Thursday, December 11, 2008

Valencian Gypsy Soup (Olla Gitana)

Olla Gitana (pronounced "oyya hitana") is practically a meal in a bowl! It is a lovely Spanish style soup redolent with saffron, perhaps the most expensive of all spices. The use of winter squash such as small sweet pumpkins, butter nut or kabocha squash produces a full flavored and filling soup. You can also use sweet potatoes or American yams instead of the winter squash. Citrus scented cilantro adds a warm sunny flavor to this soup but parsley is lovely as well. Serve it with the Beetroot Salad and corn muffins or a crusty bread with your favorite cheeses for a winter celebration.

6-8 Servings

1 cup dried chick peas (garbanzo beans), soak for 8 hours or overnight
¼ cup barley (Optional)
Picada: 1 Slice country style bread (like Italian), 12 raw almonds, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp apple-cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground dry red chilies (Cayenne)
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 pinch of saffron threads
½ lb green beans cut in bite size pieces
11/2 cups winter squash, peeled and diced coarsely
Salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, chopped


Put soaked and drained chick peas, barley, and a little salt in a large pot and add 2 quarts of water.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer partially covered until tender. Set aside.

Prepare the picada: toast the bread; dry roast the almonds.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the garlic cloves until slightly golden; remove and add to the picada ingredients. Save the rest of the oil in the pot to proceed with making the soup.

Pulverize the bread, almonds, and the sauteed garlic clove using a blender or mortar and pestle into a fine paste with the vinegar and some broth from the soup.

In the rest of the oil in the pot, add onions with a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat stirring until onions are translucent.

Stir in paprika and ground red chili; stir and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

Sir in saffron, chick peas with their cooking liquid, salt to taste and the picada; bring to a boil.

Add green beans, squash, boiling water to thin the soup to your desired consistency and simmer for 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Turn off heat, stir in chopped cilantro or parsley and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with corn muffins.

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