I recently received the most wonderful gift from a very special friend. After her Grandmother’s passing, Benita had received her ring folder containing all her handwritten recipes. A folder of Life and Love and Memories, a record of family identity as it were. Many of us would have put the folder away to collect dust; some of us would have put it in a place of honour and used it to cook for our families and friends. Benita painstakingly went through every recipe, called in Mom and Aunts to decipher Avo’s handwriting and to translate some unfamiliar Portuguese, and had a book printed. She collected old family photos, family members’ recollections of her grandmother and her dishes, and lovingly put everything together. Included is a family tree and also a family timeline spanning Avo’s life. When I heard about this project, it brought tears to my eyes. When I received my own copy, bursting with pride, and could page through the life of a family dear to me, I cried wholeheartedly. What a way to honour a loved one.
Food is more than physical nourishment. Food is more than cultural identity. Food is at the heart of what it means to be human. It forms part of the fabric of our lives and our memories… so let’s get cooking! This is my tribute to Benita’s Avo. It is inspired by her Caldo Verde, but being who I am it is slightly different. Just as I hope yours will be different to mine! I used Richard Bosman’s chouriço, made from pigs that roamed freely and feasted on acorns, but use what you are comfortable with. Remember that quantities are only guidelines when it comes to dishes like these, follow your instincts!
1 Chouriço(anywhere from 150g) sliced
1 large or 2 smaller onions finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped or minced
700g or so peeled potatoes – diced
Bunch of Kale (Tough inner stem removed. Leaves shredded very fine)
Salt & Pepper
Heat a nice big saucepan with some olive oil and add the chouriço. Gently fry to release all the delicious aromas and oils, sprinkle with a little paprika while frying to enhance the flavour and colour. When nicely rendered and golden crisp, remove from the pan and keep aside in a bowl. Tip in the onions with a little salt and fry in the flavourful oil until translucent and starting to soften. Add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes until the garlic loses its harshness. Now add the potatoes and coat in all the wonder going on in there, give them a gentle frying for about 5 mins. Keep your eyes on the pot, you don’t want any of this to burn! Now add your water and bring it to a gentle boil and allow to simmer for 20-30 mins until the potatoes are good and soft. You want the liquid to reduce but if necessary, add a little more water. Now take your masher and gently mash the potatoes into the liquid until nice and smooth. Don’t get too panicked if there are a few little pieces – they add to the rustic charm! Now add the julienned kale, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes. You want the kale to be tender but not overcooked. Taste for seasoning. Lastly, lovingly push every last bit of chouriço and any oil back into the pot and give it a stir before serving into warmed bowls and drizzling with some top quality olive oil. This is fantastic as it is, but by all means serve it with some warm Portuguese bread for mopping up any leftovers!