Calde Verde; or, how to make a tasty Brazilian-style potato soup with kale

I was lucky to come across calde verde. If it wasn’t for knowing a lot of Brazilians and going to a traditional-style New Year’s party, then I would never have found it. What’s more it was cooked for me -party food!- by Brazilians, so I got to taste first hand how it is supposed to be.

What I love about this meal is that it’s a great way to use spring greens or kale! What else can you do with those lucious dark leaves.

It’s one of my staples now, and I’ve made it so many times that I can’t remember how thick or runny it is supposed to be. I make it stodgy, like a stew, and the soft textures of the bacon and onions are a great foil for the still crunchy greens.

Tip: No matter how much calde verde I make, I usually toss in only enough greens for one meal. That way you always get bright and crunchy greens at every meal.

Anyhow, here goes.

Calde verde recipecalde verde

Some potatoes (how hungry are you? I used 5 medium / smallish taties which did me two fair sized meals / bowlfuls)
An onion, diced
A clove or two of garlic, sliced
Bacon or chorizo (I used about half a pound of bacon this time), roughly chopped
A saucepan of water or stock (I cheat and use a bouillon cube)
A few leaves of spring greens or kale, stripped from the stems so you’re left with only the leafy bits

So, you dice the potatoes relatively small (so you don’t have to wait forever while they cook). Boil them in either salted water, or stock.

Saute the onion, garlic and bacon (or bacon first, if you want it crispy), until everything’s softened. Take off the heat.

When the potatoes are cooked, pour the remaining water or stock into a jug, and mash the spuds. I don’t know how mashed they’re supposed to be, but lumps give it a nice texture, so anything goes.

Gradually pour the potato water back into the mash, mixing it together to make a thickish paste. Thinner is better at the start as it thickens quickly.

Yummy way to use kaleAdd the onion and bacon mix and stir. Keep on a lowish heat for a while. BEWARE of molten splashes of Evil Tatty, it spits like some writhing bog monster when boiled, and they hurt like huge hot oil spatters.

Slice the lovely fresh greens as thin as you can (like 2mm or something), and dump into the stew. Cook for maybe 3-5 minutes, semi boiling. The greens want to be brightly hued and still crunchy, but not too raw.

Ladle into your dish and away you go.

The reason this one is yellow is due to a dessertspoon of English mustard, which worked very well.

Persistence wins over talent

This is what I console myself with on my off days. No matter whether it is writing, cooking, knitting or making friends, persistence wins over talent.

You can do a bad job of something, but if you push it and promote it and show it to enough people, there’s a bloody good chance something will come of it. This is the truth, so if you also have off days, remember it. Obviously it must be true, or terrible books (50 shades of something spring to mind) wouldn’t be published, all music would be terrific, and … well … David Cameron wouldn’t be Prime Minister.

Tonight I have ruined both egg mayonnaise and hummus; two dip/spread things that I have made thousands of times for at least 20 years. It’s the first time they have ever been a disaster. But there will be another day; just not this one.

Some people allow disaster to be more traumatic than others. Perhaps more talented people take it to heart more readily. I once knew an incredibly talented writer, who was unable to get his work published through traditional routes. Why? Who can know. I would hazard a guess that his pride in his own talent prevented him from stepping on to the humble stone and asking nicely to be published. He was gutted every time anyone criticised him. Even if they said they liked a bit of his book which he didn’t consider to be the best part.

I, on the other hand, touted my novel across two continents, and I never cried once at a rejection slip (and boy, do I cry easily). And then I was published.

The final part of the phrase is ‘And talent is overrated, therefore.’ The reason for that is because it can be dangerous to consider yourself talented. Many people have an innate talent, or superpower, for one or two specific things. But no-one can afford to lie back on their laurels, or the world may pass them by.

If anyone says that I am clever or talented, I am forced to rebuff them gently. I work hard. I am persistent. If I am clever or talented (who knows? Not I) these things aren’t the reason I succeed. I succeed because I don’t stop.

I also did a silly thing today. I’m touting for business as a copywriter, and I suggested to one company that I produce 4 articles per month for their blog page on their website, which would result in 360 posts in one year.

Oh dear. After I stopped laughing, I told a couple of people for a laugh, and got on with the next letter. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

Butterfly muffins at Tebay Services (Junction 38 – M6)

So check out this little baby I found at Westmorland Ltd’s Tebay Services (the truckstop, J38, not the motorway services) yesterday! A perfect butterfly muffin. It even looks like a butterfly. What a sweetie!

Fairy's muff

Today is a day to remind you of the existence of a company which is still very close to my heart, despite the sometimes rocky relationship I have had with it (say no more).

If you’re looking for decent food on the motorway – and when I say decent, I mean looking super-duper-delici-oso, with one or two healthy options, so that you know you’re probably not going to have a heart attack and a pile up in the next 20 miles – then Westmorland Ltd, known to the world as the famous Tebay Services, is the place for you.

It serves up homemade food, both prepackaged and available in their cafes, for all weary travellers who come a-knockin’. Well, as long as they have nice, healthy wallets (it is the motorway, for heaven’s sake, what more do you expect?)

