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Calçotada at Savoy

Calçotada at Savoy

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On the corner of Prince and Crosby outside Savoy, a musician strummed his guitar as the wind picked up smoke from the grill on the sidewalk. Happy Monday.

Wood Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce (Photo: Arthur Bovino).

Peter Hoffman has been holding his annual spring Calçotada celebration for a decade at Savoy. “I went to a Calçotada in Spain and it was quite magical and delicious, and I decided that it was going to be my pagan holiday to celebrate the return of spring,” he explained.

“I’ve been doing it for ten years and I don’t understand why I’m the only guy who does it. I’ve tried to spread the word, tried to get a couple of magazine articles written about it. There are plenty of Spanish restaurants in New York, and in this country, but it hasn’t hit a chord, except for with my customers.”

Three years ago he inaugurated the festival at Back Forty. Savoy was packed last night and tonight’s event is sold out (if you plan, put it on next spring’s calendar).

The $70 menu (plus tax and tip) is simple. Grilled Calçots (leeks from Guy Jones of Blooming Hill Farm) served with a textured Romesco. They’re not actually calçots, but leeks that have been wintered over. “They aren’t something that went into the ground in April, because you couldn’t have anything of that thickness and girth,” Hoffman noted. “They’re planted in the way that calçots are, in the fall. They’re growing, then they winter, and start growing again in the spring. They have several months of growth on them instead of just a quick fix.”

The calçots are followed by House-Made Botifarra Sausage with large, garlicky, white beans. Wonderfully medium rare lamb—sliced about a quarter-inch thick, pink and juicy. There was the slight bitterness of Sauteéd Broccoli Rabe, and a smooth Crema Catalana with its sweet, brittle sugar brûlée. Then of course, the all-you-can-drink rosé.

Even if you haven’t had the real thing, or attended one of Hoffman’s festivals, there’s no reason for weekend grill-masters not to hold their own. Grilling the leeks and meat is easy, and recipes for Romesco and beans aren’t tough to follow. All you need to complete the festivities is a group of friends, and more bottles of rosé than they should possibly drink in one night.

As the evening progressed, the staff’s heavy pour of rosé continued. So did the contentment, which was punctuated regularly by joyful exclamations instigated by the porrón being passed around the room by Hoffman who danced between tables.

Crema Catalana (Photo: Arthur Bovino).

Back outside by the grill, custom-made salamanders sat in the orange-red coals. Cooks, waiters, and bartenders took turns using them to caramelize the granulated brown sugar on top of the Crema Catalana.

“I only had to prep four dishes,” noted chef Tate. “I wish we could do this every night.”

Don’t we all.

Created by The Savoy’s Executive Pastry Chef, Daniel Pearse, and his team, The Savoy’s Afternoon Tea menu starts at £65.00 per person and offers the traditional Afternoon and High Tea favourites, including a range of JING teas served with finger sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream and jam – all served on tiered cake stands. Pearse’s menu also offers a range of delicate and imaginative pastries and signature cakes that are handcrafted each morning and are as delicious as they are beautiful. A glass of Louis Roederer Brut Premier or Deutz Rosé can be added to make your experience extra special.

Today, in addition to our renowned traditional Afternoon Tea and High Tea we also offer a Vegan Afternoon Tea and a Vegetarian Afternoon Tea.

Recipe for a successful calçotada

If there is one thing you should know about the Catalan idea of a successful calçotada, it is that it often involves a certain degree of fun (and inebriation). One of the biggest stereotypes surrounding the Catalan people is the idea that they can be quite highly-strung and not as relaxed as some of their Southern counter-parts. Clearly, their critics have never been to any of the local festivals. The atmosphere at a calçotada goes a long way to reveal the warm, fun-loving nature of the Catalans. When planning the perfect calçotada one of the first things you need to know is that without a grill you won’t get very far. Whenever possible, the preferred method, and most traditional one, is for the calçots to be grilled over an open fire fueled with sarmientos de viñedo. These grapevine clippings give an extra special flavor to the calçots and the accompanying meat and vegetables. If sarmientos are not available, organic charcoal will also do perfectly fine.

