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How to cook “ Woodpecker ” and “ Green Soup ”

Portuguese cuisine recipes “Woodpecker" (Pica-pau) and "Green Soup" (Caldo Verde)


You may remember I mentioned on an earlier hub - the one about cooking “Francesinha”, the little frenchie - a Portuguese dish or better a starter or even better an after-bar food called “woodpecker" or how we say in Portuguese: Pica-Pau.

Obviously, we are not actually cooking woodpecker, so you may relax, we have no interest in the poor bird, not to eat, at least, although I’m quite sure that probably it isn’t the worst thing that is out there to eat…

So, why would we call a starter "woodpecker", if there is no woodpecker in it… Actually it has to do with the fact that usually it is served with toothpicks to eat, so we use the toothpicks to pick the meat and eat it… much like a woodpecker with its beak…

First of all, as you may have guessed by now, it’s a meat tidbit and, though, you find it more often done with pork, I actually prefer doing it with beef, since I find it’s more tender, than pork. But you can do it either way, since the recipe is exactly the same.

The other detail worth mentioning is that some people use the same gravy as the one used to cook "Francesinha” – that amazing sandwich/toast you can check out on an earlier hub – to cook this starter, but, personally I have another recipe, which I think works much better.

This dish is usually a starter or, more often, a tidbit or after-bar food served at cafes and bistros. It’s often the sort of entertaining food that would be served along with beers during a ball game, much like chicken gizzards.

Then there is "green soup" or caldo verde, as we call it here, and this soup, much like the "woodpecker" is -believe it or not - also an after-bar food. It is normal to find some cafe or bistro open at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning serving smoking bowls of "green soup". It's also that sort of confort food you serve to friends if you invite them over and the night runs longer than it was supposed to or if you have a birthday party, it can be the perfect finish after a long afternoon or night of too much of everything, helping - even - to settle your stomach.

Personally, I really love this soup, so sometimes I do it when friends come over, other times just as a starter to a regular meal, either way, it is tasty and conforting.

And what better than to have some hot "green soup" and a bit of "woodpecker" with a nice home made corn bread?

So, how do I cook “Woodpecker” and "Green Soup"?

"Woodpecker" recipe


· ½ Kilo/1.1 pounds of beef or pork

· ½ Onion

· 4 Garlic cloves

· Olive oil

· 2 tbsp of butter

· Pepper at taste

· Paprika at taste

· 2 bay leaves

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· 2 tbsp of ketchup

· Salt at taste

· ½ l white wine

· ½ Lemon

· Pickles

· Olives


First you need to prepare the meat - remember that what you are looking for is any tender beef cut, you can easily choose from sirloin, top sirloin, top loin, tenderloin or tri-tip, for instance. You can just ask the butcher to prepare the meat for you, that is cut it into thin strips, but if you forget or if he simply doesn’t do it, remember to slice the meat against the grain.

In a medium saucepan heat your olive oil ( pour in the pan until its bottom is covered) and the butter, then add minced onions and 4 minced garlic cloves. Sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat until you find the onion has passed the translucent stage and is turning already a bit yellowish.

Then add salt, paprika and pepper to taste, the bay leaves, ketchup and the meat.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a while (around 10 minutes), stirring with the spoon every now and then.

Afterwards, cover all the ingredients on the pan with white wine (around 1/2 l).

Increase the heat to the maximum and allow it to boil and as soon as it starts to boil reduce the heat to the minimum medium and let it cook for 45 minutes.

Once the time has gone by, the wine will have reduced and thicken to a gravy look (if it is still not thick enough, increase the heat for a while, until it has the right consistency). Taste the gravy to see if it is to your liking or if you should add some more salt or pepper for instance. By this time not only should the gravy be thicken enough, but the meat should already be cooked and extremely tender. You see, that is one of the upsides of slow cooking, which I like so much, food is much tender, than food that is cooked faster.

