This Portuguese bread soup with shrimp, or açorda de mariscos, is a satiating meal made from shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, onions, and Portuguese cornbread.
Lisbon’s açorda, or bread soup, is made with fresh seafood—usually prawns (large shrimp)—and tends to have a risotto-like texture. Although city folk traditionally prefer the elegance of white bread, cornbread makes a particularly good seafood açorda, as the sweetness of the crumbled cornbread works well with crustaceans.–Elisabeth Luard
Is this actually soup?
We’re sitting here studying this recipe and wondering how this hearty seeming dish came to be known as soup. Regardless, though, the taste tends to elicit the same response as its satiating texture and its stunning appearance. And that response? Wowsa!
Portuguese Bread Soup with Shrimp
- 1 pound (about 1/2 loaf) dried-out broa (Portuguese cornbread) or any stale rustic loaf of bread
- 2 large onions or leeks
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 4 pounds tomatoes
- 1 whole head garlic separated into cloves and peeled
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pound raw jumbo shrimp shelled or not, depending on what you please
- 4 ounces chouriço or chorizo roughly sliced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste or 2 to 3 canned anchovy fillets, crushed (optional)
- A small pat butter (optional)
- Plenty of chopped cilantro leaves
- Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a bowl and add enough salted water to cover. Let it stand at room temperature for a couple of hours.
- While the bread soaks, thinly slice the onions or leeks and heat them gently in a large skillet over medium heat with 1/3 cup of the olive oil, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 30 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes, toss them in a large, roomy pot over medium heat with the rest of the olive oil and the garlic, and let them cook down until they’re about half the original volume.
- Crush the peppercorns and coriander seeds in a mortar and add them to the tomatoes in the pot along with the oregano. Push the tomatoes through a strainer and return them to the pot.
- Then use your hands to squeeze the bread dry. Stir the soaked, squeezed-out bread, and 4 cups cold water to the tomatoes in the pot. Let it bubble up and cook gently for another 20 minutes, then stir in the onion or leeks and their cooking oil along with the shrimp, the sliced chouriço, if using, and the anchovies, if using (the anchovies really accentuate the seafood flavor)
- Cook the soup for another 20 minutes, until the bread is perfectly amalgamated into—you know, melded with—the broth. Stir in a pat of butter, if desired, and finish with a liberal scattering of fresh chopped cilantro.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
In choosing to make this Portuguese bread soup with shrimp, I was looking for a hearty comfort dish that could be served on a chilly day and this dish did not disappoint me in the least. I decided to go even further with the authenticity of the dish by making a Portuguese corn bread called broa. This not only added to the flavor of the dish but held up really well to the liquid and length of time needed to cook the dish.
The elements of the dish worked very well together from the sautéed leeks and a slight smoky hint from the chorizo paired with the bread which did not have any grainy element to it, which from time to time may happen with cornbread based items. Add the shrimp to that and you have a meal that will not only come across as fulfilling but also deliciously savory that reminds you of dunking bread pieces in your grandmothers gravy. I would absolutely make this again and will recommend it to my friends.
I’m familiar with the Portuguese bread soup called açorda and it’s a lovely soup with brothy bread slices flavoured with mint and poached egg or fish and seafood. I’ve never actually made it before, but each time I enjoyed it, it felt like the comfort of chicken soup or avgolemono. It was a light soup despite the bread.
When I saw this recipe, it reminded me more of a paella made with bread instead of rice. Naturally, I was intrigued. I also happened to have the Portuguese corn bread, broa. While the broa soaked, I prepared my onions in one pan and the tomatoes in another. The recipe seemed to have extra steps when I first read it but the flow actually worked. Squeezing the water out of the soaked bread and stirring to prevent the bread from sticking to the bottom of the pot were meditative activities with the added bonus of aromatherapy.
Absolutely, I used the anchovies! And the pat of butter! This last indulgence didn’t produce a noticeable change in the flavor or texture as I tasted before and after the butter and the soup richness remained the same. My soup was actually soupy but this might have been because I didn’t reduce my broth enough before adding the shrimp and chouriço. I cooked these for the requested 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld but I found both the shrimp and chouriço were a bit overdone. Next time I will reduce the broth with all the flavorings and meld with the bread, then adding the proteins just for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Each spoonful was an exciting mouthful of hearty comfort! This one is going on my list of “bowl food /soul food”! Just add a spoon and a glass of red and call it dinner.
Originally published February 16, 2021