In colder seasons, many Brits find solace in a steaming bowl of soup, a comforting and warming tradition that helps counter the chill outside. For the British, soups symbolise comfort, enveloping them in warmth and nostalgia.
Meanwhile, in sunny Portugal, soups hold a special place in the daily diet, extending far beyond comfort food. They are considered a cornerstone of nutrition, affordability, and satiety.
The Origin of Soup
The origin of soup dates back to ancient civilizations, where people cooked ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and grains in water or broth, creating nourishing and easily digestible meals. Archaeological evidence reveals that early humans used clay pots and animal hides to prepare soups over open fires. As culinary techniques evolved, soups became a staple in various cultures worldwide. They provided an ingenious way to make ingredients go further, infuse flavour, and adapt to local tastes. Over time, soups diversified into a wide array of regional specialties, reflecting the ingredients and culinary traditions of different societies.
The Portuguese Perspective on Soup
In Portugal, soups aren’t confined to colder months; they are a year-round staple, often comprising a significant portion of the main meal. Historically, the majority of Portuguese people led agrarian lifestyles, toiling in the fields for long hours. Their meals needed to be hearty, filling, and cost-effective, making soup the perfect choice.
Nutritional Dive into Portuguese Soups
Acorda de Camarao: This prawn-based soup is seasoned with garlic, coriander, and sometimes bread for added body. Prawns are rich in protein, selenium, and vitamin B12, while garlic offers anti-inflammatory properties, and coriander provides antioxidants.
Canja de Galinha: A chicken soup traditionally made with rice or pasta, Canja is a favourite during illness. Chicken offers protein, rice provides easily digestible carbohydrates, and the broth supports the immune system and joint health.
Caldo Verde: An iconic Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde combines kale or collard greens with potatoes and chorizo. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse with vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals. Potatoes add body and nutrients, while chorizo introduces spice and protein.
Tomato Soup: A British classic, tomato soup is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and the antioxidant lycopene, which has potential heart health benefits.
Potato and Leek Soup: Creamy and carbohydrate-heavy, this soup is a source of vitamins A and C from leeks and may help lower cholesterol due to allicin content.
Pea and Ham Soup: Protein-rich thanks to ham and peas, this soup offers dietary fibre and additional vitamins and antioxidants from peas.
Living in Portugal has highlighted the beauty of integrating soups as a dietary staple.
Soups are commonly used during illness due to their soothing and nourishing qualities. They provide hydration, essential nutrients, and warmth, which can alleviate symptoms and aid recovery. The easy-to-digest nature of soups makes them suitable for individuals with reduced appetites or digestive discomfort. Additionally, the steam from hot soup can relieve congestion and ease respiratory discomfort, offering both physical and emotional comfort during times of illness.
Both British and Portuguese soups bring unique flavours and nutritional profiles to the table. As winter approaches, whether in Britain or Portugal, let’s appreciate soups for their warmth, comfort, affordability, and healthful properties.