Goan Caldo Verde – Potato & Spinach Soup (GF)
Vegetables are not exactly very dominant in the Catholic cuisine of Goa which is heavily dependent on eggs, meat and seafood. If there are vegetables in any of the preparations it’s almost as if they’re there as an afterthought, or perhaps to add a little flavour to the main dish. So it’s not unusual that traditionally, purely vegetable based recipes are not commonly cooked by the Goan Catholic community.
The Caldo Verde, a Goan soup of Portuguese origin is one of the few exceptions though Goans, like the Portuguese, often like to add chorizo (spiced Goan pork sausage) to it. This soup is however very much a vegetarian soup at heart. Caldo Verde translates as “green soup” which doesn’t quite describe it as it’s a creamy cream coloured soup topped with thin strips of spinach which is the green part of the soup. It has its origins in the Minho province of northern Portugal but is popular throughout the country and in other countries that were Portuguese colonies.
The first time I had Caldo Verde, I actually expected to be served a green coloured soup but was pleasantly surprised by thin strips of green spinach a light golden coloured creamy potato soup! Now I understand there are people who make this soup by puréeing spinach as well and make a Caldo Verde that is actually visually “verde” but my personal preference is for the golden coloured version.
The basic traditional ingredients for Caldo Verde are potatoes, a Portuguese kale called “couve” which is replaced by spinach in Goa, olive oil and salt. Onions and garlic are also usually added for more flavour. I also understand that some people in Goa make it with potatoes and cauliflower but I’ve personally never come across this. This soup is usually served in Portugal with Broa, a Portuguese corn bread but any rustic bread will do really. Here in Goa, it is usually served with local sourdough breads like Poi or Pao.
If you’re looking for a filling and comforting soup, I’d say this fits the bill. It’s carbohydrate rich but hearty, filling and you can always take comfort from the fact that it contains spinach just in case you feel you need the justification.
A couple of things to note while making this Caldo Verde are that if you don’t mind using vegetable stock cubes, then you can use 2 stock cubes and 2 cups of water instead of the vegetable stock. Also you can use black pepper if you wish, but the idea of using white pepper is to keep the soup a beautiful creamy off-white colour.
- Boil the potatoes till they’re cooked and very soft. Peel and break them up into smaller pieces (shape or size doesn’t really matter).
- Heat the butter or oil in a soup pot, and add the garlic and the onions. Cook till the onions are translucent but do not brown them. Add the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes (again, do not brown) and then add the milk and the stock (or water and stock cubes).
- Stir and let it come to a boil. Then let it cool a bit.
- In the meanwhile, remove the thick stems of the spinach leaves and place them one on top of another. Roll them up tightly into a tube, and holding this down, cut into thin slices. When they open up you will lovely thin ribbons of spinach.
- Now blend the warm soup well until smooth. Return this to the pot and add the spinach ribbons as well to the pot. Cook for a couple of minutes and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Divide among 4 bowls and serve hot with Broa de Milho as is done in Portugal, with Poi or Pao as in Goa. Actually any thick and crusty bread will do. If by some chance, you have leftover soup, refrigerate it and warm it up the next day and serve. A lot of people swear that Caldo Verde actually tastes better the next day!