Calçodada


I was sitting at the kitchen table for the first session of the year. Mothers, babies, grandmothers and the token male were working intently with blackened hands. Some had achieved the perfect technique of holding the charred body of the calçot while pulling the green leaves, thereby slipping the tender leek-like onion from its sleeve. Others were messily and slowly peeling off the skins one-at-a-time as if they were artichokes.
Skinning or pulling, everyone was dunking the warm calcot into the bowls of creamy Romesco sauce, raising them over their mouth and consuming the thing whole to the sound of muums and moans.
When wine started taking effect I could only think how wonderfully close to the earth and nature the whole ceremony is.
You can buy Romesco sauce, but using readymade romesco sause is like listening to traditional Irish music sober, besides you’d also miss all the discussions that rival romesco sauces generate.
Here then is a recipe. You may add or leave out what you like.

1kg. Roasted Almond nuts
1/2kg. Roasted Hazelnuts
10 Small ripe tomatoes (tomaquons preferably)
2 Ñoras (dried peppers if available)
1. Red pepper
1. Head of garlic
Good quality olive oil
Wine vinager
salt
wine

Put the tomatoes, most of the garlic cloves and red pepper in a heavy pan and fry very slowly for about half an hour. If it gets too dry add a drop of wine.
While things are sizzling in the pan remove as much skin from the nuts as you can by rubbing them together in your hands, the kids will love peeling them but you'll need to have more nuts as they'll have munched quite a few in the process. No harm.
Grind the nuts into a fine powder,
Remove any skins from fried vegetables, mix with the nuts and blend.
Add olive oil slowly while stirring until you have a creamy drippy paste.
Add salt, vinager and fresh crushed garlic to taste.
Some wine will help to adjust consistency of sauce.
If sauce is still too thick heat it very slightly.

Tip:
Romesco sauce freezes well and is brilliant for thickening sauces and adding to chicken and fish dishes

Calcots
On a barbecue: lash them on the burning flames, use charcoal or/and wood, preferably they should be cooked on vine trimmings which can be found stacked in the corners of vineyards.
When they're burnt on one side grab a bunch of them by the green ends and flip them over. Cheap gloves from the hardware store are handy for this.
After they start making a wonderful hissing sound and juice starts to bubble out, remove from fire, wrap in newspaper and place between two roof tiles for 10 minutes.
Serve on one roof tile while using the other for the thrown away skins.

Tips:
People should dress appropriately for a calçotada, but go ahead and use bibs if you have to, I can’t stand them.
Have rolls of kitchen paper handy for messy hands.
A basin of water, soap dispenser and old towel will also come in handy.
Cover table in newspapers. These can be quickly removed after the calçots, leaving a pristine table for the rest of the meal.
Have a bin standing by to dump waste.
To complete your presentation have a porron of hardy red wine, preferably bought from the barrel in a local bodega.

Happy dipping, dunking, etc, etc.