Chicken and Rabbit Stew (Gazpacho Manchego)

This type of gazpacho SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED with the Andalusian cold soup also called Gazpacho.

Torta de gazpacho is a type of torta, or flat bread, used to prepare a dish called gazpacho or gazpachos in La Mancha and Southeast Spain, including Murcia and parts of the Valencian Community.  Personally I think these ‘tortas’ are exactly the same as our British water biscuits, and when added to the stew, they give a dumpling-type flavour/addition.  You could ofcourse use dumplings, potatoes or even pasta if you don’t fancy trying out the water-biscuits!
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A torta de gazpacho, also known as torta gazpachera is a flat and round bread made with wheat flour without yeast. Along with the gachas the tortas de gazpacho are a very ancient Iberian staple food preparation. Traditionally Manchega women used to bake their own tortas at home, but now a commercial type of torta de gazpacho is produced in La Roda under the name “torta cenceña”.
To prepare gazpachos the flat bread is torn or cut into small pieces and mixed with a somewhat liquid stew in order to prepare a warm dish. This dish originated in the hearty food shepherds needed when they came back home on cold winter nights. It is traditional to serve this dish by placing the pan or large plate in the middle and all the guests sitting around eating from it. Sometimes instead of the plate the gazpacho is poured on a very large flat bread.
The stew is made with partridge, hare, rabbit and/or chicken. I personally like the chicken and rabbit version but if you prefer a stronger ‘game’ flavour, well use partridge or hare.  Here in Spain we can buy sachets of spices especially for this stew, combining black pepper, thyme, marjoram, cloves, nutmeg and a herb called ‘pebrella’, another herb from the Thyme family (Thymus piperella) which is grown in Valencia.
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SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS
1 packet of water biscuits (tortas cenceñas manchegas) [or dumplings, potatoes or pasta]
1 rabbit, cut into portions (conejo)
2 chicken legs, each cut into two, or 4 thighs (muslos o contramuslos de pollo)
1 red pepper
400g crushed tinned tomatoes (tomate triturado)
1 sachet of Gazpacho Manchego spices (sobre especias para Gazpacho Manchego)
1.5L stock from cooking the chicken and rabbit (caldo de cocer el pollo y conejo)
4 cloves garlic (ajo)
1 medium onion (cebolla)
10-12 smallish button mushrooms (champiñones pequeños)
Olive oil and salt

METHOD
Start off by sealing the rabbit and chicken, previously cut into portions, in olive oil, in a deep casserole. Add the chopped red pepper and continue frying a couple of minutes.  Add enough water to cover and the sachet of prepared spices and simmer until the chicken and rabbit are cooked.  Remove the meat and pepper and set aside and strain the stock into a measuring jug.


In a frying pan with a splash of olive oil, fry the sliced garlic until starting to turn golden brown, then add the finely chopped onion and sliced mushrooms. Add salt to taste and the crushed tinned tomatoes.  Simmer for around 5-8 minutes then transfer to the large casserole, add the reserved chicken, rabbit and red peppers, together with around 1.5L of the reserved cooking stock.

Now add the water biscuits or ‘tortas ceceñas’ and simmer gently for 12 minutes, or until the ‘tortas’ are completely softened by the sauce.

You’ll end up with a really delicious, slightly thickened sauce.

If you choose to use potatoes, pasta or dumplings, just add these at the same stage as you would add the ‘tortas’ and simmer for the length of time needed for each option.

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