Starters & Soups

Unpretentious and flavorful are two characteristics of Portuguese fare, beginning with starters and soups. Appetizers, as known to the outside world, were never a part of traditional Portuguese family meals. As my Uncle Ilidio would say, “What was an appetizer?” The people were poor and after a hard day’s work, appetites didn’t need stimulation. Meals might have a starter or accompaniments. Items one might find on the table as one sat down to eat vary from simply olives and bread to some sautéed slices of sausage or some Presunto, a salt-cured ham similar to the Italian proscuitto ham. Sometimes one might have some roasted peppers or tremoços (lupine beans). Some recipes can double as a starter as well as a main dish.

Light or hearty soups, meaty or vegetarian friendly, have always been a mainstay of the Portuguese diet. From the very light tomato-free Gazpacho, created before the introduction of tomatoes to the heart-warming and hearty Kale Soup (Sopa de Couves), these soups of simple ingredients and satisfying flavor can be a meal in themselves, served with some crusty bread to dip in the broth.