I’m spending a few days in Valencia this week, and I went to the market this morning, where something really interesting happened: the sellers started sharing their tips and tricks with me in abundance.
It initially felt a bit strange, and I was inclined to brush them off because I don’t normally like unsolicited advice (I already get enough on the internet) but I decided to play along with it, out of curiosity… and at some point I even decided to take notes with my phone, and told the sellers: “I’m not texting, I’m making a note of what you’re saying, because it sounds like a really good idea”.
Of course, that was like adding fuel to the fire, as they then told me MORE things! But they seem like good ideas, so I’m going to share them with you:
On stock, puchero, and Valencian puchero
“Don’t use bones for making stock, as they might be rancid and ruin the whole thing. It’s better to use ham hock (codillo), because they have lots of fat and flavour.”Poultry lady
I have never had an issue with this, but maybe I’m just very lucky! Although just in case, I went and bought some of that mysterious codillo today, to see how it pans (pots?) out.
“Don’t put cabbage on puchero; it overpowers the rest of ingredients.”Poultry lady
I could imagine this happening, with the length of cooking required for this dish.
I’ve seen cabbage leaves used to wrap meatballs (perhaps tied with a string or using a couple of skewers to keep things in place), so the meat doesn’t “dissolve” on the pot when cooked, and then there’s not enough cabbage that its taste becomes noticeable.
“Valencian puchero has lots of vegetables, way more than other variants of puchero cooked in Spain. We add pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, parsnip, celeriac, and also two cloves and some non-smoked paprika”Poultry lady
This was super interesting, as we never put these in the puchero we cook at home, and we’re only 85 km away from Valencia! I should try this some time.
Also, both she and a greengrocer kept mentioning something called “apinabo” which I hadn’t heard of before, and I couldn’t immediately find on the internet… because that’s a colloquial expression, and the correct term is “apio nabo”, which is the Spanish for CELERIAC! And it’s not frequent in the region I grew up in at all; I just started using celeriac very recently myself (such a great vegetable 😍).
On short-term olive storage
“If you don’t have the brine, but want to keep the olives for a bit longer without them fermenting or drying out, rub them well with some olive oil and close the container tightly. This will keep them for longer.”Olives seller
I normally don’t let my olives get to this point, but it’s good to know!
On smoked vs non-smoked paprika
“You can’t use smoked paprika on everything, as it makes any dish taste of just smoked paprika. It of course has it applications, often fish dishes (stews, fideuà, etc).”Paprika seller
I agree with this; I’ve used smoked paprika to flavour dishes that needed “a little bit of ooomph”, such as these courghetti with tomato and onion sauce, and also in vegetarian chowder and fritters. A tiny bit goes a long way!
Apparently, he related me, many people are now absolutely obsessed with the smoked paprika and come asking him for now-trendy Pimentón de la Vera with the intention of adding it to paellas, which totally saddens him. So you see, it’s not only ‘enlightened’ UK chefs creating monstrous attempts at paella! Paella crimes are committed in Spain as well 😱
This seller was very happy when I agreed it’s a bad idea to do such a thing, declared I was One Of His People, and then proceeded to share with me The Ultimate Paprika Trick:
“Take a piece of good bread, pour some olive oil on it, add a sprinkle of this paprika I’m selling you, and then come back and tell me what you think.”Paprika seller
I have not tested this idea yet (he also said it could work very nicely over baked potatoes, which I already knew about), but I can tell you about the paprika I bought.
A clear example of why one should not take decisions based on external appearances. I mean, how could anyone take this packaging seriously?
It uses Comic Sans in italics! And the font is distorted! And the colours??! It looks like a toy!
And yet, when you smell what’s inside… WOW! It’s like pure concentrated red pepper. At that very moment, I literally felt like leaving what I was doing and going back to buy more pots! It’s that good… and it’s just two euros. 2€ 🤪
He told me that this paprika is made using only the ‘flesh’ of the peppers, whereas normal paprika includes also the seeds, the tip, everything goes! And that’s why this one is so deep in flavour.
And then he went incendiary:
“Smoked paprika is an invention from Murcian growers, for when the yield is bad and they need to hide the terrible taste, so they just smoke the hell out of it”Paprika seller
I did not know what to say about this, other than “I had never heard about that!?”, and I also don’t know anyone from Murcia who can confirm or prove this wrong, so I’ll leave this here, with a few big question marks!
And here are the soup and the puchero I made. It’s been great, since it’s “cold” in Valencia these days (you know, it’s less than 15ºC, brrrr! 😌):