Puchero or Olla Andalúz – Andalucían Chick Pea Stew

Well, what a weekend of e-mails many of us have had. Thanks a bunch WordPress (not!) for inundating us all. It´s been quiet on the blog front as many of us have held off from posting or commenting for fear of drowning in a sea of unwanted e-mails. Hopefully we are all daring to put our toes back in the water…but please don´t forget to remove that tick from the box below the comments one so that you don´t receive all those messages if you´re brave enough to leave messages again!

It´s been a strange weekend here too weather wise up the mountain. Saturday was like the depths of winter, Sunday got better and this week it looks as though summer is on its way with temperatures predicted in the high twenties. Feeling grey and damp on Saturday, we indulged in a big bowl of comforting Olla (pronounced Oya) or Puchero.

The word Olla in Spanish is a big cooking pot.  Often this dish is named after the pot it is cooked in. It´s a hearty, filling winter warmer that if eaten for lunch (it´s never eaten for dinner here, probably because of the “natural effects” of chick peas) will keep you going all day . This version lists the ingredients typically used locally, but also gives options for making it outside of Spain where not all of the ingredients will be so easily available. The salted bones and fat add flavour and give the broth a cloudy or white appearance, which is the sign of a good stock in Andalucía.  Clear stock, I think I´ve mentioned it previously when talking about Chicken Soup, is considered to be lacking in flavour!

If you use the salted bones, you won´t need to add much in the way of seasoning at the end. If not, add salt after the chick peas have cooked, otherwise they will never soften.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 2 cups of dried chick peas soaked overnight in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and drained
  • 2 large chicken legs and thighs (you will see that the meat in the photo is very dark as this was one of our “old boiler” cockerels…very tasty)
  • 1 piece of pork (typically here it comes from the leg or shoulder) weighing about 250g
  • Salted pork bones (replace with 2 or three pork ribs)
  • A small piece of salted pork fat (omit if you cannot find)
  • A piece of fresh or salted pork belly (with plenty of fat)
  • Optional – a few peeled carrots and sticks of celery
  • 3 or 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small dried chillis (optional)
  • Water

Put all the ingredients into a large stock pot, pushing the meat and bones down to the bottom.  Add water to cover everything well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface during the first 10 minutes of hard boiling then reduce the heat to a very low simmer, cover and either simmer gently for about an hour and a half until the chick peas are completely tender or cook in a very low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

Remove the bay leaves, chilli, pork skin and bones, shred the meat and chop the carrots and celery if you prefer, season if necessary and serve in deep bowls with plenty of the delicious stock poured over.

Variation. Some people also add pig´s trotters to this dish, so if you enjoy them, do feel free to add. This weekend I omitted the pork fat and added celery and carrots to make it a lighter but still filling dish. My stock is probably not up to Spanish Housewife standards this time as it´s on the verge of being clear!

This is a dish which will improve and develop flavour if prepared a day ahead.

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One Year On…Pollo en Pepitoria – Chicken in a Saffron and Almond Sauce

Pepitoria – what a great word!  However, I couldn´t find a decent translation for it.  The dictionary comes up with “hodge podge” or “fricassée”.  I don´t think either of those translations suit the sophistication of this beautiful looking, wonderful tasting but oh so easy to prepare dish.

It´s often cooked for celebratory meals – probably because of the luxury of the ingredients (saffron and almonds) and the fact that it can be prepared for a large number of people in advance. It seems that it´s a year since I published my first post here on WordPress.  Wow, what a journey it´s been!  From no readers 😦 to a lovely group of new blogging pals who comment, support, encourage and inspire.  I thank you all, it´s great to have you along for the ride.

So, back to the food.  Don´t be put off by the word “luxury”, it´s actually luxurious in terms of quality and not cost.  Most recipes suggest using free range chicken or even an old hen or cockerel for long slow cooking and an amazing taste.  I used our old black cockerel who was no longer doing it for my lady hens…he had a great life, fathered many little chicks and was treated splendidly after his demise in this gorgeous dish.  Ok, on with the cooking.

You´ll need (for approx 6 people depending on the size of your chicken)

  • 1 large chicken cut into portions and floured
  • Olive oil
  • About 20 blanched almonds
  • 1 thick slice of day old bread
  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced in half lengthways
  • About 1 heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of saffron stamens (or you can use ground turmeric which will add a little flavour of a different kind, but it´s a good substitute)
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • Fresh black pepper for grinding and salt (I used Maldon)
  • About ½ litre of chicken stock
  • 2 large glasses of dry white whine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 hard boiled eggs

Start by putting a few good slugs of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy based pan that has a lid.  Brown the almonds and garlic and remove. Now fry the bread until browned and remove.  Put the bread, almonds, garlic, parsley and saffron in a jug with about half a cup of stock and blend until you have a thick smooth mixture.

Fry your chicken pieces in the same oil (add more if necessary) until browned on both sides then pour over the almond and saffron mixture,  one glass of white wine, enough stock to cover the meat,  the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.  Pour yourself the other glass of wine and drink while waiting for the pot to come up to a gentle boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook gently for at least an hour and a half.  I cooked mine for three hours as it was an old cockerel (bless him) and check every so often that the meat is covered with liquid.  If not, add a little water or chicken stock.

When the meat is tender, remove from the sauce and turn up the heat to reduce slightly.  Check for seasoning and add the mashed yolks of the 2 hard boiled eggs to further thicken the sauce.  Once it has reached the consistency of a thick pouring sauce, put the chicken back into the pot (or pour the sauce over your chicken if you are going to use a serving platter) and sprinkle with the chopped whites of the hard boiled egg and finely chopped parsley.  Serve with fresh lemon to squeeze over, rice, fried or mashed potatoes and ¡Buen Provecho!