Love some Portuguese sopas

February 13, 2013 

Sometimes I ignore tradition and just fix whatever I'm hungry for. As an example, I do not always wait for St. Patrick's Day to fix corned beef and cabbage dinners. I probably made that dish seven or eight times last year. And even though it is not time for traditional Portuguese celebrations of the Holy Ghost, which normally starts in the spring, I am still hungry for sopas. It is simple fare, but perhaps that is its main appeal. In simple fare, the flavors come through in a comforting way.

I used to enjoy stopping at a restaurant in Los Banos, called Ryan's Place, which was there for 26 years. On Thursdays, they would feature Portuguese sopas, so I would stop in for a meal on my way to Gilroy. Now it is another restaurant, so I am mourning and pouting. I also liked the fact that farmers used to leave boxes of produce for customers to pick through and take some of the veggies.

Well, here are some sopas recipes so we can all make our own if we get hungry for it.

Mom's sopas recipe

We always pronounced this as "soupish." This is my mom's recipe, but I am not sure where she got it. Maybe from my grandpa, since he was full-blood Portuguese. Sopas is a very simple yet hearty meal and is often served at Portuguese festivals.

  • 4 to 5 pounds boneless chuck roast
  • 2 yellow onions, in large slices
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cloves
  • 1 tablespoon solid, moist beef flavoring (such as soup or stew base)
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 2 cans beef broth (soup can size)
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Cabbage, cut into wedges
  • Fresh mint leaves and stalks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • French bread slices
  1. In a large kettle, brown meat. Cut up, if necessary, to make roast fit into kettle. Add water, wine, onions, spices (including salt and pepper) and tomato sauce. Cover and cook approximately 4 hours. Meat should be falling-apart tender.
  2. Near the end of cooking time, add cabbage wedges and mint. Cook until cabbage is done. (You can also just lay the mint in each soup bowl.) Remove meat chunks and cabbage to a serving bowl or platter.
  3. Place a slice of French bread into each bowl, add some meat and cabbage, then ladle the broth over the top. The bread will soak up the juices.

Richard Silva's Sopas

Mr. Silva of Calistoga, California, makes his mother's oven-baked version of sopas.

  • 2 to 3 lbs chuck roast with bone
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 can (8-oz.) tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves (personally, I would cut way back on this, but it's up to you)
  • 1 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • 4 to 5 stems (with leaves) of fresh mint
  • 1 small to medium head cabbage
  1. Preheat oven to 400 .Put roast in baking pan and fill with water until roast is 3/4 covered up the sides. Add all ingredients except wine. Cover the roasting pan and cook in preheated oven for 1/2 hour, then reduce temperature to 350.
  2. Continue cooking for 2 more hours, basting periodically, then pour in the wine when the meat is nearly fork tender.
  3. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, (approximately) add the cabbage, cut into wedges. At this time, continue to cook 15 more minutes or until roast is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours total.
  4. To serve: Transfer the meat to a cutting board and slice. Slice crusty Portuguese, Italian or French bread and place in soup bowls. Place mint leaves in the sopas. Strain all the pan juices and ladle the juices over the bread. Serve the meat and cabbage on top or the side of the bread.

Portuguese sopas

This recipe is from the cookbook, Foods of the Azores Islands, by Deolinda Avila.

  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 10 cups water
  • 4 pounds bone-in chuck roast, or 3 pounds fresh brisket plus 1 pound beef bones
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 large head green cabbage
  • 1 loaf sweet French bread, sliced (meaning not sourdough)
  • 1 sprig fresh mint (I would use at least three times this amount)
  1. Tie the pickling spice and cinnamon in a piece of cheesecloth. Bring the water to a boil in a large kettle. Add the meat and bones, the spices, wine, onion and tomato sauce. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to a lively simmer, cover and cook until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours. Taste and season with salt. Cut the cabbage in half or quarters and add to the pot. Cook until the cabbage is just tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove and discard the bones and spice bundle. Place the meat on a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest a few minutes.
  3. Place the bread slices in a large tureen or serving bowls. Place mint on top, then ladle the hot broth over the bread. Add cooked cabbage. Thickly slice the meat and serve alongside the soup. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Holy Ghost fiesta soup

Here I go adding my two cents again. I feel that each serving should have its own sprig of mint, so am adding some to the recipe. Also, you can roast the bones to brown them before using.

  • 4 pounds chuck roast
  • 2 pounds soup bones
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices
  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 2 to 3 kale leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • Salt, to taste
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 loaf French bread, hand sliced
  • Additional sprigs fresh mint, for serving bowls
  1. Bring water to a boil and add the meat and bones, spices (in a bag or spice ball), the wine, onion, tomato sauce, mint and salt. Cover and cook until the meat is tender, about 3 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the cabbage into wedges and the kale into bite-sized pieces. Add this to the pot of cooked, tender meat and continue cooking until the greens are done.
  3. Place the bread slices and a sprig of mint into soup bowls for serving. Pour the broth, cabbage and kale over bread. Serve the meat on a separate platter or add large chunks to each bowl.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service