I set out to make a typical veal/beef stew from Béjar in Salamanca, but the butcher didn’t have any chuck (the specific type of cut required), however, he did have diced pork belly, so I thought I’d make lemonade with that instead! While Calderillo Bejarano is traditionally a beef and potato stew, I have seen a version made with pork ribs in The Spanish Woman’s Kitchen by Pepita Aris (which is a decent recipe book), so using pork isn’t entirely unreasonable. Béjar’s prosperity comes from beef and sheep, but Segovia is also in the same autonomous region (Castile and León) and it’s famous for suckling pig.
Receta de Calderillo Bejarano (serves 4):
500g diced pork belly or veal/beef neck (aguja)
3 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
3 medium potatoes (800g) (diced)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
3 small green peppers (250g) (chopped)
3 cavolo nero leaves (finely chopped) or parsley
a large squirt anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
a pinch ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 pint pork or chicken stock
1 glass dry white wine
a splash or two of sherry vinegar (to taste)
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil (as required)
Calderillo Bejarano is a fairly simple stew to make, there’s not much fiddling about once all the ingredients are in the pot.
Using a terracotta cazuela or cast iron casserole, heat the olive oil and brown the bacon, then remove it to a plate. Next, season the pork or aguja de ternera (veal or beef chuck) with salt, pepper and a little pimentón de la Vera – brown this in the same hot oil and reserve. Again, using the same oil, sofreir (poach) the onion on a low heat until it goes soft and sticky. At this point stir the bacon back in, along with the garlic and chopped green peppers.
Break the peeled potatoes (ideally floury ones) into chunks with a small knife, straight into the stew. This is a Spanish technique which helps the potato pieces release more starch, and thicken the sauce. Give everything a good stir and and sprinkle on the pimentón along with the anchovy paste, thyme, bay leaves and cayenne. Return the pork to the cazuela, pour on the stock, a glass of dry white wine and a couple of splashes of sherry vinegar. In a traditional Calderillo Bejarano one would add parsley now. Since I’m using cavolo nero, which doesn’t need a huge amount of cooking time, I’ll add it later.
Bring the stew to a simmer and taste to check the seasoning. Cover with a lid or foil and cook on low for 1 – 2 hours, until the meat and potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. When ready, sprinkle on 3 finely chopped cavolo nero leaves (discard the thicker part of the stem) and stir it in. Most Calderillo Bejarano recipes contain peas, so if you wish add a cup or two now. Cover and cook for 10 minutes more.
Check the seasoning and serve with a sprinkle of chopped raw cavolo nero and crusty bread with butter. In the north west of Spain (which is cattle and dairy orientated) butter is quite popular, whereas in the areas where olives are grown, people are more likely to drizzle olive oil on their bread.