How to turn wilted herbs and old bread into a Catalan seasoning – recipe | Spanish food and drink

PIcada is a traditional Catalan condiment made from stale bread, garlic, parsley and nuts in a mortar. The crumb-like mixture is then added to stews or sauces towards the end of cooking to thicken them and add flavor. It’s a great way to use up stale bread and wilted herbs, which cook into the sauce and give it a huge boost.

Venison (or lamb) shoulder and mushroom stew with chocolate and orange picada

This rich, filling dish has a deep, vibrant flavor from all the different earthy and powerful ingredients. Serve with creamy polenta or mashed potatoes. You can also make picadas with fresh bread by toasting and drying it first, but it really is an invaluable way to spruce up bits and pieces from stale bread. Picada is traditionally made in a mortar, but it is also finely chopped by hand or pulse-blended; Just aim for a slightly chunky texture.

serves 4

50 grams of butter
400 g boneless venison (or lamb) shoulder
(or ox cheek or pot roast), cut into bite-sized pieces
400 g flat mushroomscut into thick slices about the same size as the meat
1 medium onionpeeled and roughly chopped
1 carrotcut into rounds
3 cloves of garlicpeeled and roughly chopped
300 ml red wine
2 sprigs of rosemary

For the picada
1 old slice of bread
1 clove of garlic
peeled and roughly chopped
5 shelled walnuts
3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
roughly chopped, stalks and all
10 g 70% cocoa chocolatefinely chopped
1 tsp orange zest

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat, then sear the meat until browned all over. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrot, and chopped garlic, cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, then add the wine, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan. Add 150ml water and the rosemary, bring to the boil again, then simmer over low heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven)/325°F/Gas 3. Cover the pan and place in the warm oven for two hours, until the meat is very tender.

While the stew is cooking, prepare the picada. Soak the stale bread in water for a few seconds, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible and tear into small pieces. Crush the chopped garlic in a mortar (add a little salt to crush it), then grind in the walnuts and parsley. Stir in the bread, chocolate, zest and some pepper and set aside.

When the stew is timed, return it to the stovetop, sprinkle the picada evenly over the top, then return to the oven, uncovered, and cook another 15 minutes, until thickened. Serve with puree or soft polenta.

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