Every country in the world has its traditional Winter recipes, often hearty stews of meats and vegetables cooked in a single pot. In France it is Pot au Feu, often made from different cuts of beef including shin and ribs, with carrots, cabbage, potatos, etc in a good red wine stock.
In Spain the dish is Olla Podrida, a mixture of beef, ham, bacon, chicken, sausages cooked with chickpeas, cabbage, celery, carrots, parsnip and turnip. But olla podrida or `rotten stew´ is just one name, it is probably the generic for a number of regional dishes which differ in the odd ingredient here and there and which are also called Cocido de Pueblo. There is also a school of thought that `podrida´ is itself a bastardisation of `poderida´which means succulent or powerful.
In Valencia ( language and region) it is Putxero but not many people know that similar dishes are well known throughout Europe, with regional differences. in Portugal, in France ( Gascony and Brittany) and in the United Kingdom ( where it now has consolidated into bacon boiled with cabbage) and even in Austria.
Quite how the dish spread is unknown, it could well have been by traders but given that in the 17th century it was a well known and high status dish as far from Spain as Austria it is more likely to have been spread by Royal inter-marriages and diplomatic missions.
I had never tried the dish until last November, and then not on a particularly cold day but it was one of the classics I had wanted to try for some time. You can go to the local butcher and stand behind one of the village´s granny´s doing her family shop and when that includes the ingredients for Putxero (asked for individually, each piece inspected for size etc) it can be a long wait until your turn.
Alternatively you can go to one of the supermarkets where you can buy the vegetables pre-packed and even similar packs of the meat ingredients……beef shin, ham bone, rear-quarters of chicken, spine, tocino or pancetta ( fatty bacon), morcilla ( local black sausages), blanquet ( local white sausage) and pilotes, a form of pork hamburger wrapped in caul-fat all of which will be slowly stewed with the vegetables and chickpeas which have been soaked overnight ( unless you cheat and use a pre-cooked jar.)
There is a third alternative. The Valencia region is well known for traditional restaurants where local dishes are cooked with authenticity and loving care. These are not always expensive city venues either, just about every town or village has a local bar, used by the community and passing trade on a daily basis where the local variations are regularly cooked.
Valencians, and those like myself who have fallen in love with the local food often discuss these traditional dishes and one such forum is to be found on Facebook where around a thousand members participate in P.I.G , the `Platform for Gastronomic Information´, led by TV personality and blogger Paco Alonso, or Pacoalanaranja. The forum often includes fierce debate on what should or should not be included in dishes, not least recently over the creation of a D.O. for Paella Valencia.
Thus, when offered an opportunity to join the first lunch organized by the group in `DeValencia´, ( Plaza Pintor Segrelles) to eat authentic Putxero cooked by Ángela Valero, accompanied by the wines of Chozas Carrascal, it would have been rude not to go!
Some nineteen gastronauts attended, including some fellow bloggers.
We commenced the meal with some light tapas, a pisto with chistorra and patatas bravas.
The putxero itself was a tour de force! Traditionally the dish is served in three stages, the first being a bowl of soup (or the cooking broth). Ángela serves hers as a rice dish, like a bowl of arroz caldoso. With added saffron the dish was light and full of flavor.
Second course sometimes are the pilotes wrapped in cabbage leaves. Here we were treated to the vegetables, potato, chick-peas, carrots and cabbage and the meats were served separately.
Ángelas variation does not include cardo (Cardoon, the giant artichoke thistle leaves) parsnip or turnip because it is her mother´s dish and she did not like them!
The meal was accompanied by the excellent wines from Chozas Carrascal and we enjoyed the Cava Brut Nature reserve (from 2008) with the starters, the Las Dosces 2010 Tinto Crianza with the soup and the Las Ocho 2008 with the putxero. All were a perfect marriage with the food. Interestingly the Cabernet Franc which had been intended to serve with the main course arrived with the pudding!
Simple rings of the regions famous oranges had been laid on a plate and dusted with cinnamon and granulated sugar. This big wine not only held up against the sweetness of the dish, it positively complemented it!
The restaurant itself goes onto my list for further visits as Ángela cooks a range of traditional Valencian dishes.
In conclusion there was a very happy group at the end of this meal which showed just how good relatively simple dishes are and which showed this particular Valencian classic to be a truly worthy member of the canon of Valencian gastronomy! It is well worth having a go yourself!