escudella (Catalan): Catalan stew

Escudella i carn d’olla is the full name of what is officially the national dish. It’s a soupy stew or a stewy soup made with chicken, pork, beef, ham, black pudding, a pelota or fat boiling sausage, cabbage, potatoes, pot herbs, i.e. carrot, onion, leek and celery, plus chickpeas and noodles. The full feast is the traditional Christmas dinner (in Catalonia Christmas dinner is served at lunchtime on the 25th, like in Britain, whereas in the rest of Spain it’s eaten on Christmas eve in the evening and whose main dish is grilled king prawns – the canny Catalans have both!). All the meats are boiled at intervals to generate a clear stock, the cabbage and the pelota going in last. When it’s cooked, the meats, vegetables and chickpeas are removed and kept warm, the noodles are then cooked in the stock and the resulting soup eaten as a first course. The rest is then carved up and served piled high on a plate for a substantial main course. N.B. Escudella sometimes appears on daily ‘menus’, in which case it is a lesser dish altogether and served as a meaty soup with all the ingredients, including the noodles, served together.

By Simon Rice