One of the best ways to start a meal in Portugal is with a bowl of warm soup. They are widely available across the country and so popular, that even some big fast-food chains will have a selection of soups included on their menus. They can be a simple vegetable soup or more elaborate concoctions like Caldo Verde.
One of our favourites and less well known to visitors is Sopa da Pedra. If you know your Portuguese, you might have spotted the word stone in its name. Portuguese Stone Soup is a traditional dish from Almeirim in Santarém, and is part of a popular European folk story.
The story has many variations of a similar theme, hungry travelers arrive in a new place and begin begging for food. Unfortunately for the travelers, no one has food to offer. So the travelers begin to make a soup with non-edible objects like metal or wood. The strange soup making attracts the curious towns people which the travelers then trick into contributing to the soup with vegetables and meat in order to improve the flavour. They story is told in many different ways across Europe, sometimes being called axe Soup or wood Soup, in Portugal the traveler was a monk, and a stone was the base of his soup. The story is believed to have a moral connotation to reinforce the importance of sharing in times of need.
Sopa da Pedra Recipe
The traditional recipe combines red kidney beans, potatoes, and cured meat typical of the region. Several traditional recipes still include the stone that is removed before serving, but we leave that bit out in our recipe. It is a delicious, hearty soup that is actually really simple to prepare. It filling enough that it should easily convince those that believe the soup should not be considered a meal. If you’re still not convinced to give it a try, how about this. It was selected as one of the seven wonders of Portuguese gastronomy in 2011.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
- 100g bacon
- 200g morcela
- 200g chouriço
- 400g potatoes
- 500g red kidney beans
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- Black pepper
- Fresh cilantro
- Place the beans in a bowl, cover it with water. Let it soak for at least two hours but preferably overnight.
- Place a tall saucepan over medium to high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, the cured sausages and bacon. Fry the meat on both sides until golden brown.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, add the onions, garlic and bay leaves to the cured meat fry. Gently cook it before adding the beans that should be rinsed and drained. Cover it with water.
- Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to medium, let it simmer for around one hour and a half or until the beans cook through. The time that takes to cook the beans can vary according with how long you soak it for, and the quality of your beans.
- Remove the cured meat from the saucepan, cut it into thin slices.
- Peel and dice the potatoes before adding them to the beans. Add a little bit more water if necessary and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Combine the cured meat with the beans and potato soup base. Season it with salt, pepper and roughly chopped fresh cilantro. Serve it with a side of fresh crusty bread.
Have you tried this recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
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