Transfer the meat to a serving dish and pour the lemon juice on top. Take a handful of chopped pickles and some olives and sprinkle them on top. It’s ready! Enjoy!


Be sure to have some bread around when you serve this, since it’s great to dip the bread into the gravy that you get from the cooking. And don’t forget to have the toothpicks around…

"Green Soup" recipe


5 or 6 medium size potatoes

1 or 2 onions

5 garlic cloves

1 kale

1 cube of chicken stock

5 tbsp of olive oil

Salt to taste

1/2 Chouriço”this is a tradittional portuguese pork sausage, it is smoked sausage, which you can actually eat without cooking, in this case, slices of "chouriço" will be added to the soup. This "chouriço" plays a big part on the taste of this soup, so make sure you find a good one.


Take a large stock pot and place the vegetables in it, chopped roughly: potatoes, onions and garlic; then the chicken stock, salt and olive oil, cover it all with water and bring the soup to a boil, once it’s boiling lower to a medium-heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes have gone by, get your hand blender and reduce everything to a puree. Afterwards add the julienned kale and let it simmer for another 15 minutes over medium-heat.

Now, this is where opinions split, usually most people choose to add the slices of "chouriço", when they serve the soup, one or two slices per soup, but personally I prefer to put the "chouriço" in together with the kale, because I find that it gives the soup a better taste.

Anyway, either way it is fine, it's just a matter of taste...


Ladle into a soup bowl and side with some home made corn bread...

Yummy and conforting

So, what more can we ask for? The company of good friends, a ball game, a night out, a nice talk, some delicious "woodpecker" and a nice bowl of hot "green soup"... It's all here, just try it and you'll find out how conforting and yummy it is...


Don’t forget to leave me your comment and vote on the hub.

For more information check out my profile and stop by my other hubs.

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© Copyright Apr 30 2012 / To use part or the whole article you must first get written permission from the author. Feel free, nonetheless, to use an intro of the hub with a link to the article here on hubpages for the rest of the article.

© 2012 Joana e Bruno


Mike on March 12, 2017:

I do not see the woodpecker meat. How much woodpecker meat do I need for this recipe?

Joana e Bruno (author) from Algarve, Portugal on May 04, 2012:

Hello, Alocsin, both recipes are great, I do hope you like them. Thanks for reading, commenting and voting! Have a great day!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on May 02, 2012:

More Portuguese goodies with photos livening up the recipes. A bit complex for someone like me to do so I'll forward your creation to the family cook. Voting this Useful.

Joana e Bruno (author) from Algarve, Portugal on May 02, 2012:

Hi, Unknown spy, these are very portuguese recipes, so it's quite natural you haven't heard of them, but either one is really tasty, delicious, yummy... Really... Hope you try one of them at least and don't forget to let me know how it goes... Thanks for reading, commenting, voting and sharing... and all the best!

Joana e Bruno (author) from Algarve, Portugal on May 02, 2012:

Hi, LaThing, I do hope you try it, I did "woodpecker" for some friends last saturday and they had never tried my recipe and loved it... or so they said... :) Anyway, thanks for reading, commenting and voting... Have a great day!

Joana e Bruno (author) from Algarve, Portugal on May 02, 2012:

Hello, Brett, thanks for reading, commenting, voting and sharing... Soup does sound strange as an after bar food, but it's so conforting... right... I also enjoy noodle soup, though I never tried it as after food bar, but it's also a great idea... Hope you try one of the recipes! :)

DragonBallSuper on May 02, 2012:

I loved the way you present this hub. The photos were great, and it sounds so delicious. I would love to try this one, never heard of this before :)

Voted up and shared!

LaThing from From a World Within, USA on May 01, 2012:

Very nice hub, and VERY interesting food! I am going to try the Woodpecker, that one looks delicious. Voting up and useful.....

Brett C from Asia on May 01, 2012:

Great hub and loved all the detailed photos. Sounds delicious. In Asia, noodle soup is a common after bar food ... but, it seems strange to many!

Shared, up, interesting and useful.

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