cabral makes new and nostalgic discoveries—a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys and beautiful painted tiles, a delicious bica and pastel de nata, a classic fado concert, the gentle ribbing of local fishmongers, a damaging high tide—translating words and emotions for her family along the way. Packed with local cuisine and customs, tales of language barriers and bureaucracy, and threaded with that irresistible need to connect with the culture of our birth, How to Clean a Fish is for readers curious about life in Portugal and for anyone who has moved from one place to another and is seeking their own version of home.


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