The Aranese Olla (pot) is a hearty stew or soup from the Aran Valley the mountain region located at the western end of the Catalan Pyrenees. The valley lies to the north of Pyrenean watershed yet is is in Spain, not France. It has its own language, Aranese, which is a form of Gascon, not Catalan. Although it is a Catalan region, its culture belongs to the Gascony, Occitania, as well as much of its gastronomy. I had the great fortune to cook la Olla in the valley in July, though I admit this extraordinary, warming dish is more suited to the harsh mountain winter. This version, given to me by the locals, does not contain chickpeas or pasta, both of which are common ingredients.
Ingredients for 4 people
a pig’s ear
300 g beef from the ribs
200g cured ham bones
a raw pork sausage
a Catalan black sausage (botifarra negra)
a Catalan white sausage (botifarra blanca)
a chicken leg
200 g tocino (salted pork fat)
50 g rancid pork fat (sold especially for this type of dish)
a large onion, peeled and cut in two
a head of garlic
a small cabbage, quartered
2 or 3 potatoes, large dice
300 g cooked white beans
(for the meat balls)
200 g minced beef
200 g minced pork
100 g breadcrumbs
a clove of garlic
a tablespoon of chopped parsley
The meats, bones and tocino are covered with water. The onion and carrots go in too, and all this is gently simmered for about an hour and a half, and any fat that appears on the surface removed. Now the cabbage and sausages go in and are cooked for another half an hour. Then the potatoes are added and cooked until they’re soft.
Meanwhile prepare the meatballs by mixing up the minced meats, egg, breadcrumbs, a little chopped garlic. Chopped parsley is often added to the mix. Form the meat balls, dredge them in flour (I didn’t have any) and fry in oil until nicely browned.
Add them to the pot along with the cooked beans. Cook for a further ten minutes.
To serve, preferably the next day, discard the onion and the bones and slice up the sausages and the other pieces of meat. Return them to the pot and ladle into bowls.