Garlic and Cilantro Bread Soup (Acorda a Alentejana)

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

This classic soup reflects how people of modest means and resources can create a dish so satisfying that it's served in fine restaurants throughout Portugal to this day. Basically, it started as a way to extend the life of day old bread. With the addition of olive oil, garlic, cilantro, chorizo, and topped by a runny poached egg, this thick soup takes on a life of its own.
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Course: Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: Portuguese
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • Large pot or Dutch Oven

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling to serve
  • 4 oz Spanish dry-cured chorizo, quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced.
  • 1 large Yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 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

Instructions

  • 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 chorizo into a bowl.
  • Add to same pot the onion, garlic and chili flakes. 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.

Notes

  • 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. 

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