Like most Canadians, I come from a family who at some point immigrated to this great country. I am a first generation Canadian, born to two parents who were born on the beautiful island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, Portugal. Being Portuguese by heritage, Canadian by birth and Italian by marriage blesses me with the wonderful opportunity to live and experience the depths of these cultures, with an emphasis surely on their cuisine.
When I think of my avò Eva, my maternal grandmother who has long since passed, I am vividly reminded of the joys of her cooking. One was always greeted at vovo’s house with a warm smile, a sweet embrace and a plate of freshly baked Portuguese biscuits, recalling walking into her little house and taking in the perfumes of the wonderful Portuguese dishes she’d prepare daily.
Perhaps it was because vovo came from humble beginnings, or it could be because her life was spent facing significant challenges, bringing her family across an ocean to be the first Portuguese family to settle in what would become my hometown of Strathroy, Ontario, but vovo had nothing but love, kindness and comfort to share. She was always there to lend a helpful word of wisdom, or perhaps just a delicious dish to feed the soul and stomach, as though she just knew what precisely it was that someone needed.
We sadly lost my avò more than twenty years ago now, but fortunately, those memories and recipes live on through my mother. And though my mother and I have lived at a distance for quite some time now, I am comforted by those nostalgic scents that fill her home each time I visit, and I am blessed to be gifted with, learn and carry these recipes to hopefully one day share with my daughter.
This is our recipe for Canja, Portuguese chicken soup. This is a go-to dish on a rainy day, or perhaps when you are under the weather or even if you just have some leftover chicken and need a quick meal. You can find many variations to this recipe, however this is the one which was passed to me from my mother, and that I in turn shall pass to you. Enjoy!
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1lb chicken breast fillets, trimmed
- 8 cups good chicken stock
- 3/4 cup orzo pasta
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup freshly chopped mint
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken fillets and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until just light golden. Add 1/2 cup stock and simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked.
Remove and cut into thin strips. Heat remaining stock in saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil; add orzo and cook for 12 minutes or until cooked. Add chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in lemon juice, mint and season to taste with salt and pepper.
E voilà! Enjoy this delicious piece of Portuguese culture with some crusty bread.