What really is Cocido Madrileño? This question had baffled me for a considerable amount of time during my first stay in Spain. I am sure that many expats relate to the intrigue of discovering Spanish cuisine. The truth is, Spanish cuisine is varied and can be rather interesting. However, unless you are friends with a local or two and they have mothers and grandmothers who are the holders of Spanish kitchen secrets, the chances of delving into Spanish food are quite slim. Many restaurants there are but, many disappointing experiences there are, too. As you well know, I started MuchBites with the sole aim of helping expats eat better in Madrid. My biggest trouble all those years ago when I moved to Spain was understanding what on earth Cocido Madrileño was and why everyone always asked me about it as a Spanish food conversation starter. When I replied that I didn’t know what it was, the ensuing description of it left me with the conclusion that it was a cocktail of meat with some vegetables thrown in. It wasn’t until some good friends of mine invited me to their house that the secret of this “meat cocktail” was revealed. As it had been homemade from scratch, I fell in love with the hearty yet simple flavours. I frequented their house for my Cocido Madrileño fix every now and again during that winter. To be honest, loyalist that I am, I vowed that I would never order Cocido Madrileño from any restaurant for fear it wouldn’t be the same.
Of course, with the passage of time, my loyalties would be tested. It had been a while since I had had a decent Cocido. Thankfully, in Plaza Santa Ana, I stumbled upon Naturbier and they had Cocido Madrileño on offer. I am usually weary of eating anything in tourist hotspots. But Naturbier had been on my radar for a while due their micro-brewery heritage. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and discover this place. In a few words, what a pleasant surprise. Before we even got round to the pièce de resistance, the manager showed me around the restaurant and explained a bit about the history. Looks indeed can be deceiving. What isn’t easily discernible from the outside is the sheer amount of space inside. The restaurant is set across two floors. On the ground floor, you find tables predominantly set for more formal dining. On the basement, you find an array of tables each with six beer taps. The concept here is serve yourself beer at a healthy price of 7€ per litre. There are waiters who are ready to take your tapas and German sausage orders!
Back to my Cocido Madrileño quest. I was informed that they only serve it once a week, on Wednesdays. As it was Wednesday, I was in luck! On Cocido day, the chef prepares everything early in the morning so that by lunch time, it is ready to serve. Cocido is a slow cooking dish which allows for all the ingredients to release their flavours and mature with the whole dish. At the heart of Cocido are the chickpeas. You also find pork belly, fresh chorizo, old hen, beef shank, jamon Serrano (on the bone) and morcilla (optional). These meats add to the flavour of the whole Cocido Madrileño. Vegetables found in the dish are cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips and green beans. All these ingredients slow cook together for hours on end. When it comes to eating Cocido Madrileño, there is a special technique that has been developed and everyone seems to follow. Firstly, the meat, vegetables and chickpeas are separated from the stock. To the stock, noodles are added. This noodle soup/ stock is served as the first course. This is then followed by the second course of everything else. In my own case, I much prefer it all together – the stock with its noodles and the meat and veg and chickpeas. I find it more enjoyable like this.
Honestly, Naturbier’s Cocido Madrileño proved to be just what I hoped it would be. I washed down my Cocido with some Estrella Galicia Red Vintage 1906 beer. The reasons I have for recommending Naturbier would be, great variety of beers that exclude Mahou!, great Cocido, serve yourself beers on tap and reasonable prices for being in Plaza Santa Ana. As I always go again and again to places to I love, watch this space for more ensuing visits to Naturbier!
What are you waiting for?
Naturbier: Plaza Santa Ana, 9, Madrid Telephone: 913 60 05 97