Berza Gitana (A Gypsy Stew)

Before my berza recipe, I want to share our sleep training story in case I can help any other desperate family. Miss E finally sleeps well. If you ever had a baby that hated sleeping, then you know that this is a big deal.

Miss E had never enjoyed napping during the day, which would make it difficult for me to get anything done. Also, I was worried she might not be getting enough sleep. As for nights, for the first 6 months of her life she was actually a brilliant sleeper. I used to gloat at just how lucky I was to have such an astounding specimen that would sleep through the whole night.

Then when she turned 6 months old, she would suddenly start to wake me up a million times during the night. Ok, a million may be a bit of an exaggeration. 5 times was more like it. I thought it must be a phase. This too shall pass. On top of that it was getting harder and harder to get her to actually fall asleep, up til the point that her average moment of falling asleep would be at midnight. (Still no napping either). Fast forward 9 months later and I realized “the phase” did not seem to be passing. I was completely knackered, unable to function like a normal human being anymore, and, comprehensibly, cranky as hell.

The Book

I needed help. This wasn't healthy neither for Miss E nor for me. We tried all kinds of tricks and nothing made her like sleeping. Then my friend Jenni told me that what worked for her children was following the method of the book Duermete Niño by Dr Eduard Estivill. The English version is called 5 Days to the Perfect Night's Sleep for your Child. Being the online nerd as I am, first I read reviews of the book. Because Dr Estivill's sleep training method involves some crying it out, there were plenty of reviews implying cruelness and whatnot. However Jenni is the most gentle and loving person ever, so my instinct told me I could trust her.

I read the whole book minus the last chapter in one day. The book guarantees results in 96% of cases. I scoffed. Obviously the author had never met Miss E. Putting her in her cot whilst awake would make her cry and scream as if I'd thrown her through the gates of hell. If we put her in her cot already very sound asleep, we might be lucky and she might continue sleeping. Sometime during the night she'd wake up, somehow have her way and end up sleeping in our bed. Napping during the day in her cot was unthinkable.

We decided to apply the method anyhow that very same evening. I thoroughly briefed Mr H on what we had to do and how. Even though I was skeptical, we had to do it in a firm and convinced manner, and with plenty of love. The way the method was presented in the book, it was supposed that it would work in 7-10 days.

Here's What Happened

DAY 1: She was sound asleep within 20 minutes in her cot. She only woke up once that night very briefly, then fell asleep again in her cot. As in not in our bed.

DAY 2: Without any resistance, in the afternoon she had a nap in her cot. That night she immediately fell asleep in her cot without any shouting nor crying.

DAY 3: Same as day 2. I was flabbergasted.

My Conclusions

I continue to be flabbergasted to this moment. It's as if in those first 20 minutes of the first day we dispelled some psychological fear she had of both sleeping and being in her cot. And she's discovered that sleeping is pleasant! She hasn't even co-slept with us at all since, and co-sleeping was also something I wanted to phase out.

As I mentioned above, because the method includes some crying it out, the internet was full of mean negative reviews of the book. After reading the book and applying the method, I came to the conclusion that the haters mustn't have read the book. Or maybe some of them have children that are natural sleepy heads. Even though there was some crying it out involved (only in the first few minutes of the first day in our case), I do find that the method is caring and even if as a parent you must be firm, you can also be sweet.

Now she either quickly falls asleep, or sits in her cot playing with her toys before falling asleep. Occasionally she might call us, but not in an upset baby type of way, more in a hey mum and dad, come here let's chat before sleeping type of way. In that case we do go to have chat then she'll lie down and go to sleep.

All babies are different and all parents are different, so different ways will work for different families. To be honest we don't carry out the method in a strict manner. Most sleep training methods will argue that the baby has to fall asleep on their own (meaning we shouldn't go to have a chat with Miss E if she feels like it). But this works for us. She enjoys sleeping now. She wakes up only one or none times during the night. She's well rested so she's more independent and chirpy. I'm also slowly catching up on my sleep and rest, which makes gives me more energy to be a better mum. A baby that finally sleeps is a win win situation for everyone.

Berza Stew from Cadiz Recipe
Berza Gitana Recipe Receta

Berza Gitana Recipe

In my previous post I mentioned a mysterious stew that led me to discover tagarninas. The stew included chickpeas, chorizo and tagarninas. I forgot the name of the stew, but I wanted to make it. One day when I was buying tagarninas in the market, I mentioned I wanted to make this stew. The guy that sells fresh vegetables, let's call him Señor Francisco, told me it's called a berza gitana (a gypsy style berza stew), and that you have to put chickpeas and white beans. He hollered to the butcher in the stall in front of him that he has to sell me the stuff to make berza gitana. The butcher made me a berza parcel with some chorizo, morcilla which is like a Spanish black pudding, pork loin and pork belly.

Later on at home I investigated this berza stew. It was quite strange because while each region of Spain usually has its traditional stew, and their stews are made in a very precise manner, berza is the stew from the Cadiz region and there seemed to be no standard way to make it at all. In fact it was nearly as if you could throw whatever you wanted into your pot willy nilly over a base of chickpeas and pork swimming around in a reddish paprika based broth. I then investigated the berza gitana, the gypsy style berza. Again, no exact recipe but what Señor Francisco said was more or less in the lines of how I could make it. The gypsy style berza is specifically from Jerez, the town also known as Sherry to the English people. Here is my recipe that emulates the berzas I've eaten elsewhere and how Señor Francisco described it should be.

Note that I used ready made chickpeas and white beans from a jar. I would usually previously boil them freshly from the dried versions, but in our temporary residence in Andalusia the stove -and hot water- is powered by gas which comes from gas tanks that we have to change every time the gas runs out. Not the modernest of domestic set ups, I know! Hours of boiling dried legumes is not a great option for this type of gas stove. I don't want to spend all my time buying and changing heavy gas tanks.


600g tagarninas
2 cups chickpeas
2 cups white beans
400g pork loin
200g pork belly
200g chorizo
200g morcilla
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tomato
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp olive oil
black pepper


Wash the tagarninas thoroughly. Cut the pork loin and pork belly into smallish pieces. Don't cut up the chorizo and morcilla for now because they would most probably disintegrate during the cooking. Add the tagarninas, pork loin, pork belly, chorizo and morcilla into a big pot. Add enough water to cover everything. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make what the Spanish call a sofrito, which is like a little tomato based sauce that will be added to the berza to give it more taste and a redder colour to the broth. Chop the onion, garlic and tomatoes. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook over lowish heat. After few minutes add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook over low heat until all the ingredients have become soft. Add the paprika, cumin along with some salt and black pepper to taste. If it looks like it's going to dehydrate, just add abit of water. Continue cooking for a few more minutes until all the flavours are mixed together.

When the sofrito is ready, add it to the big pot and let it simmer with the rest of the ingredients. If you need to add more water, do so. Add the chickpeas and white beans and continue simmering for at least another 10 minutes. Add some more salt and water if required. Cut the chorizo and morcilla into pieces just before serving.

As I'm aware that tagarninas is a very local vegetable found in Andalusia, if you can't get any where you live I would recommend substituting them with spinach or cabbage chopped into little pieces. Spinach with give a stronger chlorophyllic taste, so I would add extra cumin to balance it out and it would be even more tasty. Cabbage would give a more neutral taste like the tagarninas itself.

This is one of those great healthy nutritional Spanish comfort food stews. It's one of those dishes that tastes even better if you let it sit all night and eat it the next day. As it's a big stew, unless you have a huge family to feed, you'll most probably get a few days meals worth out of this batch. Serve with a small glass of red wine to make it even more special.