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

PIcada is a traditional Catalan seasoning made by pounding stale bread, garlic, parsley and walnuts in a mortar. The crumble-like mixture is then added to stews or sauces towards the end of the cooking process, to thicken 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.

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

This rich and satisfying dish has a deep, vibrant flavor from all the different earthy and potent ingredients. Serve with creamy polenta or mashed potatoes. You can also make picada with fresh bread by toasting and drying it first, but it really is an invaluable way to recycle old bread junk. The picada is traditionally made in a mortar, but it will also be finely cut by hand or mixed into pulses; just aim for a slightly thick texture.

Serves 4

50g of butter
400g deboned venison (or lamb) shoulder
(or beef cheek or stewed steak), cut into bite-size pieces
400g of flat mushroomscut into thick slices about the same size as the meat
1 medium onionpeeled and roughly chopped
1 carrotsliced
3 cloves of garlicpeeled and roughly chopped
300ml red wine
2 sprigs of rosemary

For the picnic
1 stale slice of bread
1 clove of garlic
peeled and roughly chopped
5 shelled walnuts
3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
coarsely chopped, stems and all
10g 70% cocoa chocolatefinely chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, then brown the meat until nicely browned. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrot and minced garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until tender, then add the wine, bring to a boil and deglaze the stove. Add 150ml of water and the rosemary, bring back to the boil, then lower the heat and cook gently for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 170 C (150 C fan)/325 F/Gas 3. Cover the pan and transfer to the hot oven for two hours, until the meat is very tender.

While the stew cooks, prepare the picada. Soak the stale bread in water for a few seconds, then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can and tear it into small pieces. Crush the minced garlic in a mortar (add a little salt to help break it down), then grind the walnuts and parsley. Stir in the bread, chocolate, zest and a little pepper and set aside.

When the time for the stew is up, return to the stove, sprinkle the picada evenly over the top, then return to the oven uncovered and cook for another 15 minutes until thickened. Serve with mash or soft polenta.

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