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 the generic for a number of regional dishes which differ in the odd ingredient here and there and which are also called Puchero o Cocido de Pueblo. There is also a school of thought that `podrida´ is itself a bastardisation of `poderida´which means succulent or powerful.
In Valenciá (language) and the Valencian Community (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 England ( where it now has consolidated into bacon boiled with cabbage) Scotland ( Cock a Leekie) and even in Austria.
You can go to the local butcher and choose the ingredients individually or alternatively 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 and cabbage all of which will be slowly stewed with the vegetables and chickpeas which have been soaked overnight. Come the first bank holiday of October, come the first Gastronomic fair of the month. L´Alcúdia, at the centre of the persimmon ( kaki ) growing area in the Ribera Baixa comarca of Valencia holds the first of two extremely good Gastronomic fairs ( the other being Utiel ). It is L’ Alcudia which has the honour of holding the annual competitions for both Putxero´s and Persimmons. It is now in its tenth year, the latest edition being held in Salon Siglo XXI on Monday last 16 October.
The dish is served traditionally in two or three plates. Firstly after the cooking is complete rice is cooked in the remaining stock to create a first dish, rich in colour and with good flavour which the rice absorbs. Secondly the vegetables may be served on a plate separate from the meats or altogether on one platter. Sometimes the pilotes are served wrapped in cabbage separately.
This year some 18 restaurants had committed to participate in the competition but in the end 14 were able to attend. This is still an increase over previous events. The restaurants were;
- Casa Granero, Serra
- Chef Amadeo, Gandia
- El Raco, Meliana
- EMI , Orxeta
- Gambrinus, Siete Aguas
- Juan Ventitres, Benifaío
- La Granja , Sueca
- L´Albereda, Valencia
- La Mar Sala, Cullera
- La Visteta, Barx
- Llopis, Sueca
- Nazaret, Pujol
- Picanterra, Cullera
- Tabick, Llombai
VÍ Vid particularly values this competition for two reasons. Firstly the friendship between the participants is tangible with a shared breakfast before the competition commences, but secondly because the chefs are very happy to share culinary information, cooking tips and their own secrets, all of which helps us understand better the local gastronomy. We particularly enjoyed talking with Adolfo Cucarella about the properties of different rice varieties, Leo and Bea from La Visteta about the contents of the pelotas, Victor Granero, Isabel and Paco from Nazaret about the stock and as ever Teresa and Salva from Gambrinus over a range of issues.
Most fascinating was the argument about whether more saffron or pimenton should be used as the effect on flavour is very marked.
Persimmon is a fruit grown widely in the area and has its own denomination of origin. The desserts produced for the competition were equally as varied! Ice cream, yoghurts, mousses, with or without chocolate and some in tart form……..all of them with much imagination and immaculately presented!
Following the judging, which lasted nearly 4 hours, there was the traditional lunch which this year did not include a putxero! We enjoyed a plate of eggs cooked at a low temperature with foie and truffle in a cream sauce, Figatells of sepia with a dressing of peanut oil and Cochinita Pibil Iberica with Pa Vidre as starters. This was followed by an arros melós de gamba and a dessert of Persimmon. The event was sponsored by bodegas Murviedro with their spectacular reserva Bobal 2013 Limited Edition and DNA Alma Mística white and San Miguel amongst others.
The awards went to:
– Postre de Persimmom
- 1st, El Raco, Meliana,
- 2nd, L ´Albereda, Valencia and
- 3rd, Llopis, Sueca
– Putxero Valenciá
- 1st, La Visteta, Barx
- 2nd , Chef Amadeo, Gandia
- 3rd, Gambrinus, Siete Aguas
This was another day where Valencian Gastronomy was the protagonist, a successful and well organised event which ranks amongst VÍ Vids favourites. Once again our thanks go to Lluis Ribera and Pino Diaz for the invitations and the continued friendship.