In a previous WabiHost post we talked about the typical Spanish stews, those dishes to warm up your body and soul. These are dishes that, although time-consuming, smell like home. They should be eaten slowly, in company and savouring each “vuelco” or step. On this occasion we are going to talk about the famous cocido madrileño, one of the most typical dishes from Madrid. We will also see how to eat it properly and where to find it when staying in the city.

My first cocido madrileño

I remember perfectly my first cocido madrileño. A friend of mine invited me to eat at her house in Madrid. More specifically to her uncle’s house located in the old neighbourhood of Argüelles. It was a Sunday morning as it could not be otherwise and all her family was also invited.

Upon entering he greeted me with enthusiasm, lots of smiles and of course something to drink. The uncle was in the kitchen with kilos of meat, chorizo, black pudding, chicken, bones, bacon and ham. He piled them up next to fresh vegetables and soaking chickpeas. It looked like a hundred-year-old painting. 

I settled down in the kitchen prepared to help him in the elaboration of this traditional Spanish dish. Between laughter and beers we filled the two pressure cookers that were already ready for the task. Meanwhile the lady of the house had a table as long as those found in the old palaces of European royalty.

A long rest

It is true that this dish requires a lot of time to cook but the truth is that using pressure cookers save you a couple of hours. The best thing about this is that you do not need to be there watching over the food. You can take a good rest while waiting for the cocido madrileño to be done by itself.

While you let each ingredient add its own note to this symphony of flavours, you can go for a good old-fashioned vermouth. That is exactly what we did. My host led me to his favourite bar on the corner. One of those old establishments with long metal bars, napkin papers on the floor and filled with hustle and bustle. For those who are not from Spain, better know that that the amount of napkins on the floor indicates the popularity of the bar. Traditionally, a bar with many of them shows its popularity. If you’re worried about hygiene, think that it’s better to have dirty napkins on the floor than next to the plate you’re eating from.

Ancestral knowledge

In that bar, accompanied by a vermouth, he told me something of the history of the cocido madrileño. In the old days, the stew was prepared in the great houses of the nobility. While the gentlemen drank only the broth that was enriched with all the goodness of the ingredients, the servants ate in the kitchens all that was left. A substantial meal that would keep them energised for the rest of the day.

Back home, the family had begun to arrive, brothers, sisters-in-law, children, everyone talked and drank. There were almost twenty people already taking their places at the table while the kitchen was already preparing the “vuelcos”, literally “overturns”. These are the three steps that make up the meal.

First the noodles are cooked in the broth and served as a starter soup. Then you serve the vegetables (cabbage, carrots, turnips) next to the chickpeas. Finally comes the turn of the meats. One should never hurry but enjoy the meal in the middle of discussions, laughs and of course a good glasses of wine from Madrid.

Where to eat a good cocido in Madrid

Of course the cocido madrileño is not so difficult to find in Madrid. Indeed, this dish should not be missing in the agenda of any visitor who calls oneself “a true foodie”. It is very important to respect your times and eat it in company as well as choosing the right place to try it.

So my favourite places to try the best cocido madrileño in Madrid are:

Taberna La Daniela (tiles and very typical dishes).

Malacatín (very typical place of the late 1800s).

Casa Carola (quite busy but worth it).

La Cruzada (Spanish dishes in an elegant 19th century ambience, with chandeliers and a wooden carved bar).

Nuevo Horno Santa Teresa (serves homemade dishes in a casual atmosphere).

However my personal favourite is the family owned Bar Menendez in the Santa María de la Cabeza Market. This family-run restaurant is in the very traditional district of Arganzuela. The lady in charge makes the best cocido for my taste and should be a must in any visitor’s menu.

Of course, you have to make sure you wear loose pants, have time to spare and most importantly, very good company. So for those who want to try a good cocido madrileño in Madrid, WabiHost offers the perfect opportunity to live an experience with the classic Spanish warmth.