A little-known secret about Madrid is the climate. Spain has, of course, been famous since the 1960s as a tourist destination for those seeking sun and high temperatures. The good weather in the country, however, is found primarily on the southern and eastern coasts, and not typically during the winter months (keeping in mind, of course, the fact that the Canary Islands enjoy a mild climate all year round). It’s true that if you visit Malaga or Benidorm, that, aside from mass tourism, you will find microclimates where the weather is nice even in the winter. In the interior of the country, though, the winter can be long and cold. In the case of Madrid, locals describe the climate as being nueve meses de invierno y tres meses de infierno, meaning nine months of winter and three months of hell. Perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly is chilly this time of year.
Now that it´s January, winter seems to have finally arrived. Despite a mild November and December, temperatures are now starting to dip several degrees below zero and one can only imagine that they are going to stay that way for a while. So, there is nothing left to be done except bundle up warm and grin and bear it. Well, you can complain about it, but that doesn’t seem to make it better. Madrileños certainly do, though they do seem to be fairly well-adjusted to the cold winter somehow. What’s their secret then? Well, their secret to combatting the cold is eating the right food for the time of year, in particular, Madrid-style stew, or what´s known in Spanish as cocido madrileño.
What is cocido madrileño?
Although the name cocido suggests a ‘stew’ of sorts in English, this dish is slightly different than what one might imagine upon hearing the name. The main components are garbanzos/chick peas, various meats and sausages, vegetables, and broth. The result of this mixture is a somewhat soup or stew-like dish containing all the necessary components for a balanced meal, which is also heavy enough to keep you full and warm for hours. The origins of cocido madrileño are not completely certain, though it is most likely based either on a similar Sephardic dish known in Spanish as adafina or a medieval Spanish dish known as olla podrida castellana. Whatever the origin may be, cocido madrileño began as something eaten by the poor, but worked its way up to the bourgeoisie and eventually to the Court. Nowadays, it is perhaps the emblematic dish associated with Madrid.
How is it served?
Traditionally a staple of Madrid cooking, it is commonplace for families to eat cocido once or even multiple times a week. The left-overs are then used to prepare other dishes, much like what Americans do with food left over from Thanksgiving. In addition to be served by many families in their home, cocido is usually served every Wednesday at traditional restaurants in Madrid. When served as completo The dish is actually split into two or three parts — denominated vuelcos— each containing part of the components that constitute it. The first vuelco consists of just the broth, followed by the second vuelco, which contains the garbanzos/chick peas and vegetables. The third vuelco contains the meat, although sometimes it is included together with the second. The term vuelco is the noun form derived from the verb volcar, meaning to turn over — an obvious reference to the pot in which the meal is prepared. It is thought that this concept comes from the Sephardic tradition of placing all the ingredients in the pot and then merely heating it up and dumping out its contents on the Sabbath.
Appetizing and well-suited for the winter, cocido madrileño is a dish anyone visiting Madrid during the cold months should try. It is served at virtually any traditional restaurant, or if you´re feeling adventurous, you could always prepare cocido madrileño yourself. So, whether you eat out or dine in, be sure to fight the cold the Madrid way with some cocido madrileño.