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.