Thursday 28 September 2017

Caldo verde – a soup to welcome Autumn

I was initially going to do only two posts on my trip to Portugal but I decided to go for one more. Autumn seems to have arrived and with it comes the craving for warming and nourishing food. A Portuguese staple is the perfect answer: Caldo Verde. This is a soup made with few ingredients. In most taverns around the country you will find they add chorizo, sausage or bacon. You can make a meat-free version, equally delicious and nutritious, by adding some shaved parmesan cheese or any other cheese of your choice and croutouns. 

Even though we were in Alentejo at the peak of Summer we couldn’t resist “diving” into a bowl of this traditional Caldo. The Portuguese are masters in creating wholesome and cheap dishes using simple ingredients. It’s a cuisine full of Umami.

Back in my kitchen

Start sauteeing onions, garlic and potatoes.
Add water or stock.
After blending the cooked potatoes, add the greens.

My caldo verde!

Caldo Verde


Organic extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium size onion – finely chopped
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

500g potatoes, diced
200g frozen collard greens (I get mine from Portuguese delis).

1200ml water or vegetable stock
2 chorizo sausages – optional, sliced
*A handful of croutons

*I made some croutons with 3 slices of sourdough bread. In a pan, I melted a dollop of organic butter with good quality extra-virgin olive oil, added some smoked paprika and sea salt. Then, I brushed the mixture on both sides of the toasts, cut them into small squares and placed them on a baking sheet. Bake at 175C for about 15 minutes or until browned.


Heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Fry the onion and garlic until they begin to soften.  Add the diced potatoes, season. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add 1.25 litres water and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
Using a hand blender, mash the potatoes to produce a smooth purée. Add the greens and simmer for about 5 minutes.

If using chorizo sausage, fry the pieces until crispy or add them in the soup after blending it and before adding the greens. Place them on kitchen paper to drain the excess fat. Cut into small squares. Reserve.

Serve the soup in bowls with the pieces of chorizo (if using) and croutons. If using only croutouns, shave some parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on top.

Bom apetite!

A healthy note:
Collard Greens (Brassica Oleracea) are great source of fibre, chlorophyll, folic acid, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K and iron. White potatoes (Solanum tuberosum): is mildly diuretic, lubricates the intestines, tones the pancreas. Potato reduces inflammation, relieving arthritis and rheumatism. It is a good source of vitamin C, minerals and enzymes. It is a great accompaniment to meat, as its rich potassium content balances out the high sodium content of the meat. 

Till next week!

Thursday 21 September 2017

On the Road to Portugal - part 2

In the famous wine and olive oil region of Portugal, we found ourselves under 40 degrees Celsius. Still, it didn’t detract us from visiting some gorgeous villages, cool down in some wineries and feast in the protein-laden regional food.

In the old part of the historical village of Terena, sadly only 6 houses out of 50 were inhabited. The younger generation is leaving home for good. Our guesthouse was part of the old castle and it is a bit of a hub for the community. On one of the cooler evenings, Altino, our host, taught me how to create a typical Alentejana meal. It was a hands-on, enjoyable experience. We all toasted to it with a great local wine.

Back in my kitchen

Today, let’s have Migas: a hearty traditional dish made with salted cod, greens, garlic and stale bread. It’s very popular in the Alentejo area. It’s not subtle, and might not be to everyone’s taste but if you like dried salted cod you will enjoy it. Migas is normally a side dish but if you want to make it as a main you can add some cooked white beans to it.

Salted and dried shredded cod.
Soak them in cool water to desalt them.
Cook the cod and greens.
Add the bread and mix well.
My migas de bacalhau.
Migas de bacalhau - Cod fish migas


4 slices of stale sourdough bread
100 to 200ml filtered water
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves

500g salted dried cod (shredded)

200g shredded collard greens (or you can buy frozen greens - couve - from Portuguese delis)
Ground white pepper


Soak the salted cod for 12 hours, changing the water multiple times.

Soak the bread in water for about 20 minutes.

Once the cod is desalted, place it in a saucepan with the greens and add enough water to cover them. Let it cook for 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat, drain the water and let it stand. Save a bit of the water in case you need to use it in the next step.

In the same pan, add some olive oil, garlic and sautee. Add the greens, the cod and a bit more of olive oil and mix.

Squeeze the excess water from the bread and add it to the cod mixture. Cook it for about 10 minutes, always stirring. If you think it is too thick, use some of the reserved water. Sprinkle some ground white pepper and taste to season.

Serve straight away with salad leaves and cherry tomatoes.

A healthy note: Salted cod is a great source of protein and essential fatty acids. Salted cod contains good amounts of calcium and phosphorus, both very beneficial for bone health. Warning: Those who should strictly avoid salt in their food should be aware that salted cod contain high levels of sodium and even when desalted, some sodium will still remain in the fish. 

Collard Greens (Brassica Oleracea) are great source of fibre, chlorophyll, folic acid, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K and iron.

Till next week!


