The Three Little Piggies — From Swine to Sausage

For a year over 2011 and 2012 Mark Zuckerberg only ate meat from animals that he had personally killed in an attempt to remind himself what it means to eat meat. In the modern western world most people are completely disconnected from the food they eat. It’s so easy to get food that is ready made, or vegetables that have been picked, washed, peeled, chopped, and wrapped in plastic. If you’re a city dweller without connections, it’s very difficult to get your meat the old fashioned way. Meat bought from the supermarket or butcher is ready to go straight into the pan. If it wasn’t for the label, most people wouldn’t even know what they were eating. Actually, even with the label most people have no idea.

La matanza del cerdo – the killing of the pig – is an old tradition in Spain. But unfortunately, it’s not as common as it once was. In days gone by, it was common for small villages to get together once a year, kill a few pigs, and divide up the meat between the villagers. For one of my friends, this is still a family tradition in the mountainous country of northern Catalonia where her family lives. Earlier this year, Rob and I were lucky enough to be invited.

29/02/2014, 12:00am – Vic, Cataloña

The house

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Fideos a la cazuela con costilla de cerdo y salchichas

Fideos a la cazuela con costilla de cerdo y salchichas

Fideos a la cazuela con costilla de cerdo y salchichas

Since I’ve been so enthusigasmic about my new cazuela de barro, I’ve been on the lookout for new recipes to try. When I was in San Sebastián I bought myself Las Mejores Recetas De Mi Madre by Joan Roca. Or, The Best Recipes Of My Mother as the English title would be if there was one. Joan Roca is the head chef at the three Michelin star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia. He is quite famous in Spain and has a new book out called Cocina con Joan Roca.

The title of the recipe loosely translates to Casserole style spaghetti noodles with pork ribs and mini pork sausages. In Spain it’s quite common to cook with individual ribs chopped into 1-2″ chunks. The butcher prepares them this way when you buy them. If I wasn’t able to get ribs prepared like this, I probably would’ve substituted pork belly. Salchichas are small sausages about the size of a large man’s finger. You can substitute any good quality pork sausage, but if you buy large sausages, chop them into chunks and adjust cooking times accordingly. Fideos are basically 1″ segments of spaghetti. Substitute any small form of pasta if you can’t find them. This recipe also calls for vino rancio which I’ve referred to as “old wine”. It is a special type of wine from Catalonia which has been left out to age in the sun. I have no idea what it tastes like but I’m guessing it’s acidic so I substituted the juice of half a lemon. Don’t forget, when cooking from a cazuela, always bring it up to temperature slowly. The recipe says to keep simmering for about 10 minutes once the ribs have been reintroduced to soften them. I did this, but they were still quite tough. Next time I cook this, I will extend this cooking time to try and soften the meat more.

Here’s the recipe to serve 1 person:

In a cazuela de barro with extra virgin olive oil: brown 1 pork rib cut into 1-2″ chunks, remove. Brown 3 small sausages, remove. Add more olive oil if necessary, fry 1 diced onion ~ soft & golden, add one grated tomato (halve the tomato, grate the flesh and seeds, discard the skin), and cook over low heat ≈ 5-10mins. Add a dash of old wine, continue cooking until it has reduced to the consistency of jam. Return the ribs to the cazuela, add ≈ 1/2 a cup of stock, continue cooking ≈ 10mins to soften the rib meat. Return the sausages, add pasta to fill in the gaps between the chunks of meat. Cook ~ pasta is almost done (you may need to add more stock if it’s looking dry). Off heat, stir through 1 small clove of garlic and 2 or 3 sprigs of parsley (both finely chopped), then leave to rest a few minutes. Serve in the cazuela, along with a nice salad.


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Cazuela de Barro

Cazuela y cazuelita de barro

I’ve recently been introduced to a fantastic little piece of equipment that no one but the Spanish seem to know about. This is probably common all over the world for all I know, but I’d never seen it until a few months ago when I walked into my favorite mexitesence in Edinburgh.

A cazuela de barro is an earthenware pot that is glazed on the inside. I’m not sure where it originally came from, could’ve been France, but the Spanish seem to have taken full advantage of its beauty. The best thing about the cazuela de barro is that you can do anything to it. It can go on gas or electric stove tops, in the microwave or convection oven, dishwasher, fridge, and freezer. The only requirement is that it doesn’t change temperature too quickly – always start on a low heat and allow it to cool before fridge/freezing.

They come in all sizes too. Large ones can be used like a casserole dish to serve the whole family. Then there’s the normal size which will hold a main meal for one person, and then the smaller Cazuelita de Barro that’s perfect for serving tapas.

Although it’s amazing to cook and serve a family meal in a cazuela, it is most valuable for a single person or couple as it minimises washing up. You can literally serve a perfectly good meal and have nothing left to wash except the Cazuela de Barro and a fork. Naturally I bought myself one of these the first day I settled into my new flat in Spain.

Since this is my new favorite thing in the world, I’ll be cooking out of it constantly for at least the next couple of days until I get distracted by something else. So keep a look out for recipes to come. If you don’t have a cazuela de barro but still want to follow the recipes, just use a frying pan and transfer to a casserole dish if it needs to go into the oven. Click on Cazuela de Barro under the Food menu at the top of the page to see related blog posts.