Catalonia visits southern France, bearing calçots

My daughter Emily’s just visited from her home in Barcelona, bringing her Catalan boyfriend, and an enormous bundle of calçots sent by his mother.

Calçots! Think we have enough?
Calçots! Think we have enough?

Eating calçots is a century-old tradition in Catalonia at this time of year.  Garden onions are planted deep in the soil, and earthed up throughout their growing period, so they have long thick white stems, just like a leek’s.  Harvested between Christmas and Easter, they’re a much appreciated local delicacy.

Really, they should be grilled fiercely over an open fire or barbecue.  We lack a barbecue, and in any case, southern France has its own traditions: Holy week is cold, wet and miserable.  Without fail.

Preparing the calçots
Preparing the calçots

So we settled for baking them in a fiercely hot oven.  And then we got down to the cheerfully messy business of eating them.  You strip the hot slippery skin off each calçot, and then dunk it in a punchy romanesco sauce before tipping your head back to ingest the lot.  You need napkins, yards of kitchen roll – bibs would be good –  and good bread to mop up the juices and sauce.

Serving the calçots.  Another break with tradition.  They should be on a terracotta roof tile.
Serving the calçots. Another break with tradition. They should be on a terracotta roof tile.

We had fun, but probably not as much as if we’d visited one of the outdoor festivals dedicated to the eating of these alliums.  Watch the video from Valls.

Eating the calçots.  No red wine for us.  The calçot-bearers drove back to Barcelona straight after the meal
Eating the calçots. No red wine for us. The calçot-bearers drove back to Barcelona straight after the meal

14 thoughts on “Catalonia visits southern France, bearing calçots”

  1. My goodness, that looks delicious! I wonder if there’s anything even close to that here in the States. Although, I am in shooting range of New York City…a girl can find just about anything in NY. 🙂

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  2. They looked delicious chez vous and on the video. Being a messy eater I think I’d probably need a set of hospital scrubs and not just a bib!

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  3. Its great fun and bizarre how normally my family would not be too bothered about eating large quantities of these leek/onion things but when my young brother Gordon and family lived in Sitges we had them cooked on the barbecue wrapped in newspaper (the calcots that is) and all the children were queuing up for more.

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  4. mmmmmmmmmmm that sure was delicious…………., was it ?back from CH, lots of snow, cold, wet, glad to be here again, love, AnnA

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  5. I know this is an old post but I’ve just finished reading ‘A Late Dinner’ by Paul Richardson, an excellent book on Spain and it’s food. He devotes several pages to calcots. Apparently the custom was born in Valls, outside Tarragona, and began as a good use of an ingredient which would have otherwise gone to waste – the onions which the harvesters missed in autumn remained in the ground over winer and then sprouted early in the year. The genius apparently was in the sauce and now the calcotada experience is not to be missed. As you proved!

    But if you haven’t already read Paul’s book I would really recommend it.

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