Saturday, January 21, 2017


It’s snowing! Cold white stuff covers the roof tiles. As I snuggle in next to a roaring olive-wood fire, I imagine being stranded by snow at the bottom of our steep driveway. Only once before, way back in 1983, did it snow here.

Snow in the sierra above my house.
By morning, the snow has turned to rain showers and no trace remains on the roof. But, looking up through the high kitchen window, I see the sierra above me with a light coating of snow. The temperature has dropped to 5ºC/ 40ºF—not freezing, but way colder than normal for southern Spain. Time to fire up some soup.

Chock full of pork, sausages and vegetables, garbure is a real stick-to-your-ribs, warm-up soup, from a region of Spain where they really know about cold weather—Navarra—Comunidad Foral Navarra—a region in northern Spain bordering Euskadi (the Basque provinces), La Rioja, Aragón and, in the north, France. The land ranges from the deep forests, torrential rivers and green mountain meadows of the Pyrenees, a land of cattle and sheep, to the wide valleys of intensive cultivation to the south and the low flatlands crossed by the Ebro River and its tributaries.

A meal-in-a-pot--pork loin, sausages and five kinds of vegetables.

The remains of the ham--- A knob of ham bone flavors the broth. Get a butcher to saw the bones into pieces.

The soup, which has no olive oil, tomatoes or garlic--gets its flavor from a chunk of ham bone, the remains of a serrano ham, which lends its peculiar salty, pungent taste. After cooking, the bone is discarded, as any shreds of meat are inedible. The rendered ham fat in the broth conveys the flavor, so don’t skim it off. If you haven’t got a serrano ham bone, you could make a delicious soup with any ham bone or pork hock—though it wouldn't have that inimitable flavor of Spain.

Garbure—related to the garbure of nearby Béarn (France)—is also called potaje de coles, cabbage pot. Other vegetables can be added. In Navarra, the local borage (boraja) might go into the pot. I decided to use kale from my garden along with the cabbage.

The garbure is a satisfying one-pot meal. Serve it with bread, a glass of red Garnacha wine from Navarra and sliced Roncal cheese, a Navarrese sheep’s milk cheese. A starter of piquillo peppers, another product from Navarra, would be nice.

Bring the hot soup to the table in a tureen.

Serve bread with the soup.

And a glass of robust red wine.
Garnacha is the principal wine variety in Navarra.

Pork and Vegetable Soup, Navarra Style
Garbure Navarro

Ham bone flavors the broth.
For the ham broth:
8 cups water
1 4-inch piece of serrano ham bone
1 bay leaf
1 small onion
2 cloves
1 stalk celery
1 sprig parsley
1 carrot
Salt, as needed

For the soup:
Meat and veggies for the soup pot.
Ham broth
6 cups chopped cabbage and/or kale
3 ounces slab bacon, pancetta or salt pork, diced
4 medium potatoes, peeled (1 pound)
8 ounces pork loin, cut in 1-inch cubes
8 ounces fresh pork link sausage
2 cups green beans, cut in short lengths
1 cup frozen fava beans
1 ½ cups frozen peas
Mint sprigs or parsley to garnish

For the ham broth:
Place water and ham bone in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Skim off the froth that rises to the surface. Add the bay leaf, a few peppercorns, the onion stuck with the cloves, celery, parsley and carrot. Bring again to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Taste the broth and add salt if needed. Simmer 30 minutes longer. Strain the broth and discard the bone and all solids. Broth can be prepared and refrigerated or frozen until needed.

For the soup:
Place the ham broth (6-8 cups) in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and kale, diced bacon and whole potatoes. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add the pieces of pork loin, the sausage and green beans. Bring again to a boil and simmer 20 minutes, until potatoes, pork and meat are tender. Add the fava beans and peas and cook 5 minutes.

Use kitchen scissors to cut the sausage links into bite-size pieces. Cut up the potatoes. Ladle the soup into a large tureen. Add a sprig of mint or parsley.  

Mint complements the ham broth flavor.
More recipes with cabbage and kale:

Keeping warm with soup and a blazing fire.


  1. Perfect timing! I have a smoked picnic ham and "13 bean" mix as a starting point for tomorrow's meal.

    1. David: That sounds terrific. Spanish ham isn't smoked, but it smoked picnic sounds like a great substitute.