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Today marked a pretty significant day here in Nanaimo… I finally found purchasable kale at the Farmer’s Market!!  Glee!! I still don’t understand why there hasn’t been any all summer or early fall, but I guess that’s not for me to know. Sure miss all the varieties in Victoria though. Sure miss Moss St. Market. Sigh.

Anyway, I have been wanting to cook Caldo Verde for some time now, especially ever since I started missing Kale. I guess it was a desire I hung onto, just to ensure that I had a goal to find local kale. Honestly, I could have just gone to the grocery store and picked it up there, but kale doesn’t travel well and it tastes bitter by the time we get it from California. Real kale is sweet and green tasting. It’s pretty darn good.

For those of you who don’t know this, Caldo Verde is the Official Soup of Portugal! Cool, eh? And as a side note, if you google “Official Soup of Canada” (or something along these lines), it looks like it’s a tie between French Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup and Campbell Soup. Ugh, really? And a further just as a side, I remember one time someone from England told me that she understood muffins to be an Official Canadian Snack. First I’d heard of it. Anyho, totally got side-tracked there…

I realized quickly when I started to make this soup, that I don’t have a clue what it’s suppose to taste like. Hmmmm. Not only that, but I think you need you have damn good ingredients to make this work. I mean, usually you can make due with some ingredients being a bit less sophisticated than others, but when you are only working with 5 items, there’s no where to hide. However, I’m not knocking my ingredients, because they were all solid, but I think in the future I would make a homemade broth (to put that in perspective, that’s analogous to me saying that I would make my own bread… a true rarity in my kitchen). So I’ve concluded this would be a good soup to make after Turkey Dinner or a dinner similar to that (you know, for the bones). I think having a rich, thoughtful broth would  be amazing.

Because I have never had this soup, I don’t really know if I’ve made it correctly. In spite of it’s simplicity, I am willing to bet that I have only made a version that is sort of like the real thing. I am making it a goal right here, right now to seek out the real deal. For reals. Mark my words, I will make this happen.  I don’t usually cook things I haven’t eaten before (especially “Official” things) and actually, I found it kind of awkward to do so.  I almost felt too, that it was forbidden. Or maybe that was nervous embarrassment.  I mean, there is always that off-chance that a Portuguese Grandmother is going to come waltzing into your kitchen with her big taster-tester soup spoon.  Isn’t there?

This particular recipe (that I cut and pasted from my friend Guy’s FB wall, with permission) is in kind courtesy of Marilyn Gates and it goes a little something like this…

“Yes, Nati. The Portuguese National Soup. Mince one medium onion and six cloves garlic (or less to taste). Saute in 2 tbsp good olive oil 3 mins. Stir in 6 potatoes peeled and sliced and cook 3 mins more. Add 8 cups water and simmer 20 mins while you cook a couple of linguica (Portuguese sausage) until releases fat. Smash pots and add sausage to soup. When almost read to serve add a medium bunch of kale julienned. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve drizzled with olive oil + peasant bread.”

Mmmmmmm mmmmm. Thanks Marilyn!

PS: I didn’t have linguica, so I used Hungarian Bratwurst… so wrong I know! (But delicious nonetheless.)
PPS: I don’t eat a lot of bread, so I skipped that.
PPS: (ack, I feel like I’m in a confession both)… I added a small dash of white wine. I know I KNOW, this soup has been completely bastardized. In my defense, first I already stated that I didn’t know what I was doing (so I felt some leeway there) and second, it was too salty – something had to be done. Just thankful that that Portuguese Granny didn’t come walking in…
PPPS: I have plans to add carrots to the rest of this soup tomorrow. (Did I just write that out loud?)

Today I am feeling “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.  Overnight the weather turned from hot, dry, blinding sunshine to wet, drippy, cold puddles.  The reality of relocating is setting in, the stress of work continually tightens, and my back is awfully achy.  You know the mood I’m talking about?   You know when you’re in that mood and you just know that you need to take care of yourself, but you’re not sure how?  You also know that food will play some role in this healing, because it always does, doesn’t it?  Thus the term, “comfort food”.

It is very common to reach out to fill our bellies when we need comfort.  Some people turn to soft bread or rich chocolate or silky yogurt or salty chips or sugary sweets.  Some turn to water or milk or juice or shakes or tea or alcohol or pot or benzos.  Some crave cake or beef gravy or cheesy pasta or fried chicken or super salad or a fresh sandwich.  And me, I crave soup.  Not just any soup though, I want nourishing lentil soup.  I want the smooth broth, the tender lentils, the sweet and sourness, and the careful seasonings.   I want to feel the way it digests, so slow and warm in my belly.   And then I the assurance that when I’m hungry again, it awaits over-abundant in the pot, ready to be scooped out.

Truthfully, there must be hundreds of lentil soups recipes out there.  Lentils are such amazing little dots that are so versatile, inexpensive, and healthy.  Plus, they’re completely fuss free, quiet in their tiny cupboard space, non-addictive, and practically immortal.   Chicka chicka, no wonder so many people eat them!

This recipe I cut-and-pasted (with permission) from Guy Duke’s facebook page, specifically from his Notes section.   So without further ado…Ta DA!… introducing…

Guy’s Not-So-Secret-Anymore Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 tbsp of grated ginger
2 limes
3 lime leaves (optional)
3 cardamom pods (optional)
3 tbsp. of curry powder
3 tbsp. of cumin
3 tbsp. of ground coriander seed
1 big can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of coconut milk
1 liter of vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp. of olive oil
3 cups of red lentils (French lentils work well, too)
½ cup of honey
2 tsp. of curry paste (I like green, but red and yellow will work just fine)
1 bottle of dark beer (optional)
salt

Instructions:

Chop onion, garlic, and grate ginger; sauté in olive oil at medium heat. Add curry paste, cook for 1 minute. Add 1tbsp. each of curry powder, coriander seed and cumin. Cook for another minute. Chop cilantro. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, tomatoes, cilantro, honey, lime leaves, cardamom and another tbsp each of curry, coriander and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add lentils, lime juice, beer, and yet more curry, coriander and cumin (use your taste buds to decide here). Cook until lentils are mushy. Add salt to taste. Serve with bread (naan, baguette or what have you) and beer (or ginger beer for those not inclined to boozin’ it up). Feel free to adjust any amount as you see fit. For more spice, add more curry. For a creamier taste, add more coconut milk. Thicker or thinner? Adjust lentil amount.

End

This recipe was really fun to make and the prep for it took hardly anytime at all.  Just reading it over quickly, it might seem like it would take awhile to prepare, but really it’s quick and once it’s done, you just relax and let it simmer.  Your whole house (or your apartment, as in my case) will fill with the most showy smell of comfort and I bet all your cooking clothes will too.  My shirt smells delicious!

Honestly, I didn’t tweak this recipe very much, other than I added a bit more ginger (just because I was feeling the need for ginger-magic), I added a light beer (I didn’t have a dark one kicking around), and as well, I used Indian Curry Paste, just because I wanted to.  (No other reason really.)  In short, this recipe is golden.

I have a bowl of it beside me right now, as I’m typing this, and it’s totally distracting me.  It’s just so darn marvelous!  Sitting there all steamy and yellow… YUM YUM!  The flavours are absolutely brilliant and in one word (another rip-off from Guy): Huzzah!

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