Warming bread soup from Alentejo

alentejo soup with bread

With the winter drawing in we are starting to think about soups and delicious Portuguese bread to accompany them.

Soup is a staple on the menu in Portuguese homes and restaurants, with vegetable soup and fish soup taking pride of place.

One tasty soup from Alentejo is called açorda and can include egg, fish or prawns.

Also known as bread soup, basic ingredients include bread, coriander and stock. The bread used is the “hard” bread typically from the Alentejo, not the sliced soft bread from the supermarket.

The word açorda can be traced to the Arabic word tharada, and subsequently thurûd, which means “to break bread”. The classic form found in Arabic literature means “crumbed and soaked bread”.

Traced back to the 5th century, this dish was one of the most characteristic in Arab cuisine, although it would resemble a meat stew to which breadcrumbs would be added.

In the 8th century, the conquering Muslims brought thurûd with them and thus introduced it to the Portuguese. And the latter have taken it to their tables the country over, with different regions serving it in different ways.

The bread in an açorda can be mashed or left as whole slices, the latter is a little more inviting to the eye as the former makes the soup look more like porridge.

In Olhão, Algarve, a delicious seafood açorda is served and which really does resemble a hearty seafood stew.

If you wish to make the following recipe a more hearty one, you can add some prawns or white fish, poached in the water/stock instead of eggs.

1 bunch coriander
2 – 4 cloves garlic
1 tblsp coarse salt*
4 tblsp olive oil
1.5 litres boiling water – you can use stock but careful with the amount of *salt used earlier in the recipe
400 g rustic bread – this can be day-old bread
4 eggs

Poach the eggs, or fish if you prefer, in the water or stock.

Grind the coriander and the peeled garlic cloves to a paste with a little coarse salt – careful with the amount of salt if you are using stock.

Pour into a tureen or bowl and add the olive oil, then scald with the boiling water/stock in which the eggs have been poached.

Stir the soup, allowing the flavours to blend. Add pepper, perhaps a little vinegar or piri-piri.

Add the bread, either sliced or diced or even torn into pieces.

Depending on taste, cover the soup and let the bread soak up the liquid so that it can be mashed or simply leave them to lie in the liquid.

Either add the eggs/fish/prawns to the tureen before serving or add to the plates on top of the soup. Decorate with a little coriander.

Check out more easy to make recipes such as feijoada (a pork and bean stew), jardineira (beef stew) and chicken piri-piri.

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