Cocido maragato is a dish linked to the region of Maragatería in León and its creators: the muleteers of the region. It is also closely connected to a family celebration: the "cocido de boda" (Wedding stew).
Although there are many different explanations of the origins of this stew, which contains poultry, pork, beef, chickpeas and soup, any one of them is enough to explain the extraordinary popularity it has achieved. In Maragatería they say "de sobrar que sobre la sopa" ("if anything must be left over, then let it be the soup"), and this explains the order in which the three parts of this dish are served - first the meat, then the pulses and finally the soup - which is the reverse of a traditional cocido.
The least credible of the traditional stories states that this dish originated due to the French troops that settled in the surrounding areas of Astorga during the War of Independence in the 19th century. The fear of an attack or skirmish obliged the soldiers to eat the meat first, leaving the chickpeas and soup for later.
There is a more credible explanation recounted in the traditional folklore of the farmers and shepherds of Maragatería. It tells of how, on arriving home terribly hungry after the day's work, they lifted the lid off the pot to obtain a portion of the cocido. The meat was juicier and satisfied their accumulated hunger better, so the other two parts were left to the end, for when the initial craving had subsided. It should be remembered that a stew of this calibre - containing cecina (dry cured beef), beef shank, beef rib, pig's foot, chorizo, morcilla, tocino and relleno (stuffing pancakes) - was a dish for the rich or for very specific celebrations.
Today, Cocido maragato is a dish of haute cuisine, and is only in restaurants, where a combination of patience and traditional recipes allows the diner to enjoy an excellent feast of calories!
Cocido maragato is served all year round and there are many restaurants that specialise in this dish.In geographical terms, the dish belongs to the town of Astorga and surrounding areas, most notably Castrillo de los Polvazares and the municipalities near the Monte Irago, and Santiago Millas.