This classic dish is a staple of menus across Catalonia with as many variations as there are cooks. It’s really an autumn dish but it can be made year-round using dried mushrooms. The combination of tender meat, savoury fungi and rich onion and tomato sauce is finished with a characteristically Catalan touch: a picada (paste) of garlic and almonds to thicken the sauce and add depth of flavour.
Fricandó amb Moixernons o Cama-Secs (Serves 4)
750g of beef or rose veal (see note below)
2 red onions, preferably Figueres variety
40-50g dried mushrooms (see note below)
2 ripe tomatoes
1/2 glass of dry white wine
10 blanched almonds
1/2 clove of fresh garlic
1 bay leaf
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 tablespoon plain flour
Flat-leaf parsley (optional)
A note on ingredients:
Two types of mushrooms are commonly used in the dish: moixernons (Calocybe gambosa; English: St. George’s mushrooms) or cama-secs (Marasmius oreades; English: Scotch bonnet or fairy ring mushrooms), sometimes known as ‘false’ moixernons.
Fresh mushrooms of either kind can be used if in season, which will vary according to where you live. The dried kind, however, are just as good in this dish with the added benefits of being easier to buy and store.
Catalan vedella is sometimes translated as beef and sometimes as veal. It’s actually something in-between: young beef. In the UK, use either rose veal or ordinary beef and ask your butcher for 1cm-thick slices of a tender braising cut, such as topside, leg or chuck.
Step 1: Prepare the meat
Cover the dried mushrooms with warm water and leave them to soak according to the instructions on the packet, at least 20 minutes. Don’t throw out the liquid!
Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the slices of meat. Or, for less mess, toss the meat with the seasoned flour in a self-sealing freezer bag.
Heat the oil and brown the beef in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan, before setting aside.
Step 2: Make the sofregit (Catalan onion and tomato sauce)
Finely dice the onions and turn down the heat on the pan. Add the bay leaf, a little more oil and a pinch of salt. Cook slowly until the onions are very tender, about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.
Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes then scoop out and discard the seeds. Hold the skin side and carefully grate the flesh using a box grater. Add it then cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
Add the wine and the mushrooms. Pass the liquid they were soaked in through a sieve to remove any residue and add that too.
Cook for 10 minutes more then check the seasoning.
Step 3: Make the fricandó (braise)
Add the meat to the sauce and cover with water. Put a lid on and cook over a very low flame, so the sauce is barely bubbling (doing xup-xup — pronounced ‘chup chup’ — as the locals put it) for an hour.
Step 4: Make the picada
While the meat is slowing cooking, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan. Pound them with the garlic in a pestle and mortar until you have a smooth paste. This is hard work, but it’s worth it.
Add it to the braise and stir in. Allow it to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
Step 5: Serve and enjoy!
Garnish with some chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread, chips or mashed potatoes.