Warming Up

When waiting in London's Gatwick airport for the plane home, I never know what to bring back with me, seeing as how all English products can now be found in Catalonia (except fudge). I usually end up buying cookery magazines, of which there is a huge range in the UK. But once I've made it past the tasty looking covers, I end up finding the recipes unbearably twee. Take this tip from 'Delicious' magazine, for example: 'This dish screams out for a glass of dry cider'. Or: 'For the puds, make a truly divine match with a small glass of nutty tawny port.' Or this, from 'Taste Italia': 'Bucatini pasta...is often used with hearty meat sauces'. All that's missing – in this orgy of pathetic fallacy – is for the screaming dish and the nutty port to go out on a blind date with the hearty sauces. Even the ingredient descriptions can cause the odd wince: 'drizzle olive oil' ('drizzle' being used here as an adjective); 'runny honey'; 'biscuits, coarsely chopped', 'lemon, zested' (?). Anyway, this being the time of year it is, here is a hopefully non-twee recipe for the traditional Catalan Christmas lunch dish: escudella i carn d'olla. Go to the meat counter at any market and buy a chunk of bacon, a pig's ear, half a kilo of veal, half a chicken, black sausage, pig and calf bones, and one ready-made pilota de carn d'olla, which is an oversized meatball made of minced pork, egg, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs. Then move to the vegetable stand and buy chickpeas, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and turnips, all in moderate quantities. Go home. Put six litres of water on to boil and add the veal, chicken, bacon, ear and bones. Simmer for an hour and a half, then add the cabbage, the black sausage, the oversized meatball, the chickpeas, and the vegetables. Once everything is cooked through, separate the solid ingredients from the broth by pouring it all through a colander. Put the broth back on to boil and add a few galets (which are large, snail-shaped pieces of pasta available at all supermarkets in December). Cook the pasta. Serve the broth. Place the meat and vegetables together on a large plate and - once you've finished the soup - serve them in their turn. Bear in mind that next Christmas you could be eating all this in a free country. Which might improve the taste even more. Or not, depending on your point of view.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, desembre del 2014


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