A couple of weeks ago, while I was working away at the office, I noticed a message pop-up from an old friend. Walter lives on Pico Island, where I lived in the Azores for 8 years.
A message notification isn’t uncommon because I’m part of an iMessage group with Walter and a few other friends and cousins from back home. We message within the group every few days which makes it feel like we don’t live an ocean apart. We keep in touch with how work is going, we share updates about our families, and talk about vacations, and so on. Technology has it’s faults, but I feel grateful for technology that lets me stay connected with the friends and family I said goodbye to 27 years ago when I moved back to Canada.
A Pleasant Surprise!
Walter was texting me to tell me his family was thinking of taking a short vacation over the Easter holidays. They were considering a few places–one of them being Toronto, Canada. This made me super happy and I immediately offered our home for him and his family to stay. Since I left Portugal, I’ve only seen Walter every four or so years when we visit Pico, but I consider him like family, so it made me very happy to know he might visit us.
I was thrilled when Walter got back to me letting me know that his family chose to visit Canada and that they would take us up on the offer of staying with us!
“Cheesy” tourist attractions?
We had some back and forth chats about their upcoming stay and discussed sightseeing options. As local residents, we often find some of the usual tourist spots to be a little cheesy–you know–tourist traps. But for folks who have never been to the greater Toronto area, it’s quite exciting to see a lot of these attractions. And, truth-be-told, it was actually fun for all of us to revisit these places.
In just 5 days, we squeezed in quite a bit. We went to the Toronto Zoo, CN Tower, Steam Whistle Brewing, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and Niagara Falls. I took Walter and our boys to a Blue Jays game at the Roger’s Centre (still Skydome to me), while Liz took Walter’s wife Paula and their daughter to do some shopping at Yorkdale Shopping Mall. We all did some shopping at the Niagara Outlets Collection, and we even went bowling one evening. While Walter and Paula were packing to leave on Easter Sunday, the younger kids had fun hunting for Easter eggs around the house, and of course, colouring and decorating some Easter eggs too. Hmmm… that explains the rabbit we saw in our back yard the previous afternoon. Clever bunny.
Of course we also enjoyed some down time at our place. I didn’t get to cook for them as much as I wanted to, because we were out a lot of the time, but I did get to treat them to some of my homemade pancakes, meat sauce and pasta, and the grand-finale… slow cooked ribs and potato salad.
Friendship… Pico… Fish…
Hosting Walter and his family was so much fun. We reminisced about the good old days and our conversations made me think about how much I miss Pico. That of course made me think of the traditional foods I enjoyed, which in turn inspired this post.
It doesn’t really get any more traditional than a “caldo de peixe” in the Azores. There are of course different versions of this dish from island to island, but this is the version I grew up with and it’s the recipe my mom wrote for me in my “book of traditions”. I call this a fish soup/stew because it’s a cross between the two. The broth is served in large soup bowls with cubed bread and a touch of fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar. You can also add some of the sauce for extra flavour. The fish that makes this delicious broth is served separately with boiled potatoes. It’s kind of a soup and kind of a stew… you decide!
Life seems to always be so busy… make sure you don’t let too much time go by without spending some of it with friends–new or old. Book a get-together and enjoy a favourite meal… and always eat well, friends!
Azores Fish Soup / Stew (Caldo de Peixe Açoreano)
The Soup / Stew
- 1.3 kg (2.9 lbs) Bluemouth rockfish (boca negra), cleaned
- 1 kg (2.2 lbs) Conger eel (congro), cleaned
- 12 cups Water
- 10 to 15 sprigs Fresh parsley (tied with kitchen string)
- 1 Cooking onion (peeled and cut in half)
- 6 Garlic cloves (peeled, whole and pressed with a knife or palm of the hand to release oils)
- 6 medium White potatoes (whole or cut in half)
- 4 tbsp Tomato paste
- 3 tbsp Red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp Coarse salt
- White bread (like french bread or kaisers), cut in cubes for the soup
- Optional: red wine vinegar or lemon wedges to season the soup before eating
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1 cup fish stock from the soup recipe
The Soup / Stew
- In a large pot, pour in the 12 cups of water and add the tied parsley, onion, garlic cloves and potatoes.
- Set the heat to high until the water is boiling, then lower to medium, cover and let the water simmer for about 10 minutes (the potatoes will be about half-way cooked).
- Add the tomato paste, vinegar, salt and Conger eel (congro) and raise the heat to high until the water starts to boil.
- Lower the heat to medium and let simmer covered for another 8 minutes or until the potatoes are just about cooked.
- Uncover and add the remaining fish. Once again, raise the heat to high until the water starts to boil.
- Lower the heat to medium, cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. The fish and potatoes should all be fully cooked.
- Move the fish and potatoes to a serving dish.
- In a small to medium bowl, add all the sauce ingredients and mix well with a soup spoon or fork.
- Pour sauce over the fish and potatoes. Leave some aside in case someone wants to add some to their soup.
- Serve the fish and potatoes on a serving tray (with the sauce) and serve the broth in individual soup bowls with the bread cubes. Place lemon wedges, red wine vinegar and some of the fish sauce on the table as optional toppings for the soup.
- Bluemouth rockfish (boca negra)
- Conger Eel (congro)
- Grouper (garoupa)
- Bagre (cat fish)