Growing up, I heard plenty of stories about how my parents struggled and about how little they had. My dad explains that he used to walk around barefoot because his family couldn’t afford shoes. Many people worked very hard from a young age and they had to ration food because they had so little.
One of my dad’s stories of his life growing up in the Azores has always stuck in my memory. My dad describes how he and his brother (as teens) would go catch crabs with their dad so that their mom could fry them up to sell at religious festivals that were taking place in their town. These were not leisurely father-son fishing trips. These events were physically demanding and very dangerous.
They would go out barefoot onto the rugged coastline, at night, with a makeshift lantern as their only source of light. Their lantern was made of a piece of wood with a can of propane tied to it and some cloth that served as a wick. My dad says he would warn his dad when they were almost out of propane and he would ask if they could head back. Usually their dad would respond with a quick, “not yet”. Eventually they’d be completely out of propane and they’d have to make their way back along the rocky coastline, barefoot, and in complete darkness. The struggle was real.
The farmer’s soup…
Although this recipe isn’t from my mom’s book of traditions, nor is it even from the Azores, this soup takes us on a trip back to old Portugal, to a time when many people had very little; a time when people didn’t waste food, but rather, stretched whatever they had so that it could feed as many mouths as possible for as long as possible.
Making a large batch of soup with homegrown vegetables meant being able to feed the family with very little expense. Happily, over the years, the economy grew and people could afford more, but this traditional soup never lost its popularity.
This soup is made in many different ways. I’ve seen other sopa à lavrador (farmer’s soup) recipes that use mint, different cuts of meat, and a variety of other vegetables, beans, etc. This is a very simple and forgiving recipe. My family loves Portuguese chouriço so I added that to my recipe. You can use the base concept and then add your own twist.
A toast (or a soup)!
Here’s to health and prosperity and a wish that we can all provide good meals for our families. Remember your past, be thankful, and always eat well, friends.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium cooking onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2.2 Lbs (1 kg) beef shank (2 large pieces)
- 1 Tbsp course salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ Lbs (.232 kg) Portuguese chouriço, shopped (approx. ¼ inch wheels cut in half)
- 10 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups chopped potatoes
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 4 cups shredded green cabbage (about ½ small cabbage)
- 19 liq. oz. (540 ml) or one can white kidney beans, drained
- In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium high.
- Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent (soft and clear). About 3 minutes.
- Place the two beef shanks on the onions and garlic.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the shanks and turn them over.
- Let the beef shanks cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the chouriço and broth.
- Bring to boil.
- Reduce to medium low and let simmer for 1 hour, covered.
- Add potatoes and carrots, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to medium low and let simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
- Add cabbage and beans and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Your soup is ready to serve. This goes well with crusty bread!