Alentejo sits quietly between Lisbon with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Spain to its west. With 25% of Portugal’s land mass but only 5% of its population, the region is commonly known as the “bread basket” of Portugal, a region of vast open countryside with undulating plains and rich fertile soil.
The imbalance between a few wealthy farmers and ranchers and the many field workers created a land of deep poverty and the need to make use of anything that’s edible. The Alentejano country-folk making the best use of what is available is the foundation of a rich cuisine and dishes that are loved throughout Portugal and, in the case of Acorda a Alentejana, around the globe. It is interesting that much of what we regard as a rich cuisine is born of abject poverty.
Acorda a Alentejana- Garlic and Cilantro Bread Soup
- Large pot or Dutch Oven
- 3 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling to serve
- 4 oz Spanish dry-cured chorizo, quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced (Sub: Kielbasa)
- 1 large Yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 6 cloves Garlic, crushed
- ⅛ tsp Red chile flakes
- 1 cup Cilantro, trimmed and minced. Save a few leaves for garnish
- 2 cups Chicken stock
- 8 cups Stale country white bread, cubed or torn
- 4 Eggs, poached or fried sunny-side up
- Kosher salt & black pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, scoop into a bowl.
- Add onion, garlic and chili flakes to the same pot. Stir until cooked, about 3 minutes. Add ⅔ of the chopped cilantro and cook about 3 minutes more. The onions should be beginning to color.
- Add stock to same pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in bread and cook. Add ½ cup of water at a time, if needed to keep bread moist. After about 30 minutes, soup will look like a porridge. Stir in remaining cilantro and season to taste.
- Ladle bread soup into bowls and top with poached or fried egg, cilantro leaves, and crisped chorizo. Drizzle a little olive oil over each and serve.
- Portuguese chorico or linguica can replace Spanish chorizo.
- Cilantro can be replaced by flat-leaf parsley.
- Poached or fried eggs may be omitted, but the egg yolk running into the soaked bread is delicious..
- A crusty bread like a baguette or country bread can be used. It is essential it be a least a day old.
- Toasted bread can be used in a pinch.