Cocido madrileño - one of the most famous examples of Madrid cuisine, related to European stews and North African couscous - is an experience that lies somewhere between the gastronomic and the cultural. Despite its humble origins, the dish crosses class boundaries: the ingredients are a keen reminder of the country roots of those who moved to the capital in search of opportunities, but the way it is served - a single dish served as three separate courses - is a ritual in keeping with the urban tradition of spending long hours at the table. Vegetables, chickpeas and meat are all cooked in a single pot and then the cooking broth is used to make a noodle soup, which is served as the first course. The chickpeas and vegetables make up the second course, and finally the meat is served separately. It's a perfect meal to enjoy on a winter's day; try following it up with the Spanish custom of the sobremesa - a relaxing conversation over coffee and liqueurs, which often takes every bit as long as the meal itself took to eat.
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