Caldo gallego is a broth which is originally from the northern Spanish region of Galicia and for many years it was the main sustenance of this mostly rural region. Even today it is one of the most characteristic dishes of Galician gastronomy. As with most of the dishes featured here on Spanish Food, its origins are very humble and associated to the farmers of Spain.
In the last century over 75% of Galicia's population was agrarian and lived out of the centre of the cities or towns, so their main source of food was what their own orchards and farms produced. This meant that the recipe varied from place to place, and household to household, depending on whatever they could grow. This also means that if you are planning on making the dish today, you can use whatever ingredients you can find. However we recommend that you pay attention to the seasons of the vegetables you are planning to use.
These farmers from Galicia used to eat three meals a day and one snack: breakfast, which consisted of bread soaked in yesterday's caldo gallego or animal fat, lunch, mainly that day's caldo gallego and a cup of milk and a piece of bread. Finally dinner would normally be a cup of plate of caldo gallego. Despite this, the stew has still remained a popular dish today.
There are other typical Galician dishes, such as lacon (a typical galician cooked ham) and cocido gallego, but they were not present in everyday cooking, and were mostly consumed on special occasions alone.
Caldo gallego historically has had many different ingredients, as it basically depended on what vegetables were available in each farm's orchard or the season. Perhaps some families had enough money to buy other products, but many of them didn't and animal products were used more for certain celebrations, not on a daily basis. This means that it is a perfect dish for those who want to try a bit of true Spanish cooking, albeit with a small budget.
However, the base ingredients are more or less the same: vegetables such as rapini, cabbage and potatoes mixed with lard to give it some consistency and sometimes corn flour to thicken. Some people add a pork bone. Don't miss the opportunity to try it !
However Galician caldo gallego is mostly consumed in the cold months, since it must be served very hot. It has a homely comforting taste which reminds many people of their childhood. As with many other Spanish dishes, it uses common ingredients and its preparation is very simple. Furthermore, this Spanish stew also tastes great the next day - giving you the perfect excuse to make double the amount and getting two meals in one. It also means that you will only have to use the gas or electric to cook it once - another great way to save time and money, yet still enjoy some tasty Spanish food.
You can also add ham, bacon or whatever else you like to the mix. All of these vegetarian dishes can be adapted to suit the tastes of meat eaters as well. Although some Spanish food purists might tell you it's not caldo gallego if it is made with those ingredients, it will certainly taste great nevertheless!