Açorda, is a typical Alentejo dish. It is a gift of the presence of Arabs in our lands. It also seems that açorda is a subsistence dish, probably following food crises. And its arrival is due to its ease of preparation and above all to the simple mixture of basic products. Bread has always been, and still is, a fundamental food.
In Arab times on the peninsula, we found many soups to which crumbled or coarsely sliced bread was added. This seems to be the origin of the açordas. However, almost only in the south of the country we assume the name açorda. This term never appears associated with bread soups that are still made today in Beiras or Trás-os-Montes.
And we have the great variant of açorda, which is no longer soup, and which has become a reference dish in Portugal. In a treatise on Arab cuisine by Ibn Abd al-Ra’uf, açorda is referred to, with the designation Tarid [thari: d] or Tarida, in Arabic, which means migrated bread, to which are added garlic, coriander and hot water.
In consultation with Arabic dictionaries, we also find the term Ath thurdâ, which means soup with bread.
Bread, even today, is a structural element of our food. In the past, bread would have to be consumed in its entirety for its value as a permanent support for consumption. Its application in soup would be a way to use the oldest and driest bread. It would be its full absorption.
In 1876 João da Mata publishes his “Kitchen Art” specially for professionals. Here we find açorda with cod, a Portuguese bread soup and other soups with bread.
But it is with Carlos Bento da Maia, edition of 1904, with the title “Complete Kitchen and Cup Treaty”, that the açordas appear as culinary confection and illustrated with eleven recipes, and doing well the separation of the many soups with bread.
But what is the reality of açordas in Portuguese cuisine? First we have the açorda / soup of which the Açorda Alentejana is the best example. Then the glorification of the açordas as a complete dish and the immense variety of recipes from the Douro, the entire Atlantic coast with fish and seafood, from Beira to Alentejo with cod, and the Alentejo with pork and sausages. We also have the concept of açorda as a garnish, or complement, of which we savor the excellent example with shad and respective roe açorda.
The authentic açorda is made with garlic, small slices of bread from the previous day soaked in very hot water, seasoned with raw oil, garlic, salt, and chopped coriander. There are variations where the açorda is finished with boiled or poached eggs, cod, hake and roasted sardines. Today, food from poor people, açorda is one of the best Portuguese soups.