3 Must Try Portuguese Winter Soup Recipes! | Catavino
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3 Must Try Portuguese Winter Soup Recipes!

On my second morning in Portugal, my Tia (aunt) Lucinda asked if I wanted rabbit for lunch. I shook off the jetlag and tried to think straight before answering. Rabbit is one of my favorite meals, so it would be hard to pass up! But I would be leaving close to noon, which would mean … ahem … rabbit for a late breakfast.

Lounging in the room my aunt so carefully prepared for me, I grinned and answered: “Não Tia, só umas torradas e café.” I opted for toast and coffee instead. My aunt’s head suddenly peeked through the door contesting my choice.

“Don’t worry, I’ll grab a bite for lunch with Bruno (my cousin) before I get on the train,” I explained. It was my second day with family in the outskirts of Lisbon. That afternoon I would be heading north to the city of Porto. My aunt walked away disappointed, but accepted to my choice.

As I sat to devour toast made from crusty, country bread with globs of butter and a “galão” (a Portuguese latte), I asked if my uncle, Tio João, was joining us for breakfast. “He already had soup,” my aunt answered non-chalantely. I couldn’t help another grin, and thought, “of course he did.”
Though a good chunk of my family lives in the outskirts of Lisbon, most of our roots are in the countryside, specifically the “Beiras” region. Soup has always been a significant source of life for our elders, who as children worked sun up to sun down in the fields—and come rain or shine. Throughout Portugal, the love of soup is undeniable. Whether it’s at annual soup festivals or at shopping mall food courts, soups are heralded and everywhere! Open the fridge in any home, and you’re bound to see a Tupperware filled with it. Who needs cereal when you have homemade soup, right?

I returned to my aunt’s a couple of weeks later. With a little more time on my hands on this visit, she had the opportunity to feed me more! On the “menu” was one of my favorite soups, “Sopa de Feijão Verde” (string bean soup). One afternoon, my Tia Alice stopped by (my mother is one of six sisters). We started talking soup again, and she shared her recipe for one of my childhood favorites, “Sopa de Cenoura” (carrot soup).

When I paid a visit to family living in the countryside, my Tia Benvinda surprised me with two soup recipes I hadn’t come across in Portugal before: “Sopa de Pão com Água do Feijão” (bread soup with bean broth) and “Creme de Grão” (chickpea bisque). I was especially fascinated by this uber-peasant bread/bean broth recipe. The soup’s backstory was incredibly intimate and vivid. It conjured up images of my grandparents and their eight children crowded around the kitchen table on cold winter nights, almost entirely lit and warmed by the fiercest fireplace. The black cast iron pot my grandmother ritually used atop an open fire boiling up the beans, that when cooked were drained into a basin and reserved. My aunt abruptly stopped mid-recipe to assure I understood the value that water had to a working-poor family. “We couldn’t afford to waste anything, so the water was used for that night’s meal, to make the soup, while the beans were reserved to make other meals.” The bean broth was poured over layers of bread, sautéed onion and olive oil. And each bowl was graced with a droplet of beans; a favorite was black-eyed peas. My aunt paused and smiled, “Nobody went to bed hungry.” Their source of life, the almighty and hearty “sopa,” always came through …

Abraço,

Sonia Nolasco

Sopa de Cenoura (carrot soup)
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Portuguese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Ingredients
  • • 5 large carrots
  • • 8 medium-sized potatoes
  • • Large onion
  • • 3 leeks
  • • Mint (or Cilantro)
  • • Olive oil
  • • Salt
  • • Knorr cube (if desired)
Instructions
  1. Add the diced carrots, potatoes, onion and leeks to a large pot with water and salt (to taste). Boil and when all is cooked, reduce heat and puree (a handheld blender works best). If it’s too thick, add a bit more water and heat up again (Note: it’s a creamy soup, so it should be on the slightly thicker side). Add about three/four drizzles of quality olive oil and salt (to taste). Finish with freshly-chopped Mint or Cilantro. Serve with toasted bread.

Creme de Grão (chickpea bisque)
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Portuguese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • • Bag of chickpeas
  • • Large onion
  • • Mint
  • • Olive oil
  • • Salt
Instructions
  1. Boil the bag of chickpeas as instructed on the package and add the diced onion. When cooked, puree everything in the pot (a handheld blender works best). If it’s too thick, add a bit more water and boil (Note: It’s bisque, so it should be on the slightly smoother side). Add about two/three drizzles of quality olive oil, salt (to taste) and freshly-chopped mint.

Sopa de Pão com Água do Feijão (bread and bean broth soup)
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Portuguese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Ingredients
  • • Bag of black-eyed peas
  • • Loaf of rustic, European-style bread (day/two-old works well)
  • • Large onion (or garlic)
  • • 4 large bay leaves
  • • Olive oil
  • • Paprika
  • • Salt
Instructions
  1. Boil the beans as instructed on the package. Meanwhile, mince the onions and sauté in the olive oil with the bay leaves until golden; reserve. Tear apart the bread and place at the bottom of a pot/tureen. Sprinkle the bread with paprika and salt (to taste). Once the beans are boiled, drain them but save the broth (save the beans for other meals). Add the sautéed onion to the bread and cover with the bean broth. Garnish each bowl with a droplet of beans.

  • Can definitely relate, coming from Scotland lunch or dinner was not a proper meal without soup, unlike in England where it does not feature with such regularity. Scotch broth, thick vegetable or “Stovies” (pomme de terre etuvee) & red lentil were some of the hot soup memories of my childhood but the one that stood out was Aunt Janetta’s hair soup that appeared unfortunately not that frequently unless Uncle Jimmy had a good days shooting! Winter delights.

    • Sonia Nolasco

      Glad you enjoyed it Mary! Your family members and their soups sound like lovely and colorful ingredients for memorable meals. The hare soup sounds especially interesting 🙂

      • Yes Sonia the hare soup was a real hunters treat, I remember the blood was used in it to. I too had 5 Aunts on my fathers side & a Granny who was a cook at a big house, Aunt Jessie married to my mother brother was a little more refined and her vegetable soup was julienned more finely but I preferred the bigger chunks especially as you could keep the potatoes to the very end to eat. Thanks for the great article now I want to ask my cousins what their favorite soups were. Oh did you know that lentils are full of folic acid, great for expectant mothers I usually like to combine mine with carrots, a little spice & the zest of an orange.

  • Devour Barcelona

    These look delicious! We use lots of chickpeas in Catalan cuisine, but I’ve never seen a chickpea bisque. Can’t wait to try it at home!

    • Sonia Nolasco

      My aunt surprised me with the bisque, too! Usually it’s more of a vegetable soup that incorporates the chickpeas. Enjoy making it!

  • Yum! Wow looks great. My wine import company has some excellent wines from Portugal that would go great with these dishes! I’m thinking 2008 Encruzado from Dao…. unfiltered golden white wine….. yummm mouth watering 😉 Or maybe 2010 blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca….

    • Sonia Nolasco

      Those sound like excellent recommendations. Just had a wonderful Encruzado from Dao while in Portugal last month.

      • Sonia- I love the dao too! Was you encruzado young or aged? Malo lactic ferm?