Last week we spent in the beautiful Azores islands, which is an autonomous region of Portugal. It is located in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic Ocean. We booked this trip back in May after finding a really good deal and the vacation couldn’t come soon enough. We were super lucky with the weather. November is considered to be a rainy season with temperatures hovering around +15+17C. We had no rain until the day we left and had sunny and warm weather the whole week.
There were a lot of tours, walking, and driving around. We learned a lot about the region, the island, economy, history, traditions. It was really cool seeing cows everywhere we went as dairy export is one of their main industries. The island where we stayed, São Miguel, is green with every shade of the colour present anywhere you look: Green pastures, green shrubs, green trees. Vegetation is surprising and unique – north american maple and oak trees with their leaves turning yellow and falling live in perfect harmony with tropical palm trees, exotic eucalyptus, birch, and evergreens. It’s jarring and beautiful seeing mixed forests like this.
Food. How can I not mention food? If I had to describe the trip in one word, it would be coffee. If I could describe it in four, it would be long espresso with milk. Every restaurant, every little cafe, every snack bar had an espresso machine. Even a food truck at the top of a mountain serving stale chips, water, and beer had an espresso machine. And those long beautiful rich espressos served with steamed milk were about 80 cents on average. We had 3-4 a day.
Funny thing about coffee, first day my husband ordered a cappuccino at a cafe, he got some kind of sweetened concoction. Later that day, at a different place he tried ordering a cappuccino again – this time it was hot chocolate with whipped cream. Later we saw other people ordering cappuccinos and getting some strange sweetened drinks. So, apparently cappuccino in the Azores means something different. Long espresso with steamed milk, on the other hand, is something that you can get everywhere.
Food was simple – grilled fish, stewed meat, fried sausages, all served with boiled potatoes. Lunches were mostly provided during tours, but we got to venture on our own for dinners. We had grilled whole fish, portuguese tapas, lots of cheese and bread, beer and wine. Oh, and pastries. Delicious Portuguese pastries.
People that we talked to at the hotel mentioned a Bean and Cabbage soup that they had at a restaurant in a small village and loved. The description of the soup stuck with me and I wanted to create a simple dish with easy ingredients. Beans and potatoes in the soup make it filling, savoy cabbage provides texture. The combination of these ingredients makes a rich and satisfying stew, perfect for cold winter, yet easy and fast to make.
Potato, Bean and Savoy Cabbage Vegan Soup
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Onion, diced – 1 large
Garlic, minced – 1 clove
Thyme – 2 sprigs
Vegetable stock – 2 litres
Potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces – 2 pounds
Beans (kidney and/or white) – 2 cans (540 ml each)
Bay leaf – 2
Black peppercorns – 5
Salt, pepper – to taste
Savoy cabbage, shredded – 1 pound
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.
- Add the onion, garlic, thyme and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes until onion is softened and golden.
- Add the vegetable stock.
- Add the potatoes, beans with all the liquid from the cans, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook for about 15 minutes until potatoes just start to get tender.
- Add the savoy cabbage and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until both potatoes and cabbage are cooked.
- Serve with parsley and crackers.