Portuguese food

The food of Portugal is rich, & has a depth of intensity just like its people.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chickpea, Pumpkin & Spinach Soup - Sopa de Abobora, Grao e Espinafre

As winter draws to a close, I thought I'd get in the last of the winter soups.
This is one of my nephews favorite soups, the other one being Vietnamese chicken noodle soup.
When I tell him were having soup he asks eagerly if it's this soup.
This soup was made by my mother on a very regular basis.

Pumpkins are very popular in the Algarve, surprisingly though the Algarvians don't roast them like we do here in Australia, they are either used in soups, desserts( yes, desserts) or boiled with other vegetables & meat.
Chickpeas are also a staple throughout Portugal, & are usually an accompaniment with meat dishes.

A great soup for vegans.
I love the creaminess of the chickpeas, the sweetness of the pumpkin & the silkiness of the spinach.
I like using baby spinach, you can use English spinach as well. I like to use these two in the soup as the soup has a delicate quality which is a perfect matching for the type of spinach that's used.

Recipe ( Serves 8 )
  •  2kg pumpkin, peeled, deseeded,chopped into chunks
  • 2 onions,chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves,minced
  • 2 potatoes,peeled & cut into chunks
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 12 cups water
  • 2 tab salt
  • 375g chickpeas tinned
  • 500g baby spinach

1. Peel & deseeded the pumpkin. Cutting the pumpkin into chunks.

2. Peel the onions & garlic & chop.

3. Peel the potatoes & cut into chunks.

4. In a large pot  heat the oil on medium heat, add the onions & garlic, saute with no colour.

5. Then add the pumpkin & potato, saute for 1 min.

6. Add the water & salt, turn up the heat on high  till it boils then turn down the heat & cook for 40 min.

7. Once the potatoes are cooked blend the soup with a hand blender.

8. After the soup is blended add the chickpea & cook a further 15min on low heat.

9. At this stage if the soup is a bit thin keep cooking to reduce the liquid, if it's too thick add a bit more water. 

10. Just before serving add the baby spinach.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Praline

My birthday & my friends son's birthday are only 3 days apart. I wanted to make a cake for myself this year & decided that I'd make it for his birthday party, as I wasn't having one this year, turning 41 isn't anything to celebrate, & it's been a terrible year.
Two days after turning 40, which I did celebrate, I came down with glandular fever & well I've been sick ever since, so it wasn't the best year I've ever had.

It was meant to start out as just a small chocolate cake, but for those of you that know me, know I don't do anything small, even when I try it just goes out of control, this cake grew to gigantic, humongous proportions. This 1 cake grew to 2 cakes & both had 4 layers each.
I showed up to the party with with two cakes in toe, & huge they were.

One cake was for the kiddies, chocolate cake with ganache throughout the layers as well as the icing & then decorated with strawberries. The other one was for the adults & it was the same chocolate cake & ganache but I added  peanut praline & topped off with strawberries.

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups caster sugar 
  • 250g butter,softened
  • 4 tab cocoa powder
  • 3 cups self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
Grease 2 deep 22cm round cake pan, line base & side with baking paper.
Beat the butter & sugar with an electric mixer until pale, then add the eggs one at a time.
Then fold in the cocoa & flour. Once combined add the warm water & vanilla essence.

Pour the batter into the 2 prepared cake tins & bake for 40 min at 180 degrees.
Once the cakes have cooked let the cake sit in the pan for 10 min then turn the cake onto a wire rack to further cool.

GANACHE ( FILLING & FROSTING) This recipe is from Donna Hay's book Modern Classics 2
  • 750g dark chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cup cream
  • 210g unsalted butter
Place chocolate bits in a bowl add the butter & cream & place on a pot of simmering water.
Stir until melted & smooth.Set aside to cool completely then beat with electric beaters until thick & fluffy.Spread over chilled cake.

  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup salted peanuts
Line a tray with grease proof paper & add the peanuts. In a pan place sugar & water & dissolve over high heat cook until a golden brown colour.
Remove from heat & pour the caramel over the peanuts.
When set, break into pieces & place in a food processor  till it's a fine powder.

