A warming, nourishing, golden stew, this is another family recipe from Pilar Sapena of the Gutiérrez de Ia Vega wine estate in Javea. Pilar’s oenologist daughter, Violeta, has spent time with us in London, bringing over the estate wines, and when I asked her which were the family recipes she most treasured from her childhood, she chose this, along with gazpachos manchegos. For the meatballs Pilar uses a mixture of beef and pork, as, she says, the addition of pork makes them more juicy.
The dish is delicious with braised greens.
- First make the meatballs. In a bowl, soak the bread in enough milk to cover, for at least 10 minutes. Squeeze out the milk and discard it.
- Have the flour ready on a deep plate. Add the minced meats to the squeezed-out bread, along with the egg, garlic, parsley, pine nuts, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well. Form into around 20 balls just smaller than a golf ball (around 40g each) and coat these well in the flour.
- Heat some oil in a frying pan and put in the almonds for the picada. Move around until they are golden, then lift out and keep to one side. Put in the meatballs (in batches if necessary) and fry until golden on all sides. Drain on kitchen paper and keep to one side.
- To make the picada, pound the garlic, parsley, almonds and 2 tablespoons of the hot stock into a paste using a pestle and mortar. Keep to one side. If using the ñora pepper, scrape out the flesh and work into the paste along with a little of the soaking water and the saffron.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, deep, wide pan or casserole. Season the chicken pieces, add them to the pan, and sauté for about 10 minutes over a medium heat until browned all over. Lift out and keep to one side.
- Put the grated tomato and cubed potatoes into the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until the potato takes on some colour. Put back the reserved chicken, then pour in enough stock to cover (if necessary, top up with water) and bring to the boil. Turn down to a medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the meatballs and stir in the picada. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the golden-coloured stock has reduced and thickened a little and the chicken is cooked through. Take out a piece and pierce it to check that the juices run clear.
- Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.