Cutting Crispy Couve


Photo: Rodrigo Moreira


If you’re visiting Rio for a few days and you’re interested in eating some typical dishes, one of the items that should be near the top of your list is feijoada (pictured above). It’s a rich, heavy stew of black beans, carne seca, linguiça (sausuage) and various cuts of pork, not unlike the French dish cassoulet. Traditionally, it is served with rice, torresmo (pork scratchings/pork rind), farofa, orange slices and couve.

Couve is that shredded, green vegetable you can see at the top of the plate above. In the US they call it Collard Greens which is basically the same as what the British called Spring Greens – basically it’s a thick, slightly bitter green leaf from the Brassica family, not a million miles from Kale.

When served alongside feijoada, couve is very finely shredded and then sautéed with garlic. Along with the acid from the oranges, the bitterness from the couve helps balance the rich, fatty components of the feijoada itself.


Couve Crocante

You can do pretty much anything with couve that you can do with kale, so after a tip from my sister, I recently made cripsy couve (or couve crocante in Portuguese). It’s really easy actually – just wash and thoroughly dry the leaves, then slice to the desired size/shape. Now add a generous drizzle of olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and make sure the leaves are well coated. Finally bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until good and crispy.


Crispy ‘seaweed’.


The end result is what the Chinese restaurants of my youth in England used to call ‘crispy seaweed’ and while it might not be authentic exactly, it is rather yummy.

Shredded couve is also an essential ingredient in popular Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde:


Caldo Verde.


One thing I noticed during my first attempts to prepare couve is that it’s quite fiddly to cut the whole leaves so that you get the nice uniform, shredded texture you see in restaurants. I discovered the secret when wandering through one of Rio’s street markets:



So there you have it – a hand-cranked slicing machine to give you perfectly shredded couve for your feijoada. If you don’t have one of your own (sadly I don’t), find someone at the market to do it for you.


7 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    I love couve. Eating my first bit of Brazilian style collard greens revolutionized my relationship to this green. In the States it is chopped roughly and boiled, boiled, boiled with pork fat, salt and vinegar. It is a nasty brown wilted mess. Only the pork fat rescues it from the garbage bin.

    As for cutting it, in the absence of a twirly whirly hand crank cutter, wash the leaves, trim off the bulk of the thick stem without cutting away the adjacent leaf, then stack the leaves five or six high in an orderly fashion. then starting on one long side of the stack, tightly roll the leaves into a tight “cigar.” Holding the cigar tightly and using a sharp vegetable knife, slice of teeny tiny thin slices from the end, working your way all the way down the cigar. That ought to do it.


  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    I love feijoada. My friends and I instantly recognized the collard greens. I’m from Virginia (USA) and we grew them at home. However, we never cooked them into mush and they never turned brown. I use the cigar method to cut mine that Jim writes about. I will definitely try the couve crocante.

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      I’m sorry Angela – I definitely should have qualified my comments to be limited to my personal experience. I sure HOPE there are good collards out there in the South. You have reassured me that there are. 🙂

      A dear friend of mine in San Francisco is a CIA-trained chef, African American, and once she tasted couve and learned how to prepare it she forever after “updated” her collards to be more of this style (when serving to upscale catering customers in California).

      Again, excuse my limited view and critical remarks. Cook on!

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Angela – I’d love to pay a visit to the southern states of the US one day. I run food tours here in Rio and I’ve had quite a few US citizens mention the similarities between southern cuisine and some Brazilian dishes. As far as I can tell, Brazilian angu is not a million miles away from grits (though I’ve never tried grits, so I’m kind of guessing).

      I hope the couve crocante works out – it seems to me that it’s a slightly devious way of taking a healthy vegetable and making it into a naughty treat (all that oil and salt), but then a naughty treat once in a while never hurt anyone, right? 😀


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