When the grill is ready, it’s time to cook the calçots until they are nicely charred and just starting to turn black on the outside. Once they’re cooked, they are wrapped in newspaper, just like Fish & Chips, and then kept in a box and left to rest for about 40 minutes. This leaves just enough time to grill the artichokes, which are typically served alongside the calçots as the first course of the meal. ¡Bon Profit! The next round follows, it’s time for typical grilled meats. This round includes beef, pork chops, lamb chops, but also butifarra, the most delicious of classic Catalan sausages. Don’t forget to keep hydrated during this indulgent meal! Tradition tells us to favor wine, drunk from a porrón, a glass bottle which resembles a small watering can (and can in some instances serve a similar purpose!). To use the porrón, simply pour it straight into your mouth, replacing the need for a glass. Beginners start with the spout quite close to their mouth, and as their technical skill progresses, the distance gets bigger. As the meal progresses, you may find yourself speaking a more fluid kind of Catalan. Don’t miss this great opportunity to find out for yourself what great sense of humor Catalans have.

Dining Calendar

To gear up for the season, Le Dû’s Wines, 600 Washington Street (Morton Street), will pour 10 rosés from France, Spain, New York and Oregon for a free tasting on May 1 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Edible Sipping

“Brooklyn Uncorked 2010,” a tasting of food from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, with wines from Long Island, will be sponsored by local Edible magazines on May 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. at BAMcafé, 30 Lafayette Avenue (Ashland Place), Fort Greene, Brooklyn $40:, event 89157.

A Look at Young Chefs

A screening of the film “Pressure Cooker,” about a culinary training program for high school students, will be held on May 3 starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Tank, 354 West 45th Street, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker and some young chefs. The event will benefit Food Systems Network NYC, an organization that promotes good nutrition: $15 for network members, $20 for nonmembers, $10 for students:

A Mexican cooking class and brunch with a menu for Mother’s Day will be held on May 8 from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. at Zarela, 953 Second Avenue (50th Street) $35, including a cocktail: (212) 644-6740.

A hands-on cupcake decorating class for mothers and children will be given on May 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Cake Alchemy, 43 Park Place, third floor (Broadway) $100 for a mother and one child: (212) 255-0584.

Though not specifically designed for Mother’s Day, some mothers might enjoy a walk in Central Park instead of breakfast in bed, with or without other family members, led by Steve Brill, known as Wildman, who will point out edible plants. The event, sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, will be on May 9 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. $45:, under Calendar.

Calçotada Time

Calçotada, the Catalan spring celebration that features grilled leeks, will be held on May 10 beginning at 6 p.m. at Savoy, 70 Prince Street (Crosby Street), $70, (212) 219-8570, and on May 11, also starting at 6 p.m., at Back Forty, 190 Avenue B (11th Street), $65, (212) 388-1990. Prices do not include tax or tip.

Support From Sistina

As a continuing fund-raiser for Suicide Prevention International, Giuseppe Bruno, the owner of the restaurant Sistina, 1555 Second Avenue (80th Street), will set aside a table for six every week with the total cost of the food and wine a donation. Customers will provide credit card information on the suicide group’s billing form that the restaurant will submit to the organization. For availability and reservations: (212) 861-7660.

Calçotada feast and recipe for romesco sauce

A calçot is a kind of baby leek/fat spring onion sold from the end of January through March in Catalonia. They are cooked on an outdoor grill then wrapped in newspaper and served with romesco sauce, made from almonds and red peppers.

This is an excellent dish for a winter bbq. Line up the calçots and grill slowly on the embers of your fire. I have also made them on the top of my Aga. A cast iron flat pan on a gas stove should do just as well. The outsides char while the insides steam into a sweet subtly oniony flavour. Wrapping them in newspaper keeps the calçots warm and continues to steam them.

There is a technique for eating the calçots: you strip the vegetable of the outside blackened leaves, leaving you with a slim pale stem, which you dip into the romesco. Then you throw back your head and lower the calçot into your mouth from above.

As a replacement for calçots, you may use baby leeks or large spring onions. Serve with red wine or cava.

One can indulge in a calçotada feast at several London restaurants this year. I tried it at Brindisa Morada in Piccadilly, where next to us was a large jolly table of Catalans wearing bibs and necking calçots.

It’s a great idea for a party of friends or family: book in advance however, plus calçotadas are only available at weekends. Other restaurants doing them include:

Usually the calçot part is followed by a meat feast but, if you are vegan/vegetarian, you can ask for a suitable replacement.

