Legendary Dishes | Olla Podrida / Olla Poderida / Olla de os Poderosos (rotten pot / powerful pot / pot of the powerful)


Francisco Martínez Montiño was adamant. In his cookbook he wrote ‘know that the rotten thing is not corruption of the pot, but of the language’.

Sebastián de Covarrubias said ‘rotten’ meant the slow cooking of ingredients such as beef, chicken, capon, sausage, pork, garlic, onions … ‘As it cooks very slowly what is inside (the pot) falls apart, and for this reason it can be said to be rotten, like the fruit that ripens too much.’

Montiño agreed about the ingredients – meats of all kinds, common fare and fabulously fowl, and all kinds of leaf and root vegetables. What was clear, this stew was not a pot of the poor whose stews did not tend to incorporate so many varied ingredients. Yet somehow Montiño’s powerful pot became popularly known as the rotten pot, to the extent that French royalty requested the recipe for ‘that crude Spanish stew’ and gave it a new name – potpourri, in English hodgepodge.

Four centuries have passed since Montiño failed to make his argument about Spanish pot stew. Had he looked closer at his own country’s culinary influences he would have realised that the dish was thousands of years old and had been known to the natives of the Iberian peninsula during the periods of the Celts, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors, the latter using pieces of mutton instead of pork preparations.

The modern version takes into consideration the cooking times of the primary ingredients and the part they play in this culinary opera, and separates the preparation of the stock that gives the pot its pungent flavour.

Cow or lamb or sheep can replace the articles of the pig, and sausages made with pork can be replaced with sausages made with beef. Blood sausages can also be replaced.

In some versions white beans are preferred to chickpeas, which are an indication of the pot’s origins in the ancient lands of Anatolia, Iraq, Iran and the Levant.

For a pre-1600s version omit the chorizo, paprika, red pepper and tomato, replace the chorizo with beef sausage and the tomatoes with a little more stock. This is also the reason why potato does not feature in this stew.

  • 1 litre stock from pig ears, head, feet
  • 600 g onions, sliced
  • 2 chicken legs, thighs
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 3 blood sausages / 3 sausages, cut into thick pieces
  • 300 g bacon, sliced
  • 300 g chickpeas (dried), reconstituted overnight in 1 litre of water, cooked
  • 300 g chorizo, sliced into rounds
  • 300 g tomatoes, chopped
  • 200 g carrots, diced small
  • 200 g cabbage / kale, chopped
  • 200 g red pepper, diced small
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 2 pigeon breasts, sliced thick
  • 1 garlic bulb, peeled, chopped
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp salt

Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat, add onions. Cook on a high heat covered for 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover, fry for 30 minutes until they have taken on some colour.

Add the garlic and the bacon, fry for a few minutes.

Add the chorizo, fry and stir.

Add the sausages, fry and stir.

Pour the stock into a pot, add the chicken, bring to a low boil. Add the contents to the onion pot.

Add the tomatoes and seasonings (including half of the paprika powders) to the onion pot.

Cook on low heat for 60 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, stir into mixture.

Add the carrots, the kale and the red pepper, cook for 30 minutes.

Add the pigeon breast pieces and remaining paprika.