Marty and I find ourselves most fortunate as we have met some wonderful people in Valencia who share their homes and family with us. Saturday was just such a day. Pepe had invited us to spend the afternoon in the home of his mother in Pedreguer. Pedreguer is a small town about an hour south of Valencia. We had a very pleasant drive through the countryside as we made our way with Sara at the wheel. When we arrived, Paquita, Pepe’s mom, was busy putting the final touches on the puchero. (More about that later). Pepe’s sister, brother, son Jaime, and nieces soon arrived. The teenage cousins teasing each other brought back memories of many occasions shared in my own mom’s home as my 3 brothers, cousins and I were growing up. We sat around visiting for a while sharing a glass of champagne in honor of Pepe’s birthday. Conversation around the table was loud and animated, and to make matters even more confusing, in both castellano and valenciano. We ate far too much puchero but it was impossible to resist. We finished our meal with ice cream birthday cake with candle, turrón and chocolates. And in the style of Thanksgiving Day, we retired to the sofas with many of us taking a little nap.
So what is puchero. It is a dish very traditional to Valencia and particularly popular in the winter as it is very hearty. Paquita’s puchero is absolutely fabulous and you can taste the care and pride that goes into the preparation. It is a slow simmered dish that contained the following: ham, veal, lamb, chicken, large chunks of bacon, very large meatballs studded with pine nuts and wrapped in cabbage leaves, chickpeas, pencas (thistle looking like large celery but not of the celery family), cabbage, potato and boniato (a type of light sweet potato). When all is cooked, the broth is then separated and rice is added to make the first course. Paquita added lemon zest to each bowl to give it just a little something extra. Lemons were also placed on the table for those who wanted more. Once we had devoured the soup, the meat and vegetables were placed on the table. I was so busy eating I forgot to take a picture until Marty reminded me. But by then we had pretty much taken care of the meat platter. The boniato was saved for last to be eaten with red wine. It was wonderful.
Early evening we headed back to Valencia. It was a lovely night and a full moon crowned the lights of small towns we passed along the way.