Looking for a Sharing Meal for Family or Friends? Read On!
My husband and I lived part-time of the year in a small village about 40 minutes south of Valencia, about 10 minutes drive to Xativa, and about 20-25 minutes to the beaches of Gandia and Cullera, Costa Blanca, Spain. We can’t wait to return. Valencia, for myself, is an area that is not as popular as the major cities of Barcelona and Madrid. But I think it offers so much in its history, food, festivals and beaches.
The people in our village that we resided in are working class, with most men working on their own or on more extensive orange fields (campo) that surround this area for as far as the eye can see. If it’s not oranges they grow and pick, then it is persimmons (caquis), flat peaches (melocotones), some do paella rice (arroz), others do crops of onions (cebolla), garlic (ajo), spring onions. But mostly, it is Oranges (naranja). Our village has a charm about it, and the people in the village are the ones that bring about that charm with their big hearts and great sense of humour.
The food that we eat with friends, through their generosity, is fantastic, wholesome food. All the meals are robust, full of texture and flavour. And that’s what it’s all about, flavour. The recipes I am writing about, and have cooked, have been passed down from mother to daughter, mother to daughter. There is little to no change in what they do to their recipes. So if a stock cube is called for in a recipe, it would be so that it cuts down the preparation time in their busy lives.
So just to make it clear, this recipe is not the soup of Gazpacho. Gazpacho Manchego is tiny squares of dried flat pieces of bread, cooked in a broth with meats, like chicken and rabbit, which is delicious! And if you are a bit squeamish on the rabbit, I ask that you try if you have never tasted it. It has a similar taste to chicken, and that is why it goes well with the dish. Unfortunately, the rabbit is not as famous as it once was here in Australia. But there are some butchers throughout that sell them or order them for you and cost very little. However, if you just don’t care for the rabbit, then add another kilo of the chicken pieces.
Bread is a staple in Spain. So it is served with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am lucky we live just near a local market (supermercado), and our windows overlook the Plaza and street. So we see many walking early to get first dibs on fresh baguettes. And since many women in Spain hate to waste food, they will use their old bread for dishes. In this recipe, you can use day old bread or the tortas can be purchased online or at specialty delis.
When this is cooked, it is presented to the table in the pan and we give a round of applause to the cook and for such a great meal. Mostly we grab a spoon or fork and eat from the pan, saves on washing up, but can be dished out. It’s fun and makes meal times so more personal.
This recipe is in a 42cm (16.5 inches) paella dish on a gas ring cooker. Medium to high heat. For those who don’t have a paella pan, you can use a large frypan or one of the cast iron, dual handle pan on the stovetop, be it electric or gas on a medium to high heat. Adjust your chicken and rabbit if smaller pan, or save some of the meat for another dish. Serves 6.
1kg chicken pieces or thigh meat
1 kg rabbit chopped into quarters
4 garlic cloves whole
2 bay leaves,
a few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp of dried herb
1 large skinned tomato – grated or chopped finely
1 onion chopped – grated
Splash of olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 chicken cubes
Gazpacho Manchego Tortas (1 packet = 2 people) or 2-3 large day old baguettes ripped into bite size pieces
Place into a large pot the rabbit and chicken. Pop in the bay leaves, garlic cloves, thyme, sprinkle of salt, and cover with water. Add the chicken stock and over low heat stew until the meat is cooked and coming off the bones, continuously checking that the water level doesn’t get too low.
When the meat has cooled, shred it off the bones. Reserve the broth in the pot to add later, but strain for tiny bones and the herbs.
On a hot paella pan, add a good splash of olive oil and sauté onion and tomato. Add the tortas or the chunks of stale bread and spread them about the pan. Add your shredded chicken and rabbit, a sprinkling of smoky paprika and stir. Careful not to burn or tear during this time.
Bit by bit, pour the reserved broth into the paella pan, letting the tortas soak up the broth. Do Not Stir the Dish. You do not want the tortas or bread wet, sloppy or falling apart. And if there is not enough broth, add a little water and another chicken stock cube.
Cook until tortas or bread are soft, yet hold their form and broth has soaked up, but nothing is dry or stuck to the pan.
Serve with; you got it, Crusty Bread and a glass or two of excellent Rioja.