Calçots: getting to know the onion

Calçots, for some strange reason, have been on my list of must-try foods for a while now.

I’m not sure what it is that attracted me to this long, sweet tasting onion. Maybe it was the Rick Stein programme a few years back, the theatre, or the fact that to eat them (properly!) you have to get really messy.

Whatever. I’d never been in Spain in the right place – Catalonia – or at the right time – October or February/ March. Until now.

The spring season has stretched out to April, and my ears pricked up when a friend began regaling recent tales of BBQs, bibs and chewing away happily on piles of freshly peeled calçots.

They didn’t know their onions (or rather have posses the tools to cook them) , but a local restaurant did, and was pleased to show off their speciality to a diner with so much enthusiasm for a vegetable.

First, the calçots were grilled on a flaming BBQ, wrapped in newspaper to keep them warm, then served on a tile to hold their heat.

Our waiter brought plastic gloves, then left us to it. To peel back the blackened outer and dip the sweet, white centre of the onion in rich salbitxada sauce – a mix of tomato, almond, pepper, garlic and oils.

Delicious. And definitely worth the wait.

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