After two posts talking about cakes, pies and sweet breads from the Alentejo region, in Portugal, it’s more than fair that I should dedicate a blog post to this region’s bread.
Although there are many types of bread in Portugal (and lots of people have a regional favourite) the Alentejo bread is a kind of celebrity in Portugal and almost a hallmark of quality. Besides, there’s this kind of Portuguese gastronomic holy trinity with bread, wine and olive oil… It’s complicated!
Alentejo bread is usually big, has a characteristic sort of “C” shape and a thick crust. But don’t let it fool you: inside there’s dense aromatic bread just waiting for the butter. Hardcore fans will eat it with nothing else but an underlying sense of shame (“Did I really eat half a bread *all by myself*?). Some, however, prefer to mix it with water and a few basic ingredients, like olive oil, salt, garlic, lard and fresh herbs (it’s one of those “poor man’s food” type of dish).
In some parts of Portugal they’re called “migas” and in others they’re known as “açorda”. Obviously there are loooads of variants in the country: more or less mushy, more or less complicated, more or less well known. I looked up several such recipes to share with you but most required ingredients that aren’t available everywhere in the world or were very time consuming. Fear not, however, because I called my mom. 😀
I remember seeing my mom preparing “açorda” and it didn’t imply anything complicated, only items that you probably already have in your kitchen (aaah, the famous food blog’s sentence!). So I asked her to prepare it for our Sunday family lunch while I took the photos. She learned this from her own mother, so I’m actually sharing a family recipe here. She told me that back in the day an even simpler version of this was often cooked as first solid food for babies, with just the bread, water and, eventually, a tiny pinch of salt. So without further shenanigans here’s my Grandma’s recipe for “açorda”!
– bread (can be day old bread, preferably not completely white)
– olive oil
– cloves of garlic
– fresh parsley and coriander/cilantro
– bay leaf
– saltStart by placing the bread in a container (like a big bowl, for example) and cover it with water. Thinly slice one or more cloves of garlic (depending on your taste) and put them in a pan along with the bay leaf and enough olive oil to just about cover everything.
Turn off the heat, squish the excess water from the bread (yes, with your hands) and add it to the pan. The more fluffy white breads will absorb a lot more water and will only need about a minute or so to soak. Personally, I think this type of bread also results in a more bland “açorda”.
You can cook it longer to let it dry up a bit or, if you prefer the more mushy version, add hot water little by little while stirring. In the end, add the remainder chopped fresh herbs and a bit of grated fresh garlic. Mix everything, cover and let stand for a couple of minutes before eating.
*I’d like to thank Cristina Silva, of Pão, Café & Companhia for helping this blog post come to life by staying true to the original recipes, by having provided me with so many delicious products and for her infinite patience in answering my questions.
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