Pochero with Spicy Eggplant Sauce

This is an updated entry. The Filipino version I grew up with, originally published in 2003, is on page two.

Puchero is a Spanish and South American dish and there are so many versions that it’s sometimes confusing how to distinguish the puchero from other stews. The common factor is that all puchero dishes are stews. What the ingredients are, even what kind of meats go into it, vary from region to region. Some include salted and cured meat like ham and sausages; others don’t. While chick peas (garbanzos) is a feature of the Spanish puchero, this ingredient does not appear in the puchero of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The Filipino pochero which most closely resembles the Spanish variant is often cooked with tomatoes, saba bananas, potatoes, carrots and cabbage wedges.

I don’t know which regional variation this recipe resembles the most but this one does not contain tomatoes nor tomato sauce.

A one-kilogram piece of tender chuck (with bone and marrow), a piece of parma ham, a large piece of ham bone, two chorizos de bilbao and chicken were slow cooked with spices and seasonings; the vegetables were cooked in the broth separately. The meats and vegetables were scooped out of the broth, arranged on a platter and served with the broth on the side. It was delicious.

The meats were oh, so, tender and the broth was rich from the flavors and colors of the parma ham, ham bones and sausages. There’s really something magical and comforting about slow cooked food. You can cook a large pot of puchero (double, tripe or quadruple the ingredients) and serve the meat and vegetables in several platters for a party. It’s no-fuss cooking because you cook your soup, vegetables and meat all at the same time. Perfect for Christmas family gatherings.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg. of stewing beef, preferably in one piece
    about a 150 g. piece of parma ham
    2 chorizos de bilbao
    ham bones
  • 3 chicken drumsticks
    3 chicken thighs
    about 2 tbsps. of olive oil
    salt
    1 tbsp. of whole peppercorns
    2 whole onions
    2 whole bulbs of garlic
    2 bay leaves
    1 head of white cabbage, quartered and cored
    2 large potatoes, peeled cut into wedges
    2 large carrots, peeled and cut into wedges
    1 c. of chick peas (I used canned)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot. Sear the beef on all sides (searing prevents scum from forming). Add the whole chorizos, ham and ham bones. Season with salt (start with just a teaspoonful or so since the ham and chorizos are salty). Add the onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Pour in enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, lower the heat then simmer for two to three hours or until the beef is tender.

    When the beef is almost done, taste the broth. If it needs more salt, add more. Using a ladle, take about two to three cups of the broth and pour into another pan. Turn up the heat, add the chicken pieces to the meat, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is done.

    To the broth in the second pan, add the vegetables. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer until done.

    To serve, scoop out the meat. Arrange on a platter (you may want to cut the sausages and parma ham at before adding to the platter but I suggest that you leave the beef and chicken whole). Arrange the vegetables around the meat or at the center of the platter. Ladle the broth into individual bowls. Serve the meat with the soup on the side.

    On page two, the tomato sauce based pochero that my father and grandparents used to prepare for family gatherings and weekend lunches. The recipe for the spicy eggplant sauce comes after the old pochero recipe.

Quick Notes

*Ham bones are sold as scrap by some ham makers. Majestic Ham, for instance, does this. I usually buy my ham bones from the Majestic Ham outlet at Shopwise Libis.

*If you use dried chick peas, you will have to soak them overnight prior to cooking. The skins will also have to be peeled. The cooking time required is usually several hours so I suggest you add them to the pot from the start of cooking time.

Cooking time (duration): about 3 and 1/2 hours

Number of servings (yield): 6

Meal type: dinner