It’s that time of the year again in Catalunya, it’s calçot season “the eating of the spring onion”

calcots-on-open-fire

It’s that time of the year again when the charcoal grills are lit and the calçots are roasted over an open fire until the outer layer is black. It’s signifies another year of calçotadas, “the eating of the spring onion”, one of Catalunya’s long-standing culinary traditions.

Calçots (pronounce cal-sots) are a traditional Catalonian dish which is served when the calçots are ready for harvest, roughly from January to April depending on the weather. The calçot is a type of scallion or green onion, similar in appearance to the leek, known as blanca gran tardana or in Latin terms Allium Cepa. Legend has it that the calçots were accidentally discovered by “Xat of Benaiges”, a farmer from Valls (Province of  Tarragona). “Calçot de Valls” have now the status of  PGI (protected geographical indication) within the European Union, as part of an EU scheme to protect and promote traditional and regional food products of high quality which are unique to a geographic area.

The calçots are grilled over an open fire and once they are black taken off and wrapped in bunches of newspaper to preserve their temperature and steam their way to soft, savoury sweetness. The long leaves are left on, but only as a handle. Hold your charred calçot at the tip of its inner green shoot and peel away the blackened outer leaves. Only the bulb and the palest green portion of the leaves are actually eaten. Tilt your head back and lower the whole calçot into your mouth in one go. It’s that simple.

how-to-eat-calcots

Don’t forget to immerse your calçot in the local Salbitxada (from Valls) or the Romesco sauce (a smoky, earthy sauce of peppers and nuts) and to drink a nice glass of medium bodied red wine or Cava to accompany this feast.

Be warned, you have to let go of your dining etiquette, calçotadas can be messy. We wear paper bibs to protect our clothes from the juices and drops of tomato red flying around. If anything this is finger food at its best. Calçotadas are more than just a meal, we were all having great fun while eating this fantastic dish.

I prefer to eat calçots in one of the many Masias (ancient rural houses) in the Catalonian countryside, but in Barcelona it is also possible to find neighbourhood calçotadas, generally advertised on the website of the Barcelona City Council. In season you can also check out restaurants like El Glop in Gràcia, Carrer de Sant Lluís, 24, 08012 Barcelona, L’Antic Forn, Calle Pintor Fortuny, 28, 08001 Barcelona or Restaurant Carmen, Carrer de Valladolid, 44, 08014 Barcelona.

calcotada There are many recipes for Romesco sauce, but this a very easy one (ingredients for 4 people):

1 clove of chopped or roasted garlic
100g of peeled, toasted and chopped almonds
30g of peeled, toasted, and chopped hazelnuts
4 or 5 ripe, grilled, and chopped tomatoes
1 large roasted red pepper, well-drained
1 slice of toasted bread
salt and vinegar
fresh olive oil

Put the garlic, almonds, hazelnuts and tomatoes & a dash of salt in a bowl. Blend all the ingredients together using a mixer or blender while slowly adding oil and vinegar until you obtain the ideal consistency for dipping. Place either the toasted bread on top of the sauce and sprinkle some left over slices of red pepper on it, or cut the bread and blend it into the sauce if you want a thicker consistency. If you prefer a bit more spice you can add a small dried red (nora) chilli. Soak it for 30 minutes in warm water, drain it and remove the stems and seeds, then chop it and bash the chilli into a paste. The Romesco sauce is also great with seafood and tastes fantastic as well on a slice of rustic bread. Bon profit!