Manchup: Cape Verde’s National Dish is a Savory Mix

LC reader Mary Cannon wrote in, asking if we had a recipe for manchup. A quick search of the Web told me that manchup is a dish from the Cape Verde Islands, but nothing more. Additional searches found very few recipes from Cape Verde, and none of them for manchup. Suspecting that the dish’s name might have variant spellings, I tried looking for anything that sounded reasonably close to manchup, on the Internet and in books on West African cuisine (since I couldn’t find any Cape Verdean cookbooks).

No luck.

Human nature being what it is, food writers can usually count on the nostalgia that people feel for the cooking of their homeland. A query was posted to a bulletin board for Cape Verdean émigrés. Four people read it, but none answered. There was still one avenue of hope: Cape Verde’s embassy in Washington, DC. An appropriately desperate e-mail was sent, explaining the problem.

An hour later, Jose Brito, the Republic of Cape Verde’s ambassador to the United States, wrote back. According to Brito, “Cachoupa [is] translated here in the US [as] manchup.” This was a significant clue. Going back to the Cape Verdean recipe sites, finding an answer became a relatively simple matter — although cachoupa’s name does indeed have a variant spelling: cachupa. But where did the name manchup come from? It’s apparently a corruption of munchupa, a name for cachupa that is used on Brava Island, at the southwestern end of the Cape Verde archipelago.

Cachupa is the national dish of Cape Verde. Like other great rustic dishes, such as the cassoulet of France and feijoada of Brazil, it uses highly seasoned meats in relatively small amounts together with grains and beans, and is slowly cooked to build a great depth of flavor. And like those dishes, it is even better when reheated the next day.

Cape Verdeans created one of the first fusion cuisines, incorporating the tastes and ingredients of Europe (livestock), Africa and Asia (sugar and tropical fruits), and the Americas (beans, chiles, corn, pumpkins, and manioc). They were able to do so because of their location: Just off the west coast of Africa, they were ideally suited as a stopping point, first for Portuguese explorers, and later for slave traders.

Cachupa can be very simple — barely more than samp (hominy), beans, and some salt pork, much like old-fashioned succotash. This simple peasant fare is known as cachupa povera. Wealthier Cape Verdeans — or even the poor, on special occasions, such as weddings — add more ingredients, such as a little meat or fish, in which case the dish is known as cachupa sabe, a more savory dish, like Brunswick stew. At the other end of the spectrum you’ll find cachupa rica — the richest variation. Like feijoada completa, it’s a long way from the simple peasant dish of legumes and grain. Here are two recipes for cachupa rica.

Notes: These recipes don’t indicate the number of portions or portion size; they have been edited, but not tested.

Cachupa Rica I
Olive oil, as needed
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
4 cups dried hominy, soaked in plenty of water overnight
1 cup dried kidney beans, soaked plenty of water overnight
1 cup dried large lima beans, soaked plenty of water overnight
2 pounds beef or pork spareribs
1 chouriço or linguiça sausage, sliced
1 blood sausage, sliced
1/4 pound lean bacon, diced
1/2 cup fresh green beans
2 pounds cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 pounds plantains, peeled and sliced
2 pounds fresh yams, peeled, 1-inch dice
2 pounds fresh sweet potatoes, peeled, 1-inch dice
2 pounds winter squash, peeled, 1-inch dice
1 chicken, cut in 12 serving pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 pounds tomatoes, quartered
Sofrito (a seasoning paste of sauteed garlic, onion, and tomato paste), to taste
Cilantro, chopped

1. In a stock pot, combine 6 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Add soaked hominy and beans. Simmer until nearly fork-tender.

2. In a separate pot, brown the spareribs, chouriço or linguiça, blood sausage, and bacon, then add the green beans, cabbage, plantains, yams, sweet potatoes, and squash. Set aside.

3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then cook in skillet filmed with olive oil until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and the meat-vegetable mixture to the stock pot of hominy and beans. Cook on low heat for approximately 40 minutes. Add the sofrito to taste, and simmer 20 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and let rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

4. Arrange the meats and vegetables on platter. Garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve the hominy and beans in a separate bowl.

Cachupa Rica II
4 cups crushed dry hominy
1/4 pound dried kidney beans
2 onions, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Olive oil, as needed
1/4 pound beef, cubed
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1 pig trotter
4 sausages (linguiça or chouriço), thickly sliced
Paprika, to taste
2 potatoes, peeled, 1-inch cubes
1/4 pound savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 cassavas, peeled, 1-inch dice
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Add the hominy, beans, half the onions, one of the bay leaves, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and a pinch of salt to a stock pot. Cover with water and boil 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

2. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over low heat and add the beef, bacon, pig trotter, sausage, the rest of the onions, the remaining garlic clove and bay leaf, paprika and salt to taste. Cover and let stew for 3 hours. Add a splash of water if the pan threatens to dry out.

3. Return the beans and hominy to a boil. Then add the meat mixture. When the beans and hominy are nearly tender, add the potatoes, cabbage, and cassavas. When the potatoes are fork-tender, remove the pot from heat. Allow the dish to rest 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with the chopped cilantro.

Here’s a similar dish, more quickly prepared and brighter tasting, as it substitutes fresh ingredients for the dried ones usually found in cachupa.

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 pound linguiça, sliced
2 peppercorns, crushed
5 ears of corn
1/4 squash, sliced
1/2 pound fresh lima beans or fava beans
2 ripe tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, linguiça, and peppercorns and cook gently until the onions are softened.

2. Cut corn kernels from the cobs. Add the corn, squash, beans, and tomatoes to the linguiça-onion mixture. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetable are tender and the water has been absorbed. Taste for seasoning and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve.

Cape Verdean Foods
Cape Verdean Cooking

© 2009 Gary Allen. All rights reserved.