Calçots are a member of the onion family, typically grown around the town of Valls in Catalunya, At this time of the year the calçotada is a typical event in which family and friends get together to celebrate this glorious vegetable. Around 25 calçots per person are slowly grilled on a barbecue; when they are soft, the outer charred layers are peeled off and the white part is dipped in a romesco sauce and then bitten off the green part and eaten. A calçotada is a messy business and the participants usually wear bibs and traditionally swill wine from the typical Catalan drinking vessel, the porró.
As you can see, calçots are usually cooked on a barbecue/grill. First clean off the outer layers and then grill them slowly to let all of that sweet taste flow.
You need to get on with your sauce before lighting up the fire and then let it sit. This recipe is by Carme Vidal who was born and brought up in Valls and it’s the best one I’ve ever tried. Remember that the quantities are for a large group and adjust them accordingly.
1 mature tomato per person.
100 grams of toasted almonds for each 3 people
1 entire bulb of garlic for each 2 people.
1 “nyora”(type of dried pepper) for each 2 people.
1 litre of olive oil for each 10 people.
A little parsley, vinegar, salt, a small chili (optional)
Blacken the tomatoes and garlic over the flames (not embers), make sure that the flame isn’t too “live” as they need to be cooked.
Scald the “nyoras”in boiling water .
Crush or blend the almonds with the parsley and the chili (if you want a spicy sauce). Then mix in the peeled tomatoes and garlic and the pulp of the nyoras (discarding the seeds). The sauce is made by slowly stirring in the olive oil. Add salt and vinegar to taste.
If you can’t find nyoras, Janet Mendel, in her book “Cooking in Spain”, suggests substituting them with paprika . This sauce is fantastic with any type of grilled vegetables, meat, poultry or fish. It is an important part of the Xato salad.
When the calçots are ready, peel off the charred outer layers and dip into the sauce and eat. Slurping and stains are expected. The calçotada is such an important tradition in Catalunya that most of the political parties were obliged to partake as part of their general election campaigns last weekend, with the socialist party even sporting campaign bibs…