Healthy Mediterranean Diet, My Monkey Arse

After scanning the fridge for this weekend’s menu I was completely uninspired.  Luckily, Rogelio spotted a couple of turnips, leeks, celery and two seen-better-days carrots and exclaimed,

“Perfect, we have everything for puchero.  Except for the most important thing!”

Puchero is common in all of Andalusia but particularly in Algeciras which only has Fried Sea Anemones as competition for the title of local culinary specialty.  Rogelio reports that he knows families that eat puchero every weekday.  Puchero isn’t my favorite; however, husbands with plans to use up wrinkled turnips are not to be discouraged,  so off we went on a family excursion to buy the missing key ingredient.  Fat.

Yago and I watched with interest as Rogelio fussed over his purchase.  We followed him home to document the big event.

The Ingredients, professionally styled at Yago’s play dough station.

Basically, we have some garbanzos, grungy veggies and a plate of dead animal products.  Shall we investigate?

The chicken is easy to identify, but these three require some explanation.  We have tocino fresco (new fat) tocino añejo (dry rancid fat) and costilla salada (salted dry ribs, read: fat and salt).

At this point in the process Rogelio was slapping his forehead because he forgot to buy a piece of white bone.

Not sure if this is part of the official recipe, but the fat we bought came with the bonus of hairs.  Attached hairs.  Still growing out of the fat type of hairs.

The Recipe,  throw it all in a pot with water and boil the bejesus out of it.  You don’t even cut the veggies.  Also, you peel some potatoes and chuck them in whole too.  Let the whole works stew for at least three hours.

At which point you have… VOILA, fatty chicken broth with garbanzos!

For presentation and serving, the meat and other lumps are removed from the liquid, as shown in the professionally styled photo below, (taken on Yago’s car table which has the best light in the house).

  • First course:   A scoop of the broth with some little noodles added.

  • Second course:  The soggy potatoes, chicken, garbanzos and salvageable veggie debris.

I made the mistake of mentioning to Rogelio that I didn’t think puchero was the highlight of Spanish cuisine.  He launched into his monologue about over-stimulated North American taste-buds unable to appreciate the subtle flavors of pig fat and potatoes.

We agreed to disagree, but I did snicker when my garbage disposal of a Spanish son pushed it away.  However, Rogelio will have the last laugh tonight when he subjects us to the third course.

  • Third courseRopa vieja (old clothes.)  Fry the left over dry parts and enjoy with a slab of new fat spread on white bread.

Then call your cardiologist.



  1. Strangely enough my neighbour Maria was telling me just yesterday how I needed to learn how to cook puchero and how they had it pretty much every day and how delicious it was. I just nodded and thought I’d look up what it was later. Thanks to your uncannily timed demonstration I have no need to look it up now… Don’t think I’ll be encouraging Maria to bring any round for us to try either. Bleugh!

  2. Oh, we eat that all the time at my house, except up here we call it cocido. We do leave out the fat though and we don’t do the ropa vieja thing. Truth is, I love it, and if it is done well, it’s delicious…all this from a girl who had never even seen a garbanzo before moving to Spain. 😀

  3. I love puchero, and I agree with you on the health bit. It’s liquid heart attack!! Nearly all the older Spanish folk I know and love here are suffering from high blood pressure and cholesterol. I wonder why!!

    1. My whole extended family is borderline type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, over-weight, etc, and none of them change their diet. They all say, “But we eat so well, it is just garbanzos and vegetables!”

  4. Humm May be puchero is not the lightest dish of our gastronomy… but is certainly well appreciated in winter in mountain areas (such as Granada, my hometown).
    Thanks Rea for sharing your view about that day-by-day and not-so-touristic Andalucia, which doesn’t appear in the lonely planet guides, but at the same time interesting and likable.

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