8 January 2010

The Spanish Cazuela

This week guest writer Victoria Twead, author of the laugh out loud funny "Chickens, Mules and two old fools" gives us the lowdown on the humble cazuela, the terracotta cooking dish that no Spanish kitchen is without.

The Magic Spanish Cooking Pot ~ Victoria Twead

Before I moved to Spain, I didn’t even know what a cazuela was. Now I’m accustomed to seeing shop shelves bowed down with piles of them. Orce Serrano Hams offer cazuelas in a variety of sizes.

A cazuela is a Spanish version of a casserole dish, made from clay and instantly recognisable. Some are authentic and hand-thrown, others are mass-produced. Whether hand or factory-made, the terracotta dish is slow-fired in a kiln which ensures amazing strength and density in the finished article. Then it is glazed, but only in the interior, then fired again.

Cazuelas are exceptionally sturdy and most are safe to use in the oven, on the stovetop, barbecue or in the microwave. Every Spanish household has cazuelas in its kitchen, often passed down from mother to daughter.

In my village in the mountains, the ladies use cazuelas all the time. They taught me the proper way to care for cazuelas, a method used since the Middle Ages:

Soak the entire dish in water and leave for 12 hours

Drain and wipe dry, then rub the unglazed bottom with a clove of garlic

Fill the dish with water to half an inch below the rim, and add half a cup of vinegar

Slowly bring the water to boiling on a low heat and boil until just half a cup remains

Cool slowly and wash

Your cazuela is now ready for use - the garlic has created a seal. The method seasons the pot, kills bacteria and hardens the unglazed parts. If you look after your cazuela, my neighbours assure me, it will last several lifetimes.

Victoria Twead

Useful Links:

Victoria's Website
Buy the Book!
Worlds Smallest Cazuela

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