I was in a supermarket and noticed packets of Gurullos next to the pasta – they looked like little grains of rice. Having never had Gurullos before, I bought some. On arriving home, I discovered that Gurullos are typically used in stews from the Spanish regions of Almería, Jaén, Murcia and the South East. Generally, stews made inland use rabbit and snails, while on the coast they use cuttlefish or octopus. Rabbit and octopus are expensive at the moment, but I knew I’d get a cheap cuttlefish in the market, so my mind was made up.
It’s normal to make Gurullos at home by hand – I’m quite sure that people probably used to make them with leftover dough, when baking. They are made of flour, salt, water and sometimes, a little olive oil or saffron. A dough is mixed as per any other and is rolled by hand into spaghetti like strands. Little rice grain pieces are twisted and pinched from the long strand and then left for at least 24 hours to dry.
Gurullos date back to at least the 13th Century in Andalucia and a recipe for them can be found in Ibn Razin’s Andalucian cookbook (dating back to that time) entitled Guiso de los Fideos. It is said that until a couple of decades ago, drying Gurullos on white tablecloths were a common sight on the roofs of Andalucian houses. You might have noticed that Gurullos are remarkably similar to Italian Orzo and Greek Kritharáki (little barley). I can find no direct written connection, but there are recorded Greek and Roman pasta recipes dating back to the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. All three of these rice shaped pastas are used to bulk out soups and stews and the Mediterranean is a huge melting pot for food and culture. When eating this, it’s not hard to see a connection in the taste and texture, with the more modern fideuà and paella. Having studied a lot of Gurullos recipes, it would appear that the stew can contain many different ingredients, aside from my recipe, this includes leeks, judías blancas (white beans), ñora peppers, artichokes, cloves, guindilla peppers, cumin, chicken and partridge. In most Spanish recipes one does not swap choricero peppers for ñoras, but for Gurullos, it would appear to be acceptable.
Receta de Gurullos con Jibia (serves 4):
800g cuttlefish cleaned (chopped into 2cm pieces)
100g dried chickpeas (200g cooked)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (in their skin)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
2 choricero peppers
2 large tomatoes (grated)
2 large potatoes (chasquiado/snapped)
a large handful of fresh peas and broad beans
2 large squirts of anchovy paste
a handful fresh parsley
a teaspoon pimentón de Murcia (this is unsmoked)
2 bay leaves
a pinch saffron
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil
a little chopped parsley (to garnish)
If you feel like going the whole hog and making your own Grullos by hand, there is a great video here, showing the dough rolling and stew cooking.
To reconstitute dried chickpeas (garbanzos) they must be soaked overnight and cooked the next day for up to an hour depending on size and age. To speed the process up, garbanzos can be soaked in boiling water for an hour and cooked in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes. Chickpeas are available, ready to eat or cook with, in cans and jars. Pulses in jars are cooked at a lower temperature to tins, which means they retain their texture and flavour better (BBC Food Programme on Spanish beans).
I bought a fresh jibia (cuttlefish) at the market and got them to remove the beak and stomach. At home I removed the skin (it pulls off fairly easily), trimmed out the tougher parts around the wings and cut the flesh into 2cm pieces.
Remove the stems and seeds of 2 choricero peppers, then gently poach in olive oil with 4 garlic cloves (skin on). They only need a couple of minutes per side. Remove from the oil and save for later.
Using the same oil fry (sofreír) the chopped onion – add more olive oil (as required) to keep the onion moist and stop it sticking. Stir often!
When the onion is translucent and changing colour, move it to the outside of the pan and add the red and green peppers. Mix them in with the onion after a few minutes.
Clear a space in the middle before adding the chopped cuttlefish. This gets the same treatment as the peppers.
Add the chopped garlic and grate the tomatoes on top (cut in half and grate the wet side – discard the skin).
Cook gently until the squid and vegetables release some liquid. Sprinkle on the pimentón dulce. In Murcia, they produce an unsmoked pimentón (from ñora peppers), so it’s more in keeping with this corner of Spain to use their paprika. Some recipes do not use pimentón at all.
Pour the garbanzos (chickpeas) and their cooking liquid into the pan, along with 2 bay leaves. If using tinned chickpeas, add at least 1 pint of water. Bring the pan to a simmer.
Cut the peeled potatoes roughly (insert a small knife and snap [chascar] pieces of potato off – this allows more starch to escape and thicken the sauce) into the pot.
Throw in a large handful of fresh broad beans and peas.
In the meantime, peel the fried garlic cloves and put them into a blender or jug, along with the choricero pepers, a handful of parsley, plenty of salt and 2 or 3 cups of the liquid from the pan.
It will require quite a lot of salt, but you can do this to taste. I used a stick blender, but a liquidiser or food processor should do a good job. In the old days this would have been done with a mortar and pestle.
Pour the dark liquid into the stew and combine.
Cook for 30 minutes or so, until the potatoes are quite tender. Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste and perhaps a squirt or two of anchovy paste.
Stir in the Grullos and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir often, Grullos are thirsty and like to stick!
Using a mortar and pestle, grind up a generous pinch of saffron. Pour on hot water and mix into the stew. The flavour of saffron can be overwhelmed quite quickly, so it’s best to add it at the end.
Let the Grullos sit for 5 minutes off the heat, check the seasoning, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread. I recommend a glass or two of Faustino Rivero Ulecia Albariño, Rias Baixas, to go with the Jibia.
Thanks, another excellent post – informative & well researched, again. Stefano
Thanks Stefano – I’m glad you liked it!
Really helpful recipe. Just roasting a chicken, and will have leftovers plus stock (rude not to use all the chicken) and have a chorizo ring in the fridge and half a pack of gurullos in the cupboard. Will be using your recipe to make something out of them! Do the gurullos soak up much liquid? Just wondering how thick to reduce the stew before adding the dry gurrulos. Am sure I’ll work it out but thank you for the inspitation.
Thanks Jeff – the gurullos are not as thirsty as Bomba rice, but they will stick to the bottom if you forget to stir. As with Spanish wet rice stews (Arroz Caldoso, Arròs Brut, etc.) the ammount of liquid sauce is a bit arbitrary. You can make it quite wet or quite thick, it’s a matter of personal choice. It’s the sort of thing (like Gumbo) where you can add a bit more stock if you have unexpected guests. I hope that helps.