Recipe: Portuguese Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde

So way back in January 2010,  I went to Lisbon.  I stayed in a reasonable, but most excellent hostel, and went to some fairly nice restaurants. I think I spent more on food per day than I did my accommodation! On my first evening I didn’t stray too far from the hostel, and dined early.  For mains I picked rabbit (which was delicious and came with chips!), and I decided to somewhat splashout by having  an entree as well. I picked caldo verde. I had no idea what was, or that it was a traditional Portuguese dish  (I think I knew it was a soup from the menu). The main reason I picked it because it was cheap (3 or 4 euro from memory).  But oh it was delicious – a hearty (but not stodgy) green soup with spicy sausage.  I had it a couple more times during my trip (pretty much at every opportunity!) and came away with the vow to make it myself. When I got home I looked up wikipedia and a few recipes, and saved them, and then did nothing… until a couple of weeks ago when I realised that I had all the ingredients (and most specifically chorizo and kale) – without even trying!

And so I made it. I pretty much following this recipe, though I amped up the chorizo (two sausages instead of one), and used kale as my green. I also was a bit concerned about the paprika oil.  Was it swirled into the pot?  In individual bowls? What if I was just going to eat it ALL BY MYSELF**? So I decided to just mix in the paprika late in the cooking phase, without worrying about the oil  (perhaps I will add the paprika earlier in the future).

Someone asked me if my caldo verde tasted like the one I had in Lisbon, but to be honest I can’t remember exactly what it tasted like.  But it certainly felt the same – warming, spicy and wholesome.

**Not quite, but close

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Dal Palak (Lentils with Spinach)

Chana DalThis Palak Dal (Spinach and Lentils) was fortuitous in that it used chana dal from my pantry, as well as some spinach and tomatoes that were lingering in the fridge! It was very quick to cook, and very warming and comforting to eat.  It felt healthy 🙂

This was also my first time of roasting dal before using (lets face it,  i’ve used chana dal once before!), and it really enhance the flavour of the dal. The recipe is fairly self explanatory, although I did find the lentils dried up very quickly into the 1 hour cooking time – much quicker than I expected!  I will be ready with more water next time I cook. I also held off adding the spinach until right at the end, to preserve its bright green colour.

Dal Palak with Spinach

Note to Self: Nigella’s Onion Mush

Onion Mush

This is really a reminder to myself of the volume of onion mush that is produced from 1 kilo of sliced onions (it’s probably about a cup).  I do know the onions reduce down, and I always think ‘I really should double this recipe’, but, you know, one of the last things you want to do when you’ve peeled and thinly sliced a kilo of onions, is to peel and thinly slice *another* kilo of onions!  Still, when you put in effort to make onion mush, it would be nice to end up with more than a cup of delicious-ness (and it is delicious). Since peeling and slicing is the major hurdle in making mush, it would make sense to use a food processor, like Nigella suggests (the recipe is from How to Eat).

Recipe (more or less).

Peel one kilo of onions, and then slice very thinly. Add your fat (1 tbps of butter or LARD plus 3 tbps of olive oil, or 5 tbsp olive oil) to a heavy based pot over a low heat, and then add the onions once the butter/lard has melted, but has not started bubbling. Pack the onions down with a wooden spoon, sprinke with salt and then add 75 mL of Marsala (or cheap dry sherry in my case), topped up with 100 mL of boiling water.  Take a piece of foil and pack it tightly over the onion, shiny side down, put the lid, and allow to simmer for 2 hours (check after 1 hour to ensure the onion is not browning or sticking to the pan). After 2 hours, take off the lid and foil, increase the heat and boil off the liquid. You will need to keep a fairly close eye on the mush at the point, and stir pretty constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick. A key point is that the onion does not turn brown until you start boiling off the liquid.  I remember feeling quite worried the first time I made mush my onions were so pale at the end of the slow cook stage.  However the sugar doesn’t caramelise until the water is gone – so don’t worry, your onions will go brown!

LARD!

An exciting moment in making this batch of mush, was using my own LARD,  when I rendered off a slow cooked pork shoulder a few days before.  I just poured the fat off the slow cooker and cooled it in the fridge, ending up with a suprisingly pristine white fat that melts beautifully (and I feel good about not throwing it away. go LARD!).  I do think you can cut down on the oil in the onions, though.  I might ignore the addition of olive oil next time.

Anyway, the mush (or relish) is very delish and worked well on our umami burgers (which I essential followed this recipe, but replaced the applesauce with  1 tsp sugar and grilled in a frying pan). If only there was more…