Friday, March 9, 2012
The comfort of hot soup on a cold day is an unknown pleasure to most Brazilians. In the twelve-month heat wave that is the most typical kind of weather in Brazil, soup just doesn't have the appeal it does when the outside temperature is below zero. Consequently, Brazilians don't eat soup as often as do people living in colder climes, and soup isn't served nearly as often as it is closer to the poles.
The second reason that the south has more of a taste for soup is related not to weather but to immigration patterns. This part of Brazil has the highest percentage of European immigrant roots, specifically northern European. The Brazilian south was settled, in many places, by immigrants from Germany, from Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe. One of the things that these immigrants carried with them from their homelands in Europe to their new homes in Brazil was a love of soup. That, and the memories of favorite soups from Europe have resulted in a soup-eating tradition in southern Brazil. Families who can trace their ancestry back to the countryside of Eastern Europe treasure old recipes for soup and put soup on the family table to this day.
This recipe, which has obvious European roots, comes from Paraná, where it is called simply Slavic soup. It might come from Poland, or from the Ukraine, or from Bulgaria (where the family of Brazil's current president, Dilma Rousseff, comes from). But it's now become Brazilianized and rebaptized in honor of immigrants from all the slavic countries of the world.
RECIPE - Slavic Soup (Sopa Eslava)
1 lb. stewing beef, cut into small cubes (1/2 inch max)
1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 lbs (1 kg) boiling potatoes, peeled but whole
8 cups (2 liters) light beef, chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
sweet paprika to taste
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 cup sour cream (or Brazilian creme de leite)
salt to taste
Toss the cubed meat with the salt. Reserve.
Heat the oil in a large pot until hot but not smoking. Add the cubed beef and fry for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and fry for 3 more minutes. Add the chopped onion and continue to fry for 10 minutes more, or until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the potatoes and the stock, the paprika and the Worcestershire sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Correct for salt.
Remove the potatoes, mash them, and return them to the pot. Add the sour cream or creme de leite and cook for 10 more minutes.
Serve immediately. If desired, garnish with a dab of sour cream and a few fresh sage leaves.
Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.