  • 1 punnet strawberries
  • 100g chocolate


Have all the above ingredients ready.
  • Once the cake has cooled, slice each cake in half. Spread 1/2 a cup of ganach onto each layer & sprinkle some praline on top. Sandwich the layers, there should be 4 layers with 3 layers of ganach & praline filling.

  • Then cover the cake with the frosting, using a flat spatula. Start at the top, placing 2 cups of frosting on the top of the cake & then work the frosting around the cake pushing the frosting down wards. Place a bit extra around the sides & work the spatula around the sides.
  • To get a better finish on the cake it's best to work top down, meaning place lots of frosting on the top of a cake & work it down.

  •  Once the cake is covered, fill some ganach mixture into a piping bag with a star nozzle & pipe rosettes around the cake.Place strawberries on top of the rosettes & sprinkle praline mixture in the center of the cake.
  • Melt 100g of chocolate & place in a small piping bag, pipe onto the strawberries.

 This cake has no praline (kiddies safe)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spinach & Potato Soup - Caldo Verde

As winter is drawing to a close & spring is on the horizon I thought I'd get in as many soups into the blog as possible.
What can I say about this soup, it's THE most popular soup in all of Portugal, the soup that says, yes I'm Portuguese!
Literally translated this soup means Green broth,which doesn't sound that appealing, it's more of a thick hearty potato, spinach & chorizo soup, fantastic for winter.
This soup originated in the north of Portugal, the Minho province, the weather here is cold during winter & potatoes are a staple of this area.
I have a theory that the soup pays homage to it's country of origin, the soup looks very much like the green hills of this area & also has the colour of the deep green of the Atlantic ocean.

I'm always featuring the food of the Algarve, which as many of you know is where my parents are from, so it's great that I can feature a northern dish, my husbands family is in the next province over which is still part of the north.
This area is beautiful with it's lush vegetation & historic cities.

Traditionally this soup is accompanied with the bread of this region which is Broa a kind of cornbread,  a very filling & hearty bread.
In Portugal Kale is used but here is Australia we don't have kale so I always use Silverbeet spinach.

Serves 6 people
  • 3 medium brown onions,chopped in small dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 850g potatoes, peeled & chopped
  • 2 lt water
  • 1 tab salt
  • 2 chorizo ( weighing 30g ea) skin removed & added whole
  • 2 bunches silverbeet spinach, washed thoroughly
1. In a deep heavy set pot add olive oil on a medium heat & saute the onions & garlic, cook till translucent with no colour.

2. Add the sliced potatoes , water, salt & the whole chorizo.
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low/medium heat, till the potatoes are cooked, 40 min.

                      Silverbeet Spinach

3. While the soup is cooking clean the silverbeet well removing any dirt.
Remove the stalk from the leaf, discard the stalk.
Roll 2 leaves together into a cigar shape & with a sharp knife shred the leaves as thinly as possible.

4. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the chorizo from the pot & slice into thin slices & set aside. Then blend the soup with a hand mixer  or a blender.

5. Once the soup is blended add the silverbeet  & the sliced chorizo & cook on a low heat for 20 min. Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto the soup if you like.

Broa (Corn Bread)
  • 14g dried yeast
  • 200ml lukewarm water
  • 1 tab olive oil
  • 1 tea salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cups bread flour
1. Sprinkle the yeast into a bowl & add the lukewarm water then add the olive oil, salt & the polenta & bread flour.

2. Combine all the ingredients together, into a large ball.

 3. Shape the dough mixture into individual balls, the mix makes 5 med to large rolls.

 4. Bake the rolls at 180 degrees for 30 min.

  • When making the soup, I like to add the chorizo to the potato broth as this imparts the flavour of the chorizo & adds extra flavour.
  • You can add extra water to the soup if it becomes too thick.
  • No need to knead the corn bread or rest it, you can just basically put it all together, shape it & bake it.

    Towns in the Minho province

    The beautiful lush vegetation I spoke about

    A historic city