What better way of keeping the winter ills at bay than a hearty, warming, nourishing soup or stew?
Every region or even province in Spain, has its own special version of a meal-in-a-pot, but it is in the north where the weather is less clement, and hunger strikes more eagerly, that these dishes really come into their own.
“Cocidos”, “potajes” and “pucheros”, thought to have been introduced by the Sephardic Jews many moons ago, but without pork products, have been a staple meal in Spain since then and are always at the centre of a Spaniard’s heart. All self respecting homes and family run restaurants will have a cocido on the boil.
Pulses – lentils, chickpeas, beans or potatoes are the main ingredients, though green vegetables are usually present too – turnip tops, cabbage, kale, Swiss chard or spinach – it all depends on the dish and the region.
The real secret is in the flavour and that usually comes from meat – to be precise – pork. Traditionally the family pig was slaughtered on November 11th, San Martin, and the products of the “matanza” (slaughter) – chorizos (spicy sausages), morcillas (black pudding), bacon, salted pork hocks and heads and trotters, were used throughout the year to add to the cocido.
Fish and shellfish versions exist too and how delectable they are! The combination of haricot beans and clams may sound unlikely, but it is delicious.
A journey through Northern Spain will introduce you to these simple, yet wonderful gastronomic delights from “marmitako” (bonito and potato) in the Basque country, to “cocido montanes” (beans and greens) in Cantabria, to “fabada” (beans and sausages) in Asturias, to “caldo gallego” (turnip tops and potatoes) in Galicia, to “cocido maragato” (chickpeas) in Leon, to name a few.
Why not try your hand at one of them? A guide to all that’s wonderful about northern Spanish cuisine can be found here. Or if you’d like to experience the food in its “natural habitat”, check out our selection of culinary tours.