Sopa Alentejana

The Alentejo (“beyond the river Tejo”) is a region in the south of Portugal, north of the Algarve. It is the origin of today’s dish, which is known and loved throughout Portugal in many variations. Bread, especially stale bread, broth, garlic and cilantro are always involved. Eggs and/or Bacalhau, cod that has been preserved by salting, are also often included.

The individual preparations are united under the names Açorda or Sopa Alentejana. Today’s version once helped us get over a nasty cold in Lisbon and hopefully it will do the same again at home.

The dish can be made with vegetable stock or chicken stock, so it can be vegetarian or vegan at any time. We treat our cold with chicken stock, which we often make ourselves, but today we simply use a bouillon cube.

The first step is to flavour the stock with peeled garlic cloves that have been cut in half lengthways and a few sprigs of cilantro. To do this, bring the stock to the boil once and leave the garlic and cilantro to infuse over a low heat for 10 – 20 minutes.

Bread that is as dry as possible – this can be sourdough or simple white bread – is cut up to the desired size and roasted in a little olive oil. This soup is a great way to utilise stale bread. If you only have fresh bread in the house, you would first have to dry it in the oven at 190 degrees for 10 minutes – or cook the soup another time and save energy. In Portugal, whole slices of bread are often used, but that’s a little too rustic for us at home.

We now prepare a kind of pesto from a little olive oil, more garlic and cilantro, a small pinch of salt and ground black pepper. This is very easy to do with a mortar and pestle, otherwise the ingredients need to be finely chopped and the garlic grated. A little grated lemon zest goes very well with it and should also help us to fight off the cold.

We also use the cilantro stems, which are very flavourful

The garlic and cilantro are removed from the stock which is then brought back to a gentle boil. Then we poach an egg in the stock – we have explained how to do this here.

The toasted bread is placed in a deep dish (tip: preheat it in the oven at 50 degrees) and the pesto is drizzled over it.

The broth is then poured over it and the poached egg is added. The dish is only eaten after 4 – 5 minutes, when the bread has soaked up the broth.

A simple and clear affair, very easy to cook and very flavourful. However, if you don’t like or can’t tolerate garlic, you should cook something else.

Enjoy.

And may the taste be with you.

Ingredients (per person):

For the stock:

450 ml vegetable or chicken stock

1 – 2 cloves of garlic, to taste

3 sprigs of fresh cilantro

For the garnish:

2 tbsp olive oil

A handful of bread pieces

1 egg (optional)

For the pesto:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 – 2 cloves of garlic, to taste

Approx. 8 sprigs of fresh coriander

Grated zest of ¼ lemon (optional)

1 pinch of salt

Black pepper from the mill

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