Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Portuguese Bread, Coriander, Garlic & Egg Soup

I first came across a version of this soup in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the backstreets of the Bairro Alto district of Lisbon, famous for the Portuguese 'lament' style singing - fado. I don't think I ever knew the name of the restaurant, and on regular occasions took ages to find it in the maze of backstreets when trying to show it off to visitors from Blighty.

The soup in this restaurant was watery in texture but packed full of the flavours of coriander, garlic, and olive oil.  When I eventually found a version of the recipe for this soup in print in 'The Taste of Portugal' by Edite Viera it included stale bread.  Using stale bread to make a porridgy style soup is a Portuguese speciality.  Portugal is historically a poor subsistence economy, and 'a├žorda' (pronounced ass-orda) was a simple peasant dish of rehydrated stale bread beefed up with whatever strong flavours could be found.  It apparently continued to be popular until relatively recently as a stand-by meal for feeding infants!  The 'Sopa Alentejana' I found in the backstreets of Lisbon hailed from the Alentejo, one of the poorest and most barren regions of Portugal despite bordering the Algarve to the south.

Despite it's more common association, in this country at least, with Thai cooking, fresh coriander is a common ingredient in Southern Portuguese cooking too.  But this soup can be made with paprika instead if fresh coriander can not be found.  Do not use coriander seed!!!

Serves 1
2 large crusts of stale bread, white or wholemeal
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large pinches of sea salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or 1/4tsp smoked paprika
1 free range egg
1 mug boiling water

Beat the egg in the soup bowl of your choice, then add the bread broken as small as you can together with the other dry ingredients.  Pour over a mug of boiling water and stir to cook the beaten egg.  Leave to stand for a couple of minutes for the bread to soften then tuck in.

If undercooked egg is something that concerns you, you could always microwave the soup for 1 minute, or heat it in a small saucepan, or poach the egg in the mugful of water and pour this gently over the other ingredients and leave to stand.

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