Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Gachasmigas on the ceiling

One of my theories about Spanish food is that lots of the famous stuff is peasant food, made with cheap, locally available ingredients. The reason that it didn't disappear, before that sort of food became fashionable again, is that the Spaniards got richer late. So, whilst in the UK, we started to have more time than money and developed a taste for frozen lasagne, fish fingers and microwaveable chips the Spaniards stuck with piling pulses into stocks and eating rice with rabbit or seafood.

One of these traditional dishes is called migas, literally crumbs. Over in Extremadura, which is where I first encountered it, it's old bits of bread fried in olive oil with garlic and the old scrag ends of leftover meat and sometimes vegetables. In fact there are varieties of migas all over the place with lots of different ingredients but, basically, it's a way to make something out of old, stale bread.

That said there is a local food here, in Pinoso, called gachamiga which is quite different - it's made with water, oil, salt and garlic - and comes out as a sort of thick pancake. I have asked Spaniards about this but I'm still not clear. Over in Murcia they have something called gachasmigas, the name difference seems to indicate that the main ingredient is flour rather bread, but those Murcian gachamigas still have meaty bits in them. Just to make matters worse there is another Pinoso variety called gachamiga rulera which seem to be another doughy and oniony variety whereas in Castilla la Mancha the ruleras are migas ruleras and they seem to include meat. So, now that I've cleared that up for you to the point of the story.

In all the village fiestas around here there is a gachamigas cooking competition. In fact tasting some that Enrique had cooked in the Culebrón edition - that's him in the photo and those are the gachasmigas in the pan - was the first time that I had eaten the thick pancake variety. I ate my second lot in a restaurant just a couple of weeks ago. So, with the fiestas coming soonish and with a bit of impetus from the restaurant I decided to have a go at cooking some. Who knows, maybe I'd be up for the competition?

A few years ago, at the Villazgo festival, I bought a cookbook from the Associación de Amas de Casa de Pinoso - literally the Pinoso Housewives Association. Page 38 for the gachasmigas recipe. Fry some garlic in half a glassful of olive oil, dump the golden brown garlic, add in some salt and a glassful of flour to the garlic flavoured oil, mix in three glassfuls of water, stir it a lot to make a paste and then cook till it's solid enough to flip over. Cook the other side too and eat.

It didn't quite work. I think maybe it needed longer to cook as it was all a bit doughy. The flipping certainly didn't quite go to plan. I ate some but then whizzed it. Maggie, who had wisely stayed away from this experiment, was given a portion as she worked at the computer. She joined me in the kitchen to throw away about half of her serving.

Maybe I'll just go and spectate at the competition this time to get the idea and leave my entry till 2017.

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