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Picada is Catalan cuisine

Picada is lighter and healthier than cream, and it brings your dishes to new texture levels. You can combine the picada with different kinds of Mediterranean food: vegetable, meat, or poultry recipes, soup and fish dishes. Other choices include making it vegetarian, preparing it with meat or fish flavor, adding white wine or even chocolate.

The Catalan picada makes a dish more aromatic, binds the cooking juices together, and thickens the consistency of those cooking juices in a particularly delicious and healthy way.

Mortar and pestle for pounding the picada ingredients.
Traditional mortar and
pestle for a picada.

Mortar and pestle for picada
Traditional Catalan
mortar and pestle.

How to make a picada

  1. First put in the mortar peeled cloves of garlic and pound them well with the pestle until they become a paste; then you add the parsley, and continue grinding.

  2. Add toasted almonds or hazelnuts, or raw pine nuts or walnuts, and pound them.

  3. Add a small piece of bread toasted or fried in oil, or bread crust or a plain cookie.

  4. Finally you add a little warm water, broth from the same cooking juices or wine to dilute it, and you mix it thoroughly.

  5. The picada is then ready to be added to your cooking dish barely ten or fifteen minutes before removing it from heat.

Notes on picada

The basic traditional picada uses mortar and pestle to pound and blend together garlic, toasted bread, almonds, and parsley, perhaps two of drops of olive oil, broth or water and saffron.

There are many variations in the quantities, sophistication and sequence of the picada components, and every dish asks for a slightly different combination of seasoning blends, herbs, spices and other ingredients.

Generally, the order of the elements that you add to your picada goes from the hardest to the softest ingredients. At the end you add some liquid to dilute the picada, which will help to mix it better with the cooking juices, when you add it to the dish you are cooking.

It is very important not to add the picada too early. If you do, the flavor and texture of the dish you are cooking will suffer, and the final result will not make you happy.

This recipe is for the basic picada. In some dishes it only contains pounded nuts; in others you add more ingredients to the picada such as the yolk of a boiled egg, liver of chicken or others, grated tomato, or grated chocolate. Every Catalan recipe with a picada contains specific instructions for that particular dish.

The picada does not make dishes heavier as it can happen with other thickeners, and thus it finds the approval of today's health conscious consumers interested in the simplicity yet refinement of Mediterranean cooking.

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