Cocido means boiled.
It sounds simple, and it is. Hunks of meat, a bunch of chickpeas, some vegetables, water, time. Everywhere where there are pots and pans and beans and bones there is some sort of cocido.
However, half the point of cocido, or puchero, or potaje, berza, olla, fabada, caldo or escudella, whatever you want to call it, is to make it into an exercise of nostalgia. You make the type they make where you are from. And if you don't have someone back in the old village who kills a pig and can send you a few chorizos, you will at least find a market stall with a charcutería from your region, because the butcher is sure to have someone back home sending him the good stuff.
And then you will make it and eat it and argue with your friends the relative merits of the cocido montañés over the cocido maragato, as the case may be. And you may have to loosen a button or two, and a grand time will be had by all.
I, of course, come from Madrid, which also happens to have the best cocido of them all. Naturally. So I skip the arguing part.
Cocido in Madrid means chickpeas, not beans. It has beef, and ham, and chorizo and morcilla and tocino and chicken. And potatoes and cabbage. And tomato sauce. We serve the broth first, with noodles, which is basically the only difference with most of the others.
As I say, half the point is in the experience. In going to market on a Saturday morning, queuing, maybe even fighting a little, getting some advice, wheedling a couple of extra marrow bones from the butcher, stopping for a caña on the way back. Obviously I can't do that in Aberdeen. Even if there was a market, I wouldn't find all the ingredients I need.
Except that I've discovered that if you take the broad, sweeping view, and attack the thing in a can-do spirit, you can make a wonderful exile's cocido. My version is unorthodox, but it's easier. Also, because it's not really cocido madrileño it can stand in for most of the regional versions. It is as heretic to call this a cocido as it would be to call it a puchero, so go ahead and make it and call it whatever you want.
What I do is boil the meat and chickpeas, sautee the sausages, and serve the cabbage as a salad. Different textures and colours , and it's pretty quick, you'll see.
First off, shopping. Potatoes, chickpeas and cabbage are all easy. The shin of beef, also. Here it's cut like osso buco but that's ok. There is no jamón serrano, but there are beautiful smoked ham hocks. There are no boiling hens, and for my streamlined method I can't use normal chicken, so I do without. Likewise the tocino is off the books. There is enough pork fat anyway. For morcilla I refuse to substitute haggis, because, you know. Enough already.
The chorizo found here is not very good. Instead, I buy the very excellent local pork sausages, and hit them with garlic and pimentón. It is awesome.
Now, for the method. Quantities are for 4/6.
Put 500 gr of chickpeas, unsoaked, in a 6 litre pressure cooker. Add a smoked ham hock, two pieces of osso bucco or a single 1 kg piece of beef shin (or oxtails, or tongue. Whatever you have). A bay leaf, carrot and whole onion and celery stick are nice.
When it comes up to pressure, give it 40 minutes and let it drop naturally.
This takes about an hour altogether.
In the meantime you can shred a head of white cabbage and dress it simply with a bit of raw garlic, cumin, olive oil, vinegar and salt.
All this can be done ahead, first thing in the morning, or even the day before.
When it's almost time to eat, cut up the sausages into chunks the size of a walnut. Sautee them over high heat in your largest frying pan. When they're crusty and golden, add a spoonful of pimentón and a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Swirl it around, and put it on a platter so as not to burn the garlic or the pimentón.
Now, when you open the pot you'll see that you have tender meat and a lovely golden broth. First, fish out the vegetables and throw them away.
Now, take out the meat and put it on a platter in large chunks. The marrow bones are the best bit and you should probably stake them out. Cook's treat.
Strain the broth. You can heat it up in a separate pan and boil some tiny noodles in it. Or simply serve it in mugs or consommé cups. This is, without a doubt, the single most delicious soup you will ever have. Just saying.
When that is over, have the meat, chickpeas and fake chorizo, with the fresh and zingy cabbage slaw.
If you have very hungry people to feed, or more than you expected, or you are counting on having leftovers, you could consider boiling some potatoes while you make the salad.
This is not essential but highly recommended, since it gives you a higher chance at achieving the highest purpose of cocido: having ropa vieja the next day, and arroz del señorito after that (I promise to post about the leftovers).
Illustration is a sketch copied from a photo in Jerusalem.