Olla podrida is a classic Andalusian stew made from various types of meat—beef, chicken, sausages, sundry parts of pigs—and vegetables cooked together slowly in a pot. It was first mentioned in English as long ago as the sixteenth century, and the term has persisted in the language since then with reference to the stew as a whole. In Spain, however, the tendency is to serve the liquid component of the stew as a soup, and eat the meat and vegetables separately. And over the years the term olla podrida was gradually transferred from the stew as a whole to this soup (although nowadays it is rarely heard; the soup is more generally called puchero or cocido).
In common with other words for stews of variable content, such as hotchpotch, gallimaufry, and pot pourri (itself a direct French translation of the Spanish term, which literally means ‘rotten pot’), olla podrida has been used metaphorically in English for any ‘heterogeneous jumble’. Sir Walter Scott repopularized it after a fallow period in the eighteenth century, even coining an adjective from it (‘My ideas were olla podrida-ish,’ Journal 13 March 1827), and it survived beyond the middle of the nineteenth century.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.