Outside my office window, the wind is blowing hard; down below, trees are swaying wildly. The sky is steel-grey and there is a scent of rain in the air. Times like these are, literally, not salad days. This is the sort of weather that calls for more substantial fare: thick or chunky soups; pots of steaming hot rice; massive roasts; and, of course, there is always the possibility of a rich stew simmering for hours on the hob. Times like these are the perfect time for a little Spanish specialty known as tujod [tuhod] y batoc.
The dish gets its name from the cuts of beef used to make it: usually the kneecap (tuhod in Spanish/Tagalog) or shin and neck (batoc in Spanish/Tagalog). The beef is stewed for hours in broth that gets thickened by all the cartilage; its richness is tempered with a splash of wine, brightened by the addition of peppers, and made considerably substantial by the addition of carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms.
It is said that the most iconic rendition of the dish is the one served at Alba Restaurante Espanol where it is cooked with rice to make a dish that pretty much straddles the line between a more fluid-textured Italian risotto and the drier Spanish paella. A reasonable facsimile thereof is served at other Castilian establishments, each with its own twist on the dish. But my favourite version is the one served at Dulcinea.
While Dulcinea is more popularly known as a pasteleria y salon de the (a pastry and tea shop) whose most popular dish happens to be plate upon plate of decadently crunchy churros dipped in rich Spanish chocolate, it also offers a variety of Spanish viands for those hankering for a hefty meal.
Dulcinea’s tuhod y batoc easily serves two and has this delectably unctuous sauce that demands to be splodged over cups of hot rice. The beef is toothsomely tender, flavourful; the vegetables tossed into the stew are surprisingly fresh, the sliced peppers still crunchy with a sharp, almost citrusy taste. It is, in my opinion, just the thing to eat with a friend when the weather outside is grey and inclement and you want a taste of comfort to tide you through a cold afternoon.