Cocido de Navidad

While every one else I know was waiting for a bird bird to grace the Christmas table, I was preparing a very Spanish Xmas dish: Cocido de Navidad; or Putxero, if you speak Valencian/ Catalan. Cocido (Madrileño) is a complex stew of a variety of meats and chickpeas, popular on Sundays and feast days, started out as a Sephardic dish which has since evolved to include pork.

To make my Cocido de Navidad a little more Christmasy, I followed my neighbour’s recipe and wrapped the meatballs in cabbage leaves.

Served 5, plus leftovers for a week!


1kg Costilla de ternera (beef ribs)
800g Chuletas de pierna (lamb leg)
700g Garreta de ternera (beef shank)
1 Breast and 1 leg quarter chicken
5 beef bones: 2 with marrow
300g Tocino (pork fat)

Optinal extras:
5 Blaquet sausages
5 Morcillas de cebolla (black pudding)

7 Carrots
3 Parsnips
2 Swede
1 Turnip
2 leeks
5 Potatoes
2 large Cardos (thistle stalks), 15cm pieces
1 large Savoy cabbage, the outer leaves will be used to wrap the meatballs
500g dried chickpeas: I used Fuentesaúco. Others to look out for: Predosillo, Lechosas

Filtered water
Himalayan salt

for the meatballs:

500g minced beef
500g minced pork
½tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground nutmeg
40g pine nuts
1 egg
small sprig of Parsley
1 organic lemon, ride grated
Himalayan salt


TIMINGS – before serving

3 – 3.5hrs ….. meat/ chickpeas

2 – 2.5hrs ….. cardos

1hr            ….. chicken/ meatballs/ vegetables

40mins    ….. potatoes/ cabbage


50 Litre stockpot with lid

cocido meat

Cocido de Navidad:

  1. Cut the beef and lamb into 15cm pieces – you could get your butcher to do this.
  2. Season the bones and the beef and lamb.
  3. Start the stew by adding the bones followed by the beef and lamb (the chicken goes in later). Cover the meat with water, add the lid and bring to the boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer.
  5. Use the hour before you add the cardos to skim the stock before adding more cold water. Try to repeat this step three times. The pan should be two thirds full by the end of this segment.
  6. At the 1 hour mark, add the cardos and check the water level.
  7. You now have between 1 and 1½ hours to prep your vegetables and meatballs.
  8. Remove as much skin as you sensibly can from the chicken.
  9. At the 2 hour mark, stir in the saffron, check the seasoning, add the vegetables, chicken and then carefully lower in the meatball parcels.
  10. 40 minutes before serving, add the peeled potatoes and sections of the cabbage.
  11. At the end of the cooking time, remove ladles of stock to a smaller pan and add fine noodles.
  12. To serve, remove the chickpeas and vegetables to one large serving plate; Meat, bones and the cabbage-wrapped meatballs to a second.
  13. Start the feast with the bowls of stock with the noodles.
  14. For the main course, each diner is served their preferences.
  15. When it comes to eating the vegetables and chickpeas, the tradition is to mash them together with a drizzle of olive oil – or the cooked pork fat – to produce a pringá.


  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan to release their oils and give them a little colour. Put to one side to cool.
  2. Carefully remove 9 outer leaves from the cabbage – you will need 8 untorn leaves.
  3. In a large pan bring water to the boil. Prepare a large bowl with iced water.
  4. Plunge the leaves – one at a time – into the boiling water and allow to wilt: 15 seconds should do it. Remove the leaf and plug it into the iced water which will help retain their vibrant green colour.
  5. Remove the leaves to drain while preparing the meatball mix.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the minced beef and pork.
  7. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with yours hands until thoroughly combined.
  8. Divide into 8 meatballs.
  9. Place each meatball into the centre of a cabbage leaf, fold the sides over then fold the closest edge into the centre. Then fold the furthest edge over and secure with a couple of toothpicks.


In keeping with its Sephardic ancestor, this recipe left me with litres of stock and lots of vegetables and meat. The options for which are: a repeat CocidoRopa vieja and croquetas de Cocido – truly the king/ queen of croquettes!


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