The foodie traveller … on knowing your calçots (onions) in Catalonia

February 3, 2015

The calçotada is a Catalan winter food festival that involves giant spring onions and red wine poured into the mouth from a great height. As you might guess, it’s a messy affair

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The Catalans don’t have a reputation as the most fun-loving bunch. The rest of Spain would probably describe them as hardworking and businesslike, but also tight and uptight. Their detractors have clearly never been to a calçotada, a barbecue meal unique to the area and devoted to a variety of giant spring onion. Groups of friends and family dissolve into giggles and laughter as they gather round tables set out in courtyards, put on silly paper bibs and get down and dirty with a calçot.

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First, the fire-blackened outer layer of the onion is pulled away to reveal a juicy white core. Then the tip is dipped into romesco (nut and red pepper) sauce and the dripping calçot is lowered into the mouth in one go. You repeat this two or three dozen times. Do it badly and your face, hands and neck end up a black and red mess. Do it well and, er, it’s about the same.

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