Porrusalda and other Basque soups and stews


Vegetable soup is the first course at Basque family style restaurants.

Nancy Zubiri

Basque Soup and Stew Recipes

Most dinners at the traditional Basque family-style restaurants start with soup. Typically, this first course consists of a simple vegetable soup. But Basques enjoy many hearty soups.

Yvonne Etcheveste, former owner of the Chateau Basque in Bakersfield, shared her version of Basque vegetable soup for my book, Travel Guide to Basque America. A recent attempt of the recipe turned out a delicious version of her soup.

Vegetable Soup
2 quarts of water
1 beef bone
3 tbsp. of tomato paste
1/2 of a 15-oz. can of whole tomatoes
1/2 head of cabbage
1 leek, white part only
4 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 potatoes
salt, pepper to taste
a pinch of cayenne
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tbsp. dried thyme
Place the water and bone in a large pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and dice the vegetables. When the water boils, skim the foam off the top. Stir in the paste until it dissolves. Partially mash the tomatoes with a fork, then add them to the pot along with the other vegetables and spices. Cover and simmer over a low heat until the vegetables are cooked.

More Vegetable Soups

A traditional Basque soup is porrusalda — the Basque word for broth from leeks, an easy-to-grow and nutritious member of the onion family. The soup is typically made with potatoes and leeks and families frequently made a big pot on the weekend and served it up as the first course of dinner throughout the week.

This recipe calls for breaking the potatoes into chunks.

Potato and Green Bean Soup
This recipe from the New York Times is super simple to make.

Vegetable Soup
This recipe reflects the simple style served in most family-style restaurants, plus a minor change (dry onion soup mix) that the author admits is not authentic, but adds flavor. If you don’t want to buy a beef bone suggested in the recipe above, this is an option.

Potage Luzienne, or Olive Soup from St.-Jean-de-Luz
The author tells us this came from a cookbook on recipes from the south of France. It calls for fava beans, in addition to the olives. St. Jean de Luz is a wonderful touristic port town.

Soups with Meat

It makes sense that in the heavily meat-based Basque cuisine, many Basque soups contain meat. Several are mostly vegetarian, but contain chorizo for flavoring.

Basque Potato Soup
This recipe is mostly vegetarian, but calls for chorizo for flavor.

Cauliflower Soup with Basque Chorizo and Spinach
This recipe calls for pureeing the soup for a creamier version.

Chorizo and Lentil Soup
Chez Us blogger Denise Woodword remembers the soup her Basque grandmother cooked while growing up in northern Nevada. The question remains though. What is a dry-farmed tomato?

Basque Sausage and Garbanzo Soup
From Cooks.com, this recipe calls for sausage and ham hocks.

Vegetable Soup
While it’s called vegetable soup, this Taste of Home soup includes chicken and sausage.

Potato Lentil Soup
This is another one that is mostly vegetables, but calls for chorizo for flavor.

Garbanzo Bean Soup
From Food.com. Looks delicious and includes sausage and chicken breasts.

Oxtail Stew in Brown Gravy
This recipe on Food.com comes from the cookbook “Recipes from Basque Restaurants of the West.” This recipe is from the Carson Valley Country Club Basque Restaurant in Gardnerville, Nevada. Oxtail stew is a favorite in Basque restaurants. However, the recipe calls for a restaurant-size quantity, so you’ll have to do some math to reduce it to a single family-size portion.

Red Bean Stew
From The Diary of an Unaccomplished Cook blog, this cook presents a recipe her husband developed while working for a Basque company. It calls for blood sausage.

Fish Soups

Porrusalda with cod
This recipe includes an interesting discussion about whether the traditional porrusalda includes cod

Basque Seafood Soup
This recipe from the Los Angeles Times calls for fish, lobster, shrimp and clams.

Watch for an upcoming article on tuna stew, known as marmitako. Interestingly, I did not find a recipe for Basque garlic soup. I will keep looking for one.

Originally posted Dec. 7, 2014