A simple dish made of bread and one of the main food pillars of Portugal, açorda has evolved over the centuries, with developments, variations, and different names depending on region. It can be more like a soup (açorda à alentejana), served as a side dish (sometimes with fish roe), or eaten as a complete dish (with shredded cod, lobster, or shrimp). It is to this latter category that açorda de camarão belongs, with large, rosy, boiled prawns (shrimp) included in the bread stew. This type of açorda is generally served in most Lisbon restaurants as a tableside service dish, with waiters bringing the pot to the table and briskly stirring a few egg yolks into the bread mixture in front of guests.
- Have a large bowl of iced water nearby. Fill a large saucepan with water, add the carrot, onion, the whole garlic clove and the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Strain the stock through a sieve (fine mesh strainer) into a clean saucepan and bring back to the boil. Add the prawns (shrimp) and blanch for 30 seconds, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to the iced water and leave to cool.
- Once cool, remove the shells and heads from the prawns and set these aside. Next, make a small cut in the back of each prawn, then remove and discard the black intestinal thread. Set the prepared prawns aside.
- Put the reserved prawn shells and heads into the stock in the pan and cook over a medium heat for a further 10 minutes to extract all the flavor. Line a sieve with muslin (cheesecloth), strain the stock into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
- Tear or cut the bread into very small pieces and put them into a large bowl. Add 1.2 litres/ 40 fl oz (5 cups) of the stock and leave to stand until the bread absorbs the liquid.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat, add the sliced garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the bread, stir and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture forms a porridge. Season with the chilli, pepper and salt. Add the prawns and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until warmed through. Remove from the heat, then add the egg yolks and mix very well to combine. Add the coriander (cilantro), if using, and serve.
Portugal: The Cookbook is published by Phaidon