In the quest for the most extravagant and spectacularly looking dishes, we often overlook the basics. What a shame!
So here’s one of them: bollit (in Valencian) or hervido (in Spanish). Which literally means… boiled!
This dish is extremely simple, consisting of boiling vegetables in salted water, and then having them with a bit of fat of your choosing. I know—it sounds “unappetising”, and it looks “ugly”, but it can be oh so comforting, especially when the weather is cold or if you’re feeling not so great and all you need is some simple food that doesn’t require extremely sophisticated skills to prepare.
You can adapt this both to your liking and to whatever you have in your kitchen, but these are the typical ingredients:
- Potatoes – one “portion” per person, where “portion” is up to you, and depends on how much potato you like to eat per person. Also bear in mind that potatos will slightly swell when cooked!
- Carrots – approx one half per person
- Onion – approx one half per person
- Green beans – a handful per person
You can skip ingredients you don’t like, double the ones you like, etc.
You’ll need a deep pot with lid, big enough that it can fit all of the ingredients. Or a pressure cooker—I use a 6 litre one.
Peel the onion.
Chop off the ends of the carrots.
Either wash or peel the carrots and potatoes (it’s sometimes nice to leave the skin on). Up to you!
Chop the ends of the green beans if they seem hard or ugly, and wash them.
Put all the ingredients together in the pot or cooker.
I’m now going to split the cooking part depending on whether you’re using the pot or the pressure cooker; if only one column is filled, then you do the same for both methods:
|Add enough water to cover the ingredients plus “a bit more” (some water might evaporate while cooking).||Add about 3 cm of water (it doesn’t need to cover the ingredients).|
|Add a tablespoon of salt.|
|Put the lid on.||Put the lid on. If your pressure cooker has a setting for vegetables or meat, set it to “meat” so it cooks faster.|
|Turn heat on and bring to the boil.||Turn heat on and bring the pressure cooker to pressure i.e. when the valve has released the air and it’s “up”, but not so much that it starts releasing steam.|
|Reduce heat to simmer.||Reduce heat to simmer (or until it stops releasing steam).|
|Cook for 1h-1h.30. Check occasionally until the potatoes are tender and soft—they are the hardest to cook.||Cook for 15-20 minutes, then turn the heat off and wait until the cooker cools down and the lock is released (so you can open the lid). Depending on how cold your kitchen is, and how full your cooker is, this can take 5-10 minutes.|
This also allows you to use the residual heat to finish cooking, but if you are in a rush you could add an extra 5 minutes to the cooking and then put the cooker under running water to quickly cool it down so you can open it earlier.
Now, serve in soup dishes. Place the vegetables first, add a few spoonfuls of liquid from the pot, and add some fat to taste: the classics are either olive oil or butter (I haven’t been so adventurous as to use coconut oil, I’m afraid).
You can either eat the vegetables as they are, or mash them together using a fork.
Tips and trivia
This is such a homely dish that I haven’t really seen it in restaurants, but like chicken soup and paella, every family has their own special recipe and preparation methods. Do you add the salt before or after? Add a dash of oil or not? Vinegar? It’s all up to each household to decide and come up with their own tradition!
We have developed a German-Spanish fusion version where we combine this with German sausages and a portion of our (often, home made) sauerkraut. Considering the amount of starch in this and the probiotics in sauerkraut, and if it’s true that guts love both, it’s essentially a feast for your gut’s flora ecosystem 😜
And maybe we’re onto something—old people used to have a serving of bollit in your dinner as a starter, and then a portion of meat or fish, every night. The bollit would act as a gentle laxative and encourage bowel movement, or as my grandfather used to proudly declare: “Me hace ir de vientre”, which maybe could be translated literally as it makes me go the gut’s way, but it sounds funny and awkward even in Spanish!