Rose's March Shop Watch - Calçots
Calçots and Romesco Sauce
A winter barbecue
In all cultures there is the excitement of the arrival of seasonal ingredients. For us it is the first bundles of asparagus appearing in the shops in April and heralding Spring. In Sweden there is a certain frenzy in the air surrounding the summer crayfish party. In Italy the only consolation for the arrival of autumn is plate-like porcini mushrooms piled high on a market stall. Or even better still, the precious white truffle which can cost more than gold. But in Spain the winter brings the calçot onion, which is in season from December to April. An onion so revered that each year the city near which it is cultivated hosts a winter barbecue party – a calçotada. And indeed, most towns in Catalonia do the same to celebrate the cherished harvest.
So, what is a calçot? It is a type of scallion in the onion family. And is a close relative of the spring onion but it is much fatter and longer, with the white edible part being up to 25cm in length. In appearance it looks closer to a thin leek. It is cultivated near the city of Valls in Catalonia and has earned protected geographical status. Farmers from the region plant them in trenches then, as they begin to grow, they pile dirt around the shoots in order to get a long white stem (in much the same way as white asparagus is cultivated).
The calçots are grilled over a barbecue until they are blackened and charred. Then wrapped in newspaper, which steams them further, and served on terracotta tiles. The trick now is to peel back the outer black skin like a banana from top to bottom and dip them in traditional Romesco sauce, made of dried red peppers, nuts, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil. Then eat them with your fingers, dangling the onions above your mouth. No knives and forks needed but maybe a bib. Between each one a glass of Cava or Spanish red wine. Sausages and chops or rabbit are often grilled to follow to make a real party of it. You can read even more about it on the Brindisa website.
This wonderful Spanish company sell a calçot kit when they are in season which comprises a really fat bundle of the onions (25 of them) with 2 jars of Romesco sauce – just the right amount to eat them with. They are still covered with some soil and tied with string straight from the farm. Give them a quick wash, peel off the outer layer which will remove most of the soil, so you have white stalks. Stoke up the coals and get them charring. Send for them now while they are still in season and have a winter barbecue party. Your own calçotada.
Any excuse for a party
Calçots and Romesco Sauce
Note: you can cook them in a grill pan, although you may not get the full blackened effect.
Price and availability as at 28th February 2023