Els Calçots: A messy gastronomic gathering!
Even though the calçotada is a long term Catalan tradition, you don’t have to be in Catalonia to enjoy this messy gastronomic gathering! Last weekend was my second calçotada experience with friends here in Valencia. To be honest, I think it’s just an excuse for another get-together, but, I’m not the one to complain, especially when it’s something to do with food! Plus, it’s nice to catch up with our friends, and it’s a welcome change from paella!
So what is a calçotada (pronounced: kal-so-tada)?
It’s a tradition originating from a town named Valls in Tarragona at the end of the 19th century and the ‘event’ is customarily celebrated between January and March. Calçots are types of tender spring onions, much bigger than the usual you get in the supermarket, very comparative to the size of leeks. It is eaten grilled over firewood and served on a bed of newspapers with romesco sauce.
On its own the calçot tastes quite plain so the key to taste success is the sauce! The romesco sauce essential ingredients are almonds, hazelnuts, garlic, tomatoes, bread, ñora peppers, olive oil, paprika, parsley, vinegar and salt. All mixed together into a smooth sauce. The sauce, of course, tastes better homemade but they are also available to buy in jars from many supermarkets here in Spain.
A calçotada is best enjoyed with friends very much like a BBQ but with calçots as the starter. It is also advisable to eat these with a babero (bib) because it can get SUPER messy! Eating a calçot takes a little practice. Once the calçot is ready, you will need to peel the burnt outer skin, so you’re only left with the soft core of the onion. Dip the calçot in the romesco sauce, making sure to cover it with the sauce as much as possible! The trick is to lift up your arm and place the calçot in your mouth, without getting covered in soot or sauce. Fun times!!!!
Meat is usually served in a traditional calçotada, but our friends are vegetarians so as an alternative they put out a delicious spread of salads, dips, vegetable tarts and seafood. Spaniards are sticklers for traditions and whatever they celebrate it’s always around food and friends. Something that I have embraced and continually look forward. In Spain, they ALWAYS seem to find an excuse to party! (-: