All you need to know about Ranchos, a great Spanish stew…….

Yesterday I was in the Spanish village of Cosuenda, experiencing their local fiestas. The village itself is in the Cariñena wine region, half hidden in a valley about 2000ft up in the Iberico mountain range. What prompted me to put fingers to keyboard was the rancho competition that was underway.

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Cosuenda in Fiestas

In one of the better Spanish dictionaries, the María Moliner, it defines a rancho as a meal for soldiers and prisoners and generally of poor quality.

So why a competition to see who could make the best one? Well the dictionary couldn’t be more wrong because although the rancho ingredients are relatively humble, a rancho has a great taste and it is also a very good meal for when friends are round. A rancho, much as with a bar-b-que, is an informal gathering and allows the guests to chat and share a drink with the cook whilst back seat driving the whole culinary process.

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Hard at it, preparing the fire and the ingredients

So what is a rancho, well basically put a stew of chicken, coney (or rabbit) and sausages with potatoes and rice. There are many variations on these basic ingredients and there are even fish ranchos.

Ranchos are normally cooked in a large pan that has three metal feet so that it can sit above the flames. Some people prefer to use a standard pan and a raised base:

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Pan with legs, or a stand, take your pick!

Either way works just fine. If neither are available then just cook in a normal pan on the stove.

Everyone has their own recipe. Just wandering the square and talking to the the different teams I could see big differences. One team for example added in a little monkfish to enhance the flavour whilst another used swiss chard leaves like a sponge at the last moment to soak up any excess fats.

My own recipe is as follows:


Meat Rancho

Ingredients (4 Good Servings):

1 Large onion

2 Green peppers

4 Garlic cloves

¼ Chicken in pieces

¼ Coney in pieces

125g Pork ribs, in pieces

125g Pork ribs in adobo in pieces

250g Longaniza in pieces

Bay leaf

Rosemary

Thyme

3 Large potatoes

50g Rice

Salt and pepper


Method:

Any variety of meats can be used. Where coney can’t be had just substitute with chicken. Where longaniza can’t be found I would just use some local sausages.

Pork ribs in adobo are ribs that have been marinated to give a spicier flavour. Just put in what you have. As I say every recipe is different and it is more about finding a mixture that you like than a strict set of ingredients.

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Just a bit more salt I think…….

Chop the onion, peppers and garlic. Put into a bowl.

Put the meat together in another bowl.

Fry the vegetables until almost done, then add in the meat and brown nicely. Cover with water. Add in the herbs then leave at a good simmer for 45 minutes.

Peel then break the potatoes into medium sized pieces. Add into the rancho and cook for a further 10 minutes. Spaniards always break the potatoes by partially inserting a knife then pulling rather than cutting the potatoes into pieces. This leaves a rough surface that they believe better releases the starches and therefore thickens the stock.

Add the rice and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper should be added with the individual ingredients, then adjusted at the end. If the “adobo” ribs are salty, then add less salt with the meat.


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The local support.

The previous weekend we had some German friends, “U” and “R” over (hello,  you know who UR). It turned out that R had eliminated meat from his diet, so the rancho I was going to make ended up being a fish rancho.  Fish ranchos are not that common, but I had a recipe up my sleeve from a town called Falces in Navarra.

Navarra and the Basque Country are great places to eat, possibly the best in Spain, so any recipe from there is fine with me. As to why Falces, well my wife and I have been to there a few times as her Uncle is from there. On one of the trips I picked up the recipe.

Before I get into the recipe, a word on fish in Spain. Spaniards in general eat a large amount of fish, but Spain is a large country and many towns are a long way from the sea. Whilst with modern transport this is no longer an issue, that of course wasn’t always  the case. One of the commonest ways of preserving fish for a long road trip was by salting. The commonest fish then, and possibly even now, is salted cod.

The fish is dried using salt and can then be kept almost indefinitely. It is brought back from the dead by soaking in water. The secret is how many long to soak for and how many times to change the water. If unsure it is always best to over soak, as if the final dish is lacking in seasoning one can always add a little more salt. It is always easier to add salt than to take it away! Either way, taste the stock throughout the cooking of the rancho, only adding additional salt if required.


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Just add water and let it stew……

Fish Rancho from Falces

Ingredients (4 Good Servings):

500g Dried cod strips

1 Large Onion

2 Green peppers

8 Garlic cloves

3 Tomatoes

250g Large prawns

White wine

3 Large potatoes

50g Rice

Salt and pepper


Method:

To remove the salt from the cod soak it in water in the fridge for 36 hours changing the water three times.

The bigger the pieces of dried cod, the more expensive and the more time it will need in the water. These is a cheap dish so typically small strips of cod are used.

Fresh cod can also be used, but add in five to ten minutes from the end of the cooking time depending upon the size of the pieces.

Chop the onion, garlic and peppers then fry until almost done.

Peel and chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, prawns and cod into the pan. Fry for a couple of minutes then add a good dash of white wine and water to cover.

Cook for 15 minutes at a good steady simmer.

Peel and break the potatoes, don’t cut. Add potatoes into the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add the rice and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper should be adjusted at the end. Taste the stock and add in additional salt as necessary.


This is my first real post to this blog, so I hope someone is out there reading it! Please let me know what you think, both about the post in general or the recipes themselves. I would love to hear back from you, the only way for me to improve is to understand what I can do better.

Either way, thanks for taking the time to read my musings and hope you stay around to read my future posts.

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2 thoughts on “All you need to know about Ranchos, a great Spanish stew…….

  1. You have made the recipes so interesting,it makes me wanting to try them, the way you telll the story of how you came to start the journey of your life into cookery is so special,. I hope you carry on and I am looking forward to more of your journey.

    Like

  2. Hi, Lincoln, the recipes look great. I prefer absoutely the variation with fish !
    have a good time more ideas about cooking on fire
    cheers Ursula

    Like

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