canja will make you a confirmed believe as to its gastronomic qualities. It's absolutely delicious and utterly simple to make.
Since the main meal of the day in Brazil is a mid-day, supper or dinner is relatively light and uncomplicated. As the evenings are also cooler than daytime in Brazil's tropical heat, soup is served more often for dinner, and canja is an obvious favorite. Most Brazilian cities have many small restaurants that serve a variety of soups, with bread and butter, and nothing else. Most of these open about 5 pm and close between 9 and 10 pm. My favorite, a nameless joint located just 4 blocks from my home in Fortaleza, normally has from 5 to 7 different soups on offer, and one of these is always canja. A large serving of soup plus bread costs only R$5.00 or approximately USD $3.00. It's a reliable go-to spot for me when I've run out of food or culinary inspiration at home.
This canja recipe is typical, but absolutely not definitive. It can be altered at will, and as long as it contains at minimum chicken and rice, it can deservedly be called canja.
RECIPE - Chicken and Rice Soup (Canja)
1 whole small chicken, preferably free-range
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 quarts (3 liters) water
1 cup white rice
3 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
additional olive oil to taste
Thoroughly wash the chicken, then cut it into serving size pieces. Season the pieces with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan or stockpot, heat the olive oil, then add the carrot, onion, and the garlic, and cook, stirring until the vegetables are softened and the onion is transparent but not browned. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until the chicken begins to brown slightly. Add the water, stir to mix all, then increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan or pot and cook for about one hour, or until the chicken is well-cooked and tender. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Remove the chicken from the soup, discard the skin and shred the meat. Reserve.
(If desired, the soup may be chilled at this point to solidify the fat for removal.)
Reheat the soup, return the shredded chicken to the pot, then add the rice. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the rice is tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Add more water if necessary during cooking. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper, then remove from heat.
Sprinkle the soup with chopped parsley, stir, then serve immediately.
Pass additional olive oil for drizzling if desired.