Even if your wallet is looking a bit green, there are loyalty schemes such as the Truck Driver’s Club, and even those dinky little cards as per Caffe Nero, where you get a stamp every time you buy a coffee, or a meal. Buy so many, get the last one free. Comes in handy if you visit often enough (I do).

One of the important differences this company makes to the world is to serve as a lesson that just because something is homemade and in-house-packaged, it doesn’t have to look rubbish! Sainsbury’s, please learn this lesson!

Using beautiful designs, mainly by the fabulous Caryn Gough, and generally nice packaging which looks environmentally-friendly, they persuade you to pay your money and walk away with something which looks like a product that someone cared about.

The point is, if a company makes an effort with their products; actually sets out to design them nicely; produces sweet and colourful labels; uses packaging which holds the product, shows it off, and doesn’t collapse in your hands … well, all that leads to a better customer experience, doesn’t it?

I’m not suggesting Westmorland get it right all the time – they have fumbled a few things here and there – but everyone’s entitled to make mistakes, just as long as they don’t keep repeating them.

They’re moving on to the M5, at Gloucester Services so the poor ol’ South can taste some local foodwares with lovely design. Good luck to them, and let’s hope that getting bigger doesn’t spoil their product ethics.

Butter and cheese better than trans-fat margarines, says heart specialist

Of course it is. Anything which tastes divine may have its flip side, but food (and any other vice) should be taken moderately. A moderate path is a safe and healthy path. Even The Guardian says so.

Bear in mind that when margarine is manufactured, before they put the colour in, it’s grey. I’ve said this before on here. Who wants to eat grey food?

Butter and cheese better than trans-fat margarines, says heart specialist | Life and style | The Guardian.

Why cereals are evil; or, why breakfast is the greatest meal ever

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love breakfast. But equally, they know how much I deplore and detest cereal. And I’m not discriminatory here, no breakfast cereal is acceptable, in my opinion.

Here’s why:

Popular breakfast cereals like cornflakes, all bran, bran flakes, weetabix, shredded wheat, wheatos, cheerios, special K, whatever, they’ve all been cooked to death before they even make it into the box. Every perfectly healthy-and-good-for-you grain has been pressure-cooked into oblivion, right from the start.

Then they’re flattened by an immense roller, and dropped off a conveyor belt ready for the oven. Then they’re oven-baked to that fabulous crunchiness that everyone loves so much (and everyone can’t wait to make soft with milk). When they come out of the oven, they have so little nutritional value that in order to be sold as ‘food’ they have to be sprayed with vitamins and minerals.

Who needs to eat food which has been processed to the point where it needs spraying with something to give it minimal nutritional value?!

No one, that’s who!

But breakfast is the best meal of the day … here’s why:

It sets your metabolism off, so that you get energy delivered before you run out. It tastes great if you choose the right things, and part of this is because the time between dinner and breakfast is the longest gap in 24 hours that you have between meals. And because … well … you can eat things like this:Perfect little poached eggs (one a double yolker) on fresh homemade scones with spinach

Jellies and jams; or, how to avoid making a mess at all

The jellies were blooming perfect. The quince jelly is a beautiful orangey-pink; more orange than the burnish on the fruits. The apple jelly turned into a lovely transluscent marmalade colour, and all was okay.

How we did it: clean jam jars went into the oven (around 80-100 degrees) in a roasting tin to sterilise them. We measured the juice, and added a pound (lb) of sugar (ordinary sugar, no wasted money on preserving or jam sugar!) and boiled up the mixture in a giant jam pan (not necessary, any pan will do it) with the heat on high. You skim the white froth off the top as it forms. That way the jelly is nice and clear at the end.

in the giant jam panWe dipped a wooden spoon into the pan (many times, over and over), and held it on its side, watched the syrup run off, and waited for the moment it clagged just enough for us to see the drip form in slow motion. Not too slow – the drip starts to form, and it’s like someone turns the speed down just at that moment. (Using an actual dial, like an old TV channel changer).

By the time we’d got the jars out of the oven onto the table (still in the roasting tin), and found a small jug and a side plate, the spoon-dipping produced a heavier drip which formed slowly. The jelly was ready.

jellies on the shelfThe next bit is simple! We poured the syrup into the clean jars, topped each one with a wax disc (shiny side down), and lidded them with a clear cellophane disc and an elastic band. Last up was the labelling. And carefully wiping the jars down with a hot, damp cloth (do it immediately, it comes off better). (Don’t burn fingers).

Of course everything is simpler in hindsight, but it was fun and I learned loads. You can only learn by doing, sometimes.

If you really don’t feel you can go through the hassle of making your own jam, you should still take advantage of this season’s epic fruitfulness. Nana Day’s Preserves are made here in Eden (you just know they’re gonna be good), with old-time techniques that people have always used to make jams, chutneys and Other Interesting Yumminess.

It’s all about seasonal fruits, Nana Day's Award Winning Ruby Red Marmaladeand getting the best flavour. The difference in taste between Nana Day’s and mass produced brands will amaze you. They won the Silver Award at the World Marmalade Awards for their Ruby Red Marmalade, so they’re well worth a spoonful on your morning toast.

PS: We (I) picked the quinces a month too early. I feel stupid but the jelly we got was superb. I haven’t made the quince cheese yet, largely because it is olive green instead of orange, and my heart isn’t in it. Maybe Friday.