I spent a wonderful month living in Madrid. The most memorable meal during that sojourn was a dish that I’d not heard of before: it is simple, not dissimilar to French or English plates of boiled meat and veg, but with a distinctively Spanish feel to it. It’s call cocido, and it is one of the world’s great comfort foods.
What is cocido recipe
Cocido recipe is built on the humble chickpea. But the presentation of the dish is augmented in that what could potentially be described as a meat and chickpea stew (though this does not do justice to the wonderfulness of the dish), is made more elaborate in that restaurants often serve this single dish in multiple courses.
Meat, vegetables and chickpeas are simmered together, and can be later dissected into three course (broth with noodles, chickpeas and veggies, then meat) or two (vegetables and broth, then meat), depending on the proclivities of the eatery.
So what goes into it? The dish is built on various meats (bacon, cured ham, marrow bones, boiled in water to create a rich broth. Soaked chickpeas are then added to this, followed by vegetables (traditionally onion, turnip, carrot and, last so they don’t cook to disintegration, potato).
Cabbage fried in garlic is prepared separately, to maintain the preferred texture, and likewise the spicy sausage and blood sausage are sautéed in another pan, because to boil them would mean staining the broth and harm the aesthetic.
Then there’s a sort of croquette that can likewise be prepared in a separate pan, made of eggs, garlic and breadcrumbs smooshed together and fried in oil.vTo serve the broth course, pull out the meat, add noodles, and bring to a boil, to create a noodle soup.
The chickpeas and vegetables become the second course, laid out on a plate, while the croquettes and meat are the third. Each round is called a vuelco, which means “tipping out,” since the ingredients for each course are tipped out of the main casserole in which the main components were simmered.
The history of madrid cocido
Cocido is firmly linked to Madrid, but likely has medieval origins in the Sephardic Jewish dish called adafina. Adafina was traditionally eaten on the Sabbath, part of an arsenal of delicious Jewish dishes that cooked for a long time and were even better after they had sat.
Because observant Jews are not allowed to work on the Sabbath (that means no cooking), they needed to prepare something the day before that could be eaten on their day off.
Adhering to the word of the law, they would place a stew in an earthenware pot, full of a meal’s worth of ingredients, and lay it on embers before sundown the day before the Sabbath. Leaving it there to cook overnight, it would be ready by lunch the following day, so it could be eaten without any further preparation. Ashkenazi Jews call their Sabbath stew cholent, while Sephardic Jews call it adafina.
The dish rose in popularity in the 19th century, since it was hearty and cheap, good fuel for blue collar laborers eating at taverns in the city.
How to use cocido leftovers
Since I love recycling and getting multiple meals out of a single effort, I like the tradition of using leftover parts of cocido to make other dishes.
There are three that are traditionally made with the bits and bobs left after a cocido fiesta. Pringà takes the leftover meat and cooks it long enough for it to disintegrate into a sort of pate that can be spread on toast. Making a hash of the leftover meat and veg, and serving it over rice (and with plantains and yucca, if you’re in Cuba) results in ropa vieja.
And croquetas take leftover starches, coat them in breadcrumbs and fry them up. For aficionados, there’s a website dedicated to this dish, recommending various versions around Madrid.