You can buy genuine calçots at:

    for £2.29 for a bunch of 300g (about 3/4 calçots you’ll need approx 600g per person)
  • Brindisa online: 10 calçots for £4
  • Also via Ocado, same price as Natoora, the supplier

The romesco is usually made with dried Nora peppers, which can be bought at these places:

Calçot with Romesco Sauce recipe

Half a dozen calçots/baby leeks/8 spring onions per person (although in Catalonia they’ll eat about 20 each)
3 large red peppers, grilled, deseeded and skinned
1 bulb of garlic
3 nora peppers, soaked, seeded (can be replaced by mild Mexican chillis such as dried Anchos)
2 tomatoes, skinned, diced
100g salted almonds or ground almonds or hazelnuts or a combination
75g of dried bread (sourdough or French baguette), ground into crumbs
1tsp of smoked sweet paprika
50ml of good olive oil
2tbsp of sherry vinegar
Salt to taste

While the calçots are slowly grilling, also grill the red peppers and garlic with their skins on. Place the nora peppers in boiling water in a pyrex jug and leave to soak for ten minutes. Use this opportunity to skin the tomatoes by scoring a cross on top, then leaving them to soak in the same boiling water for a few minutes. Remove the tomatoes and peel back the skin. Dice.
Once the pepper skin is blistered and the garlic bulb soft, I remove to cool. Strip off the skins and deseed the peppers. Squeeze the garlic from the bulb.
Put the red peppers, the roasted garlic, nora peppers, diced tomatoes, the nuts, the bread crumbs, the paprika, olive oil and sherry vinegar in a powerful blender or food processor and blitz until it forms a smooth paste. This can also be done in a pestle and mortar if you don’t have any kitchen gadgets. Taste and add salt.

This romesco is absolutely delicious. I couldn’t stop eating it, just spooning it out of the bowl and spreading it on toast. Addictive stuff.

What to drink with your calçotada:

2012 Rioja Blanco A & A Martinez Laorden. On sale right now down £2 to £9.95. Quite a bargain for under a tenner. People associate Rioja with red wine, but the whites must be tried. Great even as an aperitif with anchovy stuffed or lemon stuffed olives.

Camins del Priorat, Alvaro palacios £18.00 from Catalan region North East Spain. Heavy, jammy, full bodied, great with casseroles.

La Vendemia Rioja Palacios Remondo £11.95 again from Priorato in Catalan

2013 Monastrell Molino Loco £6.95 from near Alicante, the Yecla region. A lighter fruitier red with a hint of black pepper.

Wil and Lisa Fernandez-Cruz Host Calçotada Festival in Honor of Spring

Spring is in the air, which means the smell of charred leeks is soon to be in the air as well. Chef duo Wil Fernandez-Cruz and his wife Lisa are hosting a Calçotada Festival on May 19 as a sort of welcome back party for the warmer weather.

Traditionally a Spanish celebration of Spring and the bounty of produce it ushers in, the Calçotada Festival invites guests to come and feast on calçots, a member of the onion family that closely resembles a leek. At St. Louis' first Calçotada, Wil and Lisa will be wood roasting spring onions, sausage, and lamb and inviting guests to dip these treats into romesco sauce made with hazelnuts and roasted peppers. They'll also be passing around porrons of rosé wine, which is to be poured straight into drinkers' mouths.

At Calçotada, revelry trumps manners.

Lisa first encountered the Catalonian festival while working in New York City, first at Savoy, then at Back Forty.

"The owner of Savoy had been doing it since '97 or '98 after going to one in Spain," Lisa says. "I got the chance to do this every year right when the good spring weather hits. It was crazy. We'd pack people in and put a grill on the New York City sidewalk. Everyone would be drinking, and there would be all this sausage and flamenco dancing. No one was conforming to any standards. It was all about celebrating the produce we'll be getting."

The Fernandez-Cruzes moved to St. Louis late last summer to work for The Restaurant at the Cheshire, and Wil now runs the kitchen at Ibby's on the Wash. U. campus. Lisa realized that this would be the first year in a long time that she would miss the Calçotada Festival in New York, but rather than mope about it, she decided to throw her own party in St. Louis.

"If my house was big enough I'd do it there," Lisa says, "but then I thought I should do something that involved the whole community. The St. Louis community is close knit, and any food event here is so lighthearted and fun. I thought it was the perfect celebration for St. Louis."

For this inaugural event, Wil and Lisa have started a pop-up event team called De La Finca. Lisa says this festival will be the test to see if a pop-up event company can work, but if nothing else, it will be a fun way to make food-centered celebrations happen throughout the summer.

