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.
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.
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:
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.