Pollo en Pepitoria, according to the Internet, is a typical Spanish way of cooking meat, generally chicken, where the cooking liquids are enriched and thickened by almonds and either egg yolks or bread. Although it is a traditional and therefore long-standing dish, it is not actually that common in Spanish bars or restaurants. It is however quite delicious so I decided to give it a try. It is also typical of a town not that far from here called Tarazona. We ended up stopping in the town on the way back from a very recent trip to Olite. I therefore thought it was a good excuse to publish this recipe……
The first time I went to Tarazona was around twenty years ago. We had an English friend staying with us and we were looking for somewhere different to take him. We had heard a lot about the famous fiestas in Tarazona so we set off, together with my then young son, to partake first hand of their most unusual tradition. Basically, on the first day of the fiestas, nigh on 20,000 tomatoes are thrown by thousands of people at one guy in an elaborately coloured suit! This colourful human bullseye is called the “Cipotegato”.
There are many explanations on the Internet of just how this custom started, but local published historical works would suggest that the Cipotegato has been around for several hundred years and has at times been revered and at others reviled! For much of its history the character’s role in the fiestas was to run around shooing children away from any activities that might be dangerous or inappropriate for them.
Much more recently, in the last century, the children started to defy the Cipotegato. As they became more defiant and adventurous they started to throw tomatoes at him. As such the shooing became an onerous task and for many years few volunteers were found! With the inauguration in 1984 of the current format for the fiestas, the role of Cipotegato was turned into an essential and prestigious part of the fiestas and is now a coveted position. A lottery is now held each year to decide the who will have the “pleasurable” experience of being hit with 20,000 tomatoes……
The Cipotegato has to make a kamikaze run of just over 1Km through the streets of Tarazona, protected by his friends, whilst subject to a veritable storm of tomatoes that rain down from all sides. The run concludes in the Plaza España where, from on high, he removes the mask, that had until then hidden his identity.
I must admit it is an unbelievable sight, at its height the sky is almost obscured by flying tomatoes. Not really knowing what to expect we had not gone dressed for a tomato fight! We read up a little of course before we went, but basically you have to see it to believe it. We were dressed smartly, in light colours, and therefore we decided to stick to the outer edges of the mêlée! Unfortunately a girl singled out my son. She came over, stated that his T-shirt was too clean, and promptly rubbed a ripe tomato all over the front! He was most disgruntled, so much so that I am surprised that tomatoes are now one of his favourite foods.
Fiestas apart Tarazona has much to recommend it to visitors. There is the cathedral that is now open after many years of restoration and the bull ring that is fairly unique in also being used residentially!
Specific buildings aside, there are in fact many streets, not only in the old part of town, that are worth a visit.
And so, as always, back to the recipe. Simple ingredients cooked in a simple way, yet as with so many Spanish traditional dishes quite delicious! A dish therefore that has stood the test of time, try it and discover why…….
Pollo en Pepitoria
1 Small Onion
1 Small Green pepper
1 Small Carrot
1 Garlic clove
400g Chicken pieces
1 Bay leaf
1 Small pinch Saffron
200ml White wine
2 Slices bread (French stick)
If the almonds are not peeled, boil in water for a couple of minutes. Leave to cool and then the skins should just rub off.
Finely chop the vegetables.
Heat some olive oil in a pressure cooker till quite hot. Quickly brown the chicken then remove from the pan.
Lower the temperature of the pan.
Fry the vegetables in the same pan until just soft.
Add into the pan the bay leaf, saffron, white wine and a good grind or two of black pepper. Heat through a couple of minutes then add in the reserved chicken.
Close the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Leave the pan to cool before opening.
Meanwhile brown the almonds in a little olive oil in a frying pan.
Add in a little more oil, it should nicely cover the bottom of the pan.
Fry a couple of slices of bread on a medium-high heat until golden.
Leave the bread to cool a little on a piece of kitchen paper. This will also absorb any excess oil.
Break up the bread and almonds in a mortar until relatively fine.
Remove the chicken from the pan and heat up the stock. Now is a good time to test the seasoning of the stock. Adjust as necessary.
Add in the almond and bread mixture, little by little, allowing it to be absorbed into the stock before adding more. This will thicken up the stock. Continue adding the mixture until it is at the right consistency for you.
Add the chicken back into the pan to heat through.
Serve with small cubed fried potatoes.
So a local, quick and tasty chicken stew that is just that bit different to what one normally finds at home or in restaurants….… and if you want to see 20,000 tomatoes airborne at the same time, you now know where to go!
As always please feel free to post comments and let me know what you think.
Here is another traditional Spanish chicken dish for you to try:
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
1 inch – 25mm
Common Flour Types:
Gluten: 8% to 10%
Type: ES 70W
All-Purpose Flour / Plain Flour
Gluten: 8% to 11%
Type: DE 550 / FR 55 / IT 0 / ES 200W
Bread Flour / Strong Flour / Hard Flour
Gluten: 12% to 14% protein (gluten)
Type: DE 812 / FR 80 / IT 1 / ES 400W
2017 Lincoln W. Betteridge