Friday 18 May, a day that will go down in the town of Oliva´s history as the day Gastronomy arrived big time. For a town not short of traditional dishes based on the rich supply of local ingredients, the town has its local competitions for stuffed peppers (pebrers farcidos) and putxero allied to the Moors and Christians fiesta and of course enjoys a range of paellas and arroces using ingredients from the sea and the mountains which surround the town.
Oliva now officially has its own National Competition for Coca´s, an everyday , even humble item which claims to be the origin of Napoli´s feted pizza! Why not? The figatell from the nearby Ribera is the forerunner of the hamburger. Both are part of a rich tradition of dishes exported around the Mediterranean by traders, pilgrims, conquerors etc.
Today the coca is available in just about every bakery across the Valencian Community , served for almuerzo, as a snack and baked in many houses as well. Its spiritual home though is La Safor and Oliva specifically.
For this, the first edition was organised in no small part by Miquel Font Sempere , colleague in the new Gastronomy Press Association on behalf of AGACO, the Amics Gastronomics dels Cocs d’ Oliva . Nor had he stinted in attracting Official Guests to give Government level support for the initiative! The town’s mayor, David Gonzalez and the Director of Tourism Mirea Morera could count on the presence of Enric Morera ( Presidente Corts Valencianes) the Autonomous secretary of Tourism, Francesc Colomer and the Director of Tourism in the Valencian Government Pilar Moncho.
The jury was not short of its stars either with Michelin Star chefs Kiko Moya,’ l’ Escaleta de Cocentaina’, Manuel Alonso , ‘Manolo de la Platja de Daimus’ and Miguel Ruiz ‘ Baret de Miguel, Denia. They were joined by Juanjo Rausell, president of the Guild of Bakers and Patissiers, Paco Alonso TVEE and gastronomy critic, Pep Romany chef at the Coqueria Pont Sec de Denia and Cova Morales , gastro blogger at COMOJU.
The Coca itself is a mini pizza base of foccacia style bread, which is either served round , oval or rectangular.
The entrants began by making and proving their dough before baking commenced, each taking their turn. Some included the ingredients in the bake, others dressed the bases later.
Traditionally the coca is served with toppings of sobrasada and honey, or tomato and cheese, or onions caramelised with olives and anchovies but there are many variations with spinach or chard, peas or baby broad beans with morcilla …..well, whatever you like and in this edition participants were free to produce whatever took their fancy! As the photographs show there were no two alike!
Flour for the base was provided by sponsors Moli de Pico, professional ovens were provided by COTEPA and other sponsors included Vinolivo, Bodegas BOCOPA, Dulcesol, Papes Escivá.
15 restaurants and or bakers were selected to participate having submitted photographs and recipes for the entries. They were;
- Forn Artesa Sergio de Alginet,
- Restaurant Mar Sala de Cullera,
- Restaurante Oasis de Oliva,
- Restaurant Gastrobar a l’Albade Alginet,
- Restaurant Saez de Vallada,
- Pasteleria de Vimar de Oliva,
- Horno La Safor de Gandia,
- Tapas La Xara de Xara,
- Restaurant d’ Alma de Sanet i Negrals
- Restaurante Avenida 2.0 Massamagrel,
- Restaurante Altamar del Grao de Gandia,
- Pa i mes, Forn de Pa de Playa de Gandia,
- Coqueria de Orba,
- Tempura bar de Denia and
- La Seu de Denia.
The future of Valencian Gastronomy does not lie solely in the hands of the many bars, restaurants, bakers etc. The educational system in Valencia with its network of Centres of Tourism which are the hostelery schools teaching the next generation are incredibly important and professional. Participants also came from students at the CEIP,Costa Azahar de Grau de Castelló, CdT Alicante, CdT Valencia, CdT de Gandia and IES Mediterranea de Benidorm.
Nor as the photograph shows would you be able to tell the difference between the professional entrants and the students!
During the competition there was a bar providing Cruzcampo and which also dispensed Heinekens Ladron de Los Manzanas, a cider produced from the juice of sweet red apples and which had a superb balancing acidity, plus there were a range of cocas to fight the hunger off.
The event closed after the award ceremony with a picaetta for the contestants, dignitaries and press.
The winners were;
- 1. Pa i Mes, ‘Coca de la Terra’.
- 2. La Seu de Denia, Coca de Calabaza, Cochinillo a baja temperatura y arrope,
- 3. Sáez de Vallada, Coca de la Vall d’ Albaida,
- Prize for the best college went to IES Mediterranea de Benidorm ,’ Bollets de la Lloseta.’
This is the winning Coca, ‘Coca de laTerra’, tomato, green pepper red and white onions, with sausage and black pudding, parsley and dressed with olive oil and salt.
So, Oliva joins Alzira, Sueca, Cullera and Alcudia with a winner and a competition worthy of the name of a National Concurso! Roll on next years edition!