One of the great pleasures of the Autumn and Winter seasons is the reappearance of one of our favourite dishes – Gazpacho Manchego. Although to our British friends it is seen as a rich dish, with its game and wild mushroom ingredients, it is traditionally a hunters (or shepherds) meal, drawing on the abundant and sustainable populations of rabbits and partridges which thrive in the Valencian countryside and mountains.
Described by Cervantes and called ‘Galianos’, the origin of the dish is either in La Mancha, or the Serrania or Val d’Ayora of Valencia. Juan Salva Gayá Sastré in a recent blog drew on a source placing it in the mountains of the Turia valley (Serrania). We have seen claims that it belongs to Enguera and when we were first introduced to Gazpacho in Requena we were told it was a local plate with many local recipes!
This is typical of Valencia with recipes having a local variation every 30km and it is undoubtedly true it is served and cooked in different ways depending where you are.
Tous is a small town in the interior 50km from Valencia near Alberic. It is a new town to the extent that it was ‘moved’ when the huge reservoir which collects water from the Jucar and Escalano rivers was created. The dam broke in 1982 causing a massive flood known as the ‘Pantanada.’ It has the remains of a castle, the church has the original doorway from the old church now under the waters of the reservoir but the town has a reputation for the gastronomy of the interior and the mountains which include sausages, ‘gachas,”migas,’ macaroons, sweet cakes and orange blossom honey.
Perhaps Tous is best known for Gazpacho Serranos and this is why it has been chosen to host this first competition which is an attempt to get the dish its rightful place in the canon of Valencian gastronomy.
The basic ingredients are as follows:-
Meat: Mountain rabbit and partridge, pigeon, snails, (if not available free-range chicken and domestic rabbit):
Wild mushrooms: (Lactarious deliciosos -Pleurotus eryngii – Agrocybe aegerita):
Vegetables: red and green pepper, garlic, onion, tomato, ñora;
Spices: ground pepper: pimentón, saffron, cinnamon, clove;
Herbs: Laurel, Pebrella, Rosemary;
Other: salt, water and Valencian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. For the Tortas (or pan cenceña or pan ácimo) which essentially is unleavened thin, flat bread which resembles and has the texture of a dry Carr´s water biscuit.
For certain you do not find all the ingredients in every gazpacho. In the Serrania de Turia, Utiel-Requena and the Hoya de Buñol there may be mushrooms, the meat is likely to have been cooked in the stock (then deboned and shredded) and the torta will be broken up and cooked in an ‘honda’. In Venta del Moro, for example, white pepper and clove are used as spices but we have not encountered this elsewhere.
As you cross the A3 Motorway and head South and East the meat is more likely to be chopped, fried first and served on the bone. This is more popular in the La Ribera, and as you move towards the Canal de Navarres, Costera the Vinalopo and Alicante the meat may well be served as a separate plate with the torta whole and presented with the stock rather in the manner of Yorkshire pudding and gravy. In the Alcoía you are more likely to encounter the Valencian herb Pebrella which grows locally.
The tortas are very easy to make. Simply mix 400gm flour with 250ml of water and a pinch of salt until you have a ball, then break off into small balls of dough, roll them out as thin as possible and cook over gas on an iron skillet until dry.
You can also buy them in any decent supermarket or traditional bakers.
During Sunday´s concurso there will be a showcooking of the preparation of tortas using gluten free flour.
Up to twenty-six restaurants will be selected to cook a Gazpacho for 15 people in the Plaza España on Sunday morning from a list of ingredients supplied by the organiser. There are three prizes of 500, 300 and 200€ which will be decided by a jury of experts.
VÍ Vid will be there to observe and report on the event and the winners!