Stews and hot-pots - Region of Valencia

Foto de Ollas y guisos de la Comunidad Valenciana

Any report on Valencian gastronomy should include important local stews and boiled dishes called ollas, olletas, putxeros and tarongetes (sometimes with dumplings or pilotes), most of which contain ingredients such as pork, sausages, calabashes, chard leaves, grains of wheat, chickpeas, beans and rice. From the Els Ports district in the mountainous hinterland of Castellón to the Vega del Segura along the southern coast of Alicante, the Land of Valencia has lots of surprisingly unique stewed dishes to choose from.
In Castellón, mention can be made of the olla de recapte, a typical stew from Morella, containing vegetables, legumes and a variety of meats, including dried beef; l'olla de cardets, using cardoon, chard and beans; l'olla barrejada, whose main ingredients are lamb, bacon and chickpeas. This province has a noteworthy cookbook for hearty, mountain fare. Closer to the seashore in the same province, in the La Plana district, people are fond of power-packed specialities such as l'olla de la Plana and l'olla churra.
In the mountains of Alicante province and the hinterland of Valencia, the so-called olleta is the queen of the stews. It is a succulent dish Ð one of the most refined of Spanish stews - very much like the vegetable and chickpea stew called potaje caldoso, seasoned by the use of aromatic sausages (whose fat is duly scooped off), and boasting an exceptional taste. Some stews vary according to the occasion being commemorated, such as the puchero de San Blas, or St Blaise's stew, typical of Bocairent. The leftovers are very often kept and fried up as hash, or used in other recipes that prolong the culinary delights long after the feast-day has actually been celebrated.
The case is the same with the boiled Christmas stew called cocido de Nadal, from which a soup is first made, then the meatballs, meat and vegetables are served, after which rice is made with the stock on the second day, and perhaps on the third day ropa vieja ("old clothes") - a hash made with the leftovers fried in tomato sauce and garlic. These gastronomic rituals are described in literary works such as Blasco Ibañez's novel Arroz y Tartana ("The Three Roses", Dutton & Co. New York, 1932) and a work by Teodoro Llorente FalcÓ called Memorias de un sesentón ("Memoires of a Sexagenarian").
Succulent stews should also include the so-called gazpachos and mountain stews from the interior, not to be confused with the Andalusian-style cold vegetable soup called gazpacho andaluz. Gazpachos from the valley of Ayora, from the Vinalopó, and those of La Plana and Requena-Utiel in fact consist of stewed game (rabbit or hare, partridge or quail) finely shredded, which is thickened using dried, unleavended bread called tortas. It is something like a rustic version of a meat lasagna.
Delicious dishes of pastoral origin such as the irreplaceable lamb stews made in the season of the Moors and Christians festivals - good for low fat diets - are still absolutely modern in approach despite their long history. In some coastal areas, fish and shellfish gazpachos are made, although these are of more recent origin.

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