The Calçotada will be held at Starrs (1135 S. Big Bend Boulevard 314-781-2345) in Richmond Heights, and reservations are required. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased through the De La Finca website. That 50 bucks will get you lots of food and fun and bottomless porrons of rosé ("We'll be at a wine shop," Lisa says. "There's no running out of wine."). The party starts at 2 p.m. and will rage on until everyone is so full of food and wine and the promise of a bountiful Spring that they have to roll themselves home.

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A scone recipe from the Savoy hotel London, plus tips for buttermilk substitutes

They may appear small, but these cute little scones — delicate, flaky and not overly sweet — pack a lot of flavor. The recipe comes from the Savoy hotel in London. The scones are studded with raisins or other dried fruit, and the richness of the butter and eggs are offset by the subtle tang of buttermilk.

Short on buttermilk? No problem — it’s easy to improvise. Originally, old-fashioned buttermilk was the liquid left over after churning cream into butter. Today, it’s commercially made by adding bacteria cultures to milk, thickening it and giving it that tangy flavor. To make your own, whisk 1 cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar (cider or white) and set the mixture aside for several minutes until it begins to curdle. Then use as needed.


Total time: 1 hour | Makes about 2 dozen scones, depending on the size

Note: Adapted from the Savoy Hotel in London.

4 1/4 cups (17.6 ounces, or 500 grams) flour
2 1/2 tablespoons (1.05 ounces, or 30 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon (.08 ounce, or 2.5 grams) salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (3.17 ounces, or 90 grams) sugar
6 tablespoons (2.9 ounces, or 82.5 grams) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 extra-large eggs (3.9 ounces, or 107.5 grams), lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (5.5 ounces, or 160 grams) buttermilk
Prepared egg wash (1 to 2 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of water)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces, or 125 grams) dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, currants or diced candied orange or lemon peels

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter to give the mixture a sandy texture.

2. Pour over the eggs and buttermilk, and stir until incorporated the dough will be crumbly and look dry. Continue to stir or knead it to form a cohesive dough.

3. Add the dried fruit, kneading it in the bowl to evenly incorporate it into the dough.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour to make a roux.

Return the pan to a low heat and stir in about half the milk. When the mixture has blended smoothly, stir in the rest of the milk and half a cup of the Parmesan. Stir this over the heat until the mixture has thickened.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper and stir in the yolk from the separated egg. Leave this to cool.

Beat the white from the separated egg in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks and set it aside.

In another bowl, beat the 4 whole eggs.

Break the haddock into large flakes.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in an omelette pan. When the butter is hot and frothy, though not browned, stir in the haddock or other fish pieces and then pour in the beaten eggs. Stir the mixture, then cook for a minute over medium heat on top of the stove. The top surface should remain moist, with liquid egg in the centre.

Stir the stiffly beaten egg white into the Parmesan sauce.

Remove the pan from the heat and spread the sauce mixture on top of the omelette. Then put the pan under the pre-heated grill. After about half a minute sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan on top and grill for another minute or until the surface is spotted with brown.

Slide the omelette from the pan to a warmed serving plate, but do not fold the omelette.

Here's the best things the team have chewed, nibbled and gorged upon in recent weeks - we think you should this month too.

Organic Salmon Don - Yuzu (£10.50)

Some dishes don’t need tweaking. And Yuzu’s 'organic salmon don’ has been on the menu at the tiny Chinatown restaurant since it opened because it’s perfect. Served on a beautiful tray - nearly as beautiful as the ingredients themselves - freshly cut salmon melds with sticky rice in the mouth, while parting clouds of miso forming a satisfying backdrop to the main event. An album of flavours if you will, it's the kind of thing you can enjoy time and again. Which I do. With promise of spring in the air, it’s particularly suited to this time of year - and at lunchtime it’s yours for a remarkable £10.50. Ruth Allan

Yuzu, 39 Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4EE

Crab, devilled brown meat, bisque, radish, barley - Grafene (£8)

There’s freshly picked crab, and there’s freshly picked crab. Chef Ben Mounsey, formerly of one-star Michelin restaurant, Fraiche, in Merseyside (one of Gordo's top five meals of the past five years), is now cooking brilliantly at Grafene - the family-run gaff just off King Street.

This dish came as part of Ben’s ‘British Tapas’ menu (available at lunch and teatime) and is a bowl of pure crabby pleasure. Some poor bugger in the kitchen has the job of dealing with these local, cold water brown crabs - some of the world's most handsome specimens - and is sorting them well. The flavours are deep, glorious and, if you’ve been to Moelfre Bay