Thursday, 20 January 2011

Caldo Verde–a variation

Never gild the lily, so they say. It’s a truism, especially in cooking when sometimes the simplest things are the ones we find ourselves yearning for in quieter moments. It’s the austerity perhaps that we find comforting, particularly these days, and the ability to conjure something wonderful out of seemingly meagre pickings.

Last night it was cold outside it seemed a soup would be just the thing. I had potatoes, a bag of kale, an onion, a couple of pieces of stale bread in the freezer and – randomly – a couple of chorizo sausages leftover from the squid and chorizo pilaff from the night before. Slice the onion and sweat in olive oil in a casserole. While that’s cooking, peel and chop one potato per person into chunks; the size is up to you. Large chunks will hold their shape, smaller ones will crumble into the liquid and thicken it: a mixture of the two is optimal. Add them to the pan and throw in the chorizo, sliced into coins. Add a large sliced clove of garlic and cook gently for a few minutes just to allow the oils to leach from the sausage and coat everything.

At this point, I got out my gold spray equivalent, for also in the fridge, while rummaging, I found a few Jerusalem artichokes. It seemed the nutty sweetness would only add to the soup so I simply halved them and threw them in too. I added around 600ml chicken stock, brought it up to the boil and then let it simmer until the vegetables were soft and melting into the soup.

At this point, check your liquid and then throw in as many handfuls of kale as you fancy. Last night I used nearly the whole bag, as it cooks down to near-nothing, top up with more stock if necessary and simmer for a couple of minutes until the kale is cooked.

At this point, taste and season. I also added a tsp of paprika to bumph up the smokiness. The potatoes and artichokes had crumbled and thickened the liquid to a silky sweetness, counteracted by the smoky sausage and bitter greens. I toasted the bread, rubbed it with garlic, drizzled with oil and placed it in the bottom of the warmed (!) soup bowls before ladling the soup on top. Warming, nutritious and a lily barely dusted with gold but all the better for it.

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