Last weekend Spring arrived amid a flurry of blossoming trees, and warm weather. Knowing how fickle Spring can be (and indeed this week has seen snowfalls and dropping temperatures) we decided to make the most of our Sunday and take advantage of one of the gastronomical events that takes place in Catalunya each year. The Calçotada. Indeed this seasonal feast is quite an occasion and perhaps a bit of a fast is in order before you try it at all.
Calçots are a kind of green onion, they look like baby leeks, and are not as acidic as normal onions. During the Calçotada they are consumed in huge quantities, along with piles of other roasted goodies and a fair amount of wine and Cava (the Spanish champagne). The onions come into season in late winter in Spain, and the regions surrounding Barcelona are particularly well known for them.
We finally made a rather late booking at Can Casas, after various other masias laughed at us on the phone, when we tried to book a few hours before lunch. The masias are sort of like a farm restaurant, which serve up traditional foods, and specialize in the various seasonal foods. Generally they offer set menus, which include a starter, main, desert and drinks. The portions are large, and often guests will spend quite a few hours enjoying food and beverages with family and friends. There are plenty of masias, some more well known than others dotted around Barcelona, in the Collserola, which is the natural park that surrounds the city. So with booking in hand, we set off to try the famous vegetable!
The Calçots are prepared by roasting them on a fire, like a barbecue, the flames lick the outer leaves, turning them black and charcoaly. They are served up in a traditional terracotta roof tile with a dipping sauce. We invited our Catalan friend Marc (or perhaps he invited us?) and he being our resident expert, explained how to eat the onions. First off you strip them naked, by peeling down the outer layer, and pinching off the roots with your fingers. Then you dip them in the provided romesco sauce. After which you stuff the entire onion in your mouth. Its pretty delicious, but wait! That’s not all, after all the onions, and we each had a tile full, there arrived a massive plate of roasted meats, and traditional sausages, including an unfortunate roasted rabbit. I knew what was in store for me, so I couldn’t finish my tile of calçots, but I can say they were quite addictive, and the sauce, which is made from almonds, pine nuts, garlic and peppers is super yummy!
The whole experience is extremely delicious and messy, our table looked like a vegetable massacre, and we were covered in calçots by the end of it.
Finally with bellies bulging we headed home through the afternoon light, down through the park and back to Barcelona. If you ever happen to be in Catalunya in winter, and fancy a dining experience, you can try your hand at eating calçots, and for about 35 euros you probably will not have to eat again for a week!