Looking for some Spanish cuisine with flair and flavour? Then look no further than this very tasty, very healthy, vitamin-loaded, vegetable-based dish originating from the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha!
Essentially a vegetable stew at heart, pisto or pisto manchego (to denote its regional identity and and heritage) is based primarily around the core ingredients of tomatoes, onions, eggplants and peppers (see a tasty recipe here!) – typifying the traditional, rustic regional fare that emanates from central Spain. Amidst its captivating plains and mountains and with agriculture being a distinguishing element of Castilla-La Mancha’s culture and regional identity, the region itself therefore facilitates the quick accessing of these fresh, local vegetables of which the dish is comprised.
Fascinatingly, we can trace pisto back to 822 (!!) when it was served at a royal wedding at the time when the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Possessing many different appellations, the Moors originally referred to pisto as alboronia, and the little difference to the ingredients used throughout its history (with the exception of tomatoes and peppers prior to the Columbian Exchange) affirms the long-lasting appeal of a simple, tasty dish.
Excitingly, however, is that you can modify it to suit your food preferences! If you’re like me and have a passionate dislike of your food being topped with anything egg-related (such as pisto con huevos), you can opt for chorizo, fish, meat or bread to give it something extra! It may be even be served warm or cold, as an appetiser, accompaniment (it is often used to fill empanadas!), or as a main dish. Pisto‘s evolutionary potential is, I believe, linked to its versatility.
Since 822 pisto has become a firm favourite throughout Spain and is generally considered a close relative of the perhaps more pre-eminent French dish ‘Ratatouille’. Such is the influence of French cuisine – the ‘benchmark’ of modern cuisine (Anderson 2013) – that pisto seems to sadly have lost some of its individuality. It is now often simply referred to as ‘Spanish Ratatouille‘.
Closer to home, pisto is unfortunately quite hard to track down on many of Melbourne’s current restaurant menus – although MoVida Aqui had offered pisto-style vegetables and scallops in 2010.
Buen provecho!! 🙂
(Image 3 – slightly cropped)