Place of origin
Region or state
|Andalusia, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, Region of Murcia, parts of Valencia|
|Wheat flour, grass pea flour or corn flour|
|Variations||Sweet gachas (gachas dulces)|
Gachas are based on a very ancient Iberian flour-based staple food preparation. Gachas may have different consistencies, from a liquid soup to a pie-like thick cake with a golden crust. The way of preparing them changes from area to area and from family to family.
Gachas is considered an unrefined rural dish, the food of shepherds, farmers and itinerant labourers. It has been also described as 'fundamentally a Gitano dish'. The gachas have largely been ousted by rice and potato dishes in most areas of Spain during the 20th century, especially in the towns and cities. Consumption of this simple dish resurfaced again during economic downturns and upheavals, like the Spanish Civil War, earning it the name "gachas de los años difíciles" (gachas of the hard years). Certain modern chefs argue though, that well-prepared gachas are not necessarily a coarse dish.
Andalusian gachas, gachas andaluzas, are traditionally made of wheat flour. The traditional way of cooking them consists in frying garlic slices in olive oil until they are golden. Then the flour is added by sprinkling it over the hot oil with one hand and mixing well with the spoon until the mixture is slightly roasted. Water is added then, pouring it very slowly, while stirring the mixture all the while without interrupting the bubbling. Salt and water are added to taste and desired consistency, the gachas being ready when they "smell cooked".
There are many variations of the gachas in Andalusia itself, as the sweet poleá, the gachas colorás flavoured with paprika or saffron, or the gachas de matanza (butchery gachas), served with a stew with curdled blood, liver and offal. Fried onion and bread croutons may be also added in certain regions. Indeed, there are as many local variants as regions.
The gachas manchegas or gachas de almorta are this cooked with flour made from grass peas (Lathyrus sativus). Accompaniments for the dish vary throughout La Mancha. It was generally consumed during the cold winter months. The dish is generally eaten directly out of the pan it was cooked in, using either a spoon or a simple slice of bread.
This dish is commonly consumed immediately after removing it from the fire, being careful not to burn one's lips or tongue.
Grass pea flour is exceedingly difficult to obtain outside of Castilla-La Mancha, especially in its pure form. Commercial forms are mixed with wheat flour due to the fact that grass peas are toxic if consumed in significantly large quantities.
The gachas serranas of Cuenca, are a local variant, usually served with mushrooms and potatoes. In the comarca of la Serranía, stewed and pickled pork liver is added to the gachas when the water is added. Other possible accompaniments include hot chilis or baby cucumbers in vinegar.
Valencia and Aragon
A type of gachas made with corn flour are popular in the area of Ademuz, in the comarca of Rincón de Ademuz, a Valencian enclave in the eastern fringes of the ancient New Castile. These gachas are generally mixed with pork or cod, as well as tomatoes and snails. The dish is part of the traditional cuisine of the area, in addition to the grass pea gachas of neighboring La Mancha that are eaten in Ademuz as well. In the Valencian Ports mountain region further northeast, a similar dish is known locally as Farro.
In Aragon the same dish may be also called Gachas, but more often it is referred to by the local name of Farinetas. It is prepared by frying thick pieces of bacon in olive oil and taking them off the pan when they have released some fat. Then water and fine corn flour are added to the same pan, slowly stirring the mixture until it is cooked. The proportion is roughly 250 g of flour, 150 g of bacon, 1 liter of water, three large spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoonful of salt.
Gachas as a dessert
It is common in Andalusia to prepare Gachas dulces (sweet gachas), a sweet version of the dish which can be served as a dessert. The ingredients are olive oil, flour and water, like in the traditional gachas, but adding sugar instead of garlic and salt. They may be cooked with milk instead of water. Sweet gachas may be seasoned with honey, vanilla, orange peel and cinnamon. The dish may be eaten with raisins, almonds or bread croutons.
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