Tag Archives: Olla

Almorzando, Ollas and Almedijar….Breakfast in Serra and Lunch in The Alt Palancia!

Feria Oficios Almedijar


Valencia is enjoying that time of year when Bank Holidays take over the calendar. Last week started with Easter Monday!  Today is San Vicente Ferrer, Patron Saint of Valencia, so everything will be shut…and Thursday is May Day so, heck, another good excuse for a day off…even if you don’t have a job. Now,  this actually means you can take pretty well  the whole week off!

It is not such much a `bridge´ which is when you take Friday off when Thursday is the Bank Holiday or Monday off when Tuesday is the celebratory day.

Outside Restaurante Chaparal.

Outside Restaurante Chaparal.

Anyway, never mind the fact that nothing will get done,  it is just a great opportunity to get out and enjoy  what is on offer. It is very much part of the local way of life !

Valencia City is currently enjoying the Feria de Andalusia with a whole range of activities in the dry river bed.

In complete contrast Almedijar, which is an incredibly pretty little village nestling in valley between two mountain slopes near Segorbe,  has enjoyed its Feria de Oficios this weekend. More on this later.

Since it was a long weekend there seemed no great hurry to rush to do anything… a long leisurely breakfast was called for this Sunday. No point in cooking for yourself when there are bars and restaurants  throughout Valencia that are happy to cook for you. Not that this is a holiday thing…….if you go to a bank, a town hall or just about any business, regardless of the day of the week,  do not do it between 10.00 and 11.30 am. This is when every official or employee will find time to go for Almuerzo.

Typical dish, Salt Cod and Red Pepper with garlic and Olive Oil.

Typical dish, Salt Cod and Red Pepper with garlic and Olive Oil.


Almuerzo is a cultural institution. A veritable celebration , and it is not expensive. There are bars that specialise in a huge variety of snacks or tapas, but do not mistake this for Almuerzo! Almuerzo requires time, to read the paper or to chat to your colleagues or friends, to enjoy a plate of olives and cacahuetes, a drink ( wine, beer, water, soft drinks) and then an early lunch…..or a late breakfast. Many bars will serve a range of bocadillos. ( A bocadillo is a long length of `baguette´ style bread,  or a shorter version, or a `paquette´. You can have virtually whatever you like in it as long as the chef can cook it. Tortillas, esgarret, baby squid, cuttlefish, whitebait, pincho morunos, meatballs in tomato sauce, broad beans  with jamon, jamon with cheese, jamon with tomatos, (all three if you prefer) a whole range of revueltos ( scrambled eggs ) such as prawns and asparagus,  prawns and wild mushrooms,  jamon with prawns, artichokes and jamon, potatos and bacon, loin of pork with green peppers…..you get the idea I´m sure……whatever takes your fancy!!! ( Expect to pay around 5€ in villages and 7-10€ in cities.)

If you do not want a bocadillo, well, you can have a wedge of tortilla or any of the rest of above on a plate…the bread will just come sliced in a basket instead!

Bocadillo de Blanco, Negro  y Rojo!

Bocadillo de Blanco, Negro y Rojo!

Yesterday we  left home early, passed through Betera and climbed up through Naquera and Serra until we came to the turn-off for Barraix, at the point where the mountain is fully climbed and starts to fall away towards Castellon province. I say we climbed, the car did the work, but we must have passed hundreds of cyclists, each rider dreaming of the calories available at the top!


The first stop was Restaurante Chaparral, nestling amongst the pine  trees which populate the mountainside here.

As it was our first visit and there is no printed menu to choose from, we listened very attentively to the camerero as he reeled off a choice of bocadillos….and then suggested we really should try the meat from the brassa. We did…..and before long three rather large terracotta plates arrived, nine  lamb chops ( chump and cutlet) nine sausages, ( three each of chorizo, longaniza and morcilla) … a plate of proper double fried chips, a plate of grilled aubergines and courgette slices garnished with green peppers accompanied by a bowl of home-made alli olli and the obligatory fried eggs. This of course had been preceded by the bread, olives and salted nuts and beers!

Our Almuerzo!

Our Almuerzo!

I can only say the food was awesome! We cleaned the plates and finished off with coffees……all for the princely sum of a 10€ note each!!!!

Kike Serrano Escribano´s restaurant is definitely  on the list to be visited again!

Then we were off down the mountain and on the way to our  final destination, Almedijar. Half an hour later we had successfully avoided suicidal cyclists hurtling down hill, cutting blind corners and we arrived at the fair. The Feria de Oficios is effectively a craft fair, typical of many in the area such as Benlloch or Les Useres. It is in its sixteenth edition this year. Local ice-cream, cheese, olive oil, wine and pottery, artworks, hand-made knives and axes, woodwork, charcoal ovens etc vied with the torrijas and bunuelos and the crowd grew well beyond the supposed population of under 300 souls!!

Eagle Owl at the Fair.

Eagle Owl at the Fair.

The village is best known for its spring water, its Olla Almedijana ( a one pot dish with a base of white cabbage and white beans) and increasingly for the quality, award-winning wines  from its Alcovi cooperative.

The local housewives prepared the olla, soaking the white beans, chopping the white cabbage and the potatos before the cooking began. The trestle tables had been laid out for the villagers and public to enjoy the final dish!

In the meantime, we tasted three wines whilst the local kids enjoyed pony rides and the birds of prey were displayed.

Wines and Awards from Alcovi.

Wines and Awards from Alcovi.

The white is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Plantafina. A relatively strong 13.5%ABV it has a fresh floral nose with citrus and tropical notes. In the mouth it has a fresh acidity, an easy pass across the palate and and a long dry finish. perfect for a hot day!

The rosado is a blend of Garnacha with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. A light strawberry pink colour, the wine is also fresh and fruity with a good balancing acidity. Quite full in the mouth  and an easy drinker.

The Alma de Vid is a 100% Monastrell from 2011. At 14% ABV it is a deep black cherry colour, good characteristics of the variety on the nose, mature sweet fruit and hints of black olive. In the mouth, full and fruity, round. Very nice!

The Olla, Ready for the Fire!

The Olla, Ready for the Fire!

It would be fair to say that the combined trip was a relaxed affair! We will probably not need to eat for a few days and if you are anywhere near Serra at weekends Chaparral is more than worth the visit!

Look out for the posters for fairs like this one over the summer ( the next is probably in Les Useres in June) because they provide an easy opportunity to try local products on their home ground and to buy them, as well as providing a day out with something for all to see or do.





In Search of `El Gran Putxero´! – Valencia´s Classic Stew.

P.I.G. Awaits the Putxero.

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.

Pisto with Chistorra.

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.)

Soup with Rice. First Course.

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.

Vegetables,the Second Course.

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.

The Meat Course.

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.

Ángela Valero, Cocinera at DeValencia.

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!




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