Acorda Alentejana

Masterchef last night had an invention test with an ingredient that really separated the wheat from the chaff: bread as the central ingredient.
 

There was a distinct lack of creativity I thought. Crumbs for schnitzel, crumbs for meatballs, and rather strangely a fried sandwich. The judges themselves mused upon Apple Charlotte or summer pudding, which would have been a little more on brief.

As largely Anglo Saxon descendants we have pretty firm view on what you do with bread. You toast it and put stuff on it. You don’t toast it and put stuff inside two slices of it. You put stuff inside it and toast it, and various iterations on that theme.

Crumbing it for other than stuffings is a bit European. Very occasionally it will turn up in a pudding, but rarely covering itself in accolades in the process. Graveyard stew: bread soaked in milk; Bread pudding: bread soaked in custard? It’s not haute cuisine really, is it?


And if I said to anyone Bread soup… the chances are I’d have lost them at bread. Well let me tell you, it’s a thing, and not only  is it a thing, with this recipe is a thing of beauty.

 

 

I have a cutting from a magazine that simply identifies itself as Winter 1994, there is no image, no reference just a recipe for Acorda Alentejana which is Portuguese for ‘dry Alentejo’, stale bread from the region of Alentejo, famous for its sourdough origins.

It yields forth a salty, flavour filled, quite dense soup. However rather than having the texture of porridge is velvety smooth, and the colour is phenomenal. Add a silky poached egg on top and it makes the perfect week day vegetarian dinner. Please make this dish, it is just sublime.

 

Ingredients

4 cloves of garlic

100 gms of coriander leaves

Olive oil as required

Salt and black pepper

500g cubed bread, crusts removed

1 ½ litres of chicken stock

One poached egg per serving

 

Method

  • Put the washed Coriander leaves, garlic, salt and pepper into the food processor and blitz till it you have a thick paste, a coriander pesto if you like, by gently drizzling in the olive oil as the herbs are being finely cut.
  • Heat the stock in a saucepan, then stir in the paste. Keep warm while you soft poach the eggs. My surefire poaching practice is bring to the simmer 5 cms of water with  a teaspoon of Vinegar (no salt). break the egg into a ramekin and then make a whirlpool with a wooden spoon in the water.
  • As the maelstrom spins, slowly and evenly add the egg to the centre of the pot. The swirling water will cause the white to wrap around itself and give you the perfect shape.
  • Depending on how runny you like them 2-3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some handee towels. Feel free to trim any straggly bits if you like.
  • Stir the bread into the stock and paste mixture, check for seasoning and ladle into shallow bowls. Place a poached egg on top of each serving.
  • I like to drizzle the eggs with Olivo’s smoked paprika infused Olive oil, a stunning smoky palate pleaser, and it looks so pretty with the white and the green. A stunning tribute to Portugal’s flag I like to think.