Olla gitana - (Gypsy pot) from Murcia

Recipe by Neil Morris - 01 July 2012

olla gitana

Region: Murcia

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 mins

Oven temp: cook on the hob

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 4

nonveg

The name of this wonderful Olla gitana (Gypsy pot) from Murcia hints at the fact that it was borne out of poverty and necessity and this is almost certainly the case; as with many traditional stews, this dish is a showcase of what can be achieved by combining whatever ingredients are available with a bit of imagination. This humble and homely stew has a luxurious and opulent taste that defies its apparent simplicity.

This is a dish that I eat on a regular basis, not only because it tastes incredible but because it is easy to make and is one of the healthiest stews on the planet! It contains lots of vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts, herbs and spices and it is a perfect example of how to combine Spanish flavours.

The addition of pears is essential to the balance of flavours and they add a certain sweetness that works well with the Saffron and the mint.

If you can execute this simple dish correctly you will gain a good understanding of the flavour combinations that are the heart and soul of Spanish country cooking; you will also be able to amaze your friends and family with a dish that can be a real talking-point.

Despite being a vegetarian dish, I have seen Olla gitana served with Pork in some restaurants and you may be tempted to try it that way; however, in my opinion, this is one dish that is perfect served as it is.

Shopping list

  • olive oil (aceite de oliva)
  • can of chickpeas (garbanzos)
  • 2 garlic cloves (dientes de ajo)
  • 1 onion (cebolla)
  • 1 pointed red pepper (pimiento rojo)
  • 1 tomato (tomate)
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika (pimienton dulce)
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika (pimienton picante)
  • 1 large potato (potata)
  • 1 bay leaf (hoja de laurel)
  • 3/4 litre of good vegetable stock (caldo de veduras)
  • 1/2 butternut squash/pumpkin (calabaza)
  • 100g fine green beans (judias verdes)
  • 2 pears (peras)
  • 6 toasted almonds (almendres tostados)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (vinagre de vino tinto)
  • pinch of saffron (azafrán)
  • salt (sal)
  • freshly ground black pepper (pimienta recién molida negro)
  • mint leaves to garnish (menta o hierbabuena)

Method

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and fry the garlic until just starting to colour; remove the garlic and put aside but keep the oil in the pan.

Dice the onion and pepper, add to the pan and then fry gently until soft; in the meantime, grate a tomato with a cheese grater - it should pass through the grater leaving the skin to protect you fingers! Add this to the pan and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Now chop your potato into chunks of about 5 cm and add to the pan with the paprika, stock, chick peas and bay leaf and simmer for about 6-8 mins; meanwhile, chop the squash/pumpkin into similar size chunks as the potato, peel core and quarter the pears lengthways and chop the beans. Add them all to the pan along with the saffron and continue to simmer gently checking on you veg every now and then; it should all be just tender.

While the stew is simmering, crush the garlic with the almonds and a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the vinegar and continue pounding until you have a smooth paste.

Stir the paste into the stew being careful not to break up the vegetables and pears and then season to taste. Serve in cazuelas dishes and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

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