Tuesday 12 September 2017

On the road to Portugal - part 1

It’s been a long and well-deserved holiday but I am happy to be back to share with you some highlights of my trip to Portugal. This is a country that connects me to my Brazilian roots – not only because of our history, the beautiful Portuguese architecture and beaches, but also the gastronomy. My family and I go back whenever we can.
In the last three years Portugal has become a hot destination. It's safe, has great food and is relatively cheap. A year ago, I would have said its very cheap to travel around the country but thanks to the influx of tourists from all over, the prices have shot up. Having said that, it still is one of the most affordable holidays in Europe.
The food there is delicious. I must say that vegetarians and vegans will suffer a bit. The Portuguese indulge in meat (black pork, chicken piri-piri, lamb, beef) and seafood (cod, sardines, prawns, clams etc). Their menus are a bit biased towards the protein side. Paleos would be in heaven.
My family and I started our trip in Lisbon, then travelled to Setúbal . Once there, we explored the beaches nearby but settled mostly at Costa de Caparica. In a quaint square in Setúbal, we had fresh grilled fish caught on the day. The best sardines!
The market in Setúbal (see photo above) is spectacular! It's really worth a visit.
From Setúbal, we went to Alentejo where we explored the wine and olive oil region. As much as we love the area, I wouldn’t recommend it in the peak of Summer. It is scorching hot.
In the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing with you two of the simplest and most popular Portuguese traditional dishes.
At the end of this post, I list some of the restaurants I recommend in Lisbon.
Back in my kitchen

Today let’s have piri-piri chicken (frango piri-piri), which became one of our favourite budget meals. The method I am applying here was explained to me by the chef in one of the restaurants in Lisbon that was a lucky find. He showed me how to make a quick, fresh blend of the piri piri sauce. It’s great in its simplicity. No wonder piri-piri chicken (in its various versions) spread like wild fire in the streets of London.

The ingredients.
The sauce. 
Piri piri sauce


4 bird eye chillies - seedless
3-4 red chillies - seedless
1 scoth bonnet – optional, if you want it to be extra-hot - seedless
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Olive oil – about 100-150 ml just to cover the ingredients inside the blender
Juice of half lemon


Blend all the ingredients. Reserve.

The spatchcock chicken plus sea-salt.
Grill the chicken skin side down for 5 minutes...
...then turn over and grill for 5 more minutes.
The seasoned chicken before going into the oven.
My piri piri chicken.

The roasted chicken
Serves 4-6


1 organic chicken (about 1.6kg), spatchcock – you can ask your butcher to do it for you. Or 1-2 poussins


Pre-heat the oven to 190 ° C degrees.

Place the chicken in the grill skin side down, for about 5 minutes each side. In a roasting tray, scatter sea-salt and drizzle some olive oil on top. Transfer the chicken to the tray, skin side down, and season it with sea salt. Brush the piri piri sauce on this side of the chicken. Turn it over and repeat with salt and sauce. Now leave the chicken skin side up and roast in the oven for 60-75 minutes. When done, squeeze fresh lime juice and scatter some fresh coriander on top. Serve with roasted vegetables and salad leaves.

A healthy note: Chilli (Capsicum annum, C. frutescens ) contains a compound called capsaicin – this is what gives its spicy and pungent character. Capsaicin is well known in scientific research as a pain reliever and digestive aid, which also has cardiovascular benefits. Capsaicin has the ability to lower blood temperature (it may induce perspiration in cases of fever). It contains very good levels of vitamin A and C. Chilli is a great source of iron and potassium. Warning: For people suffering from GER & GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), chillies can aggravate the symptoms.

Places to eat in Lisbon

Cantinho do Avillez - It’s the relaxed version of José Avillez two star Michelin Belcanto. Lovely atmosphere. The scallops and the berry cheesecake were  to die for. Rua dos Duques de Bragança 7, 1200-162, Lisbon. Tel: +351 211 992 369.
Taberna do Sal Grosso – Clam rice delight.  Calçada do Forte 22, 1100-397, Lisboa. Make sure you book before turning up, the place is always fully booked. Also, the best way to book is through Facebook, as they hardly answer the phone.
O Churrasco – very tender and juicy barbecue chicken. The restaurant itself doesn't look inviting but give it a try. Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 85, 1150-266, Lisboa. Tel: +351 21 342 3059
Time Out Market/ Mercado da RibeiraHenrique Sá Pessoa – If you are lucky to find an empty seat or table as the place gets overflown by tourists (like myself :-)), try chef Henrique Sá’s mouth-watering pork belly confit with sweet potato mash and greens. Then have a creamy custard tart (pastel de nata) at Manteigaria. Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa.

Mercado de Campo de Ourique – A pretty local food market with food stalls selling mostly Portuguese food. A much smaller version of Time Out Market. It is very close to Pastelaria Aloma (below). Rua Coelho da Rocha, 104, 1350, Lisboa.

Pastelaria Aloma – They claim to be the best pastel de nata in Lisboa. I am not sure if it is the best but it is very very good indeed. And the bakery is located in a lovely part of Lisbon.  Rua Francisco Metrass 67, 1350-139, Lisbon. Tel: +351 213 963 797.

Manteigaria Silva - Not really a place to seat down and eat but I had to mention this traditional Portuguese grocery store that sells a variety of produce from the country: wine, cheese, dried cod, fresh produce etc. Rua Dom Antão de Almada, 1 D 1100-197 Lisboa. Tel: +351 21 342 4905

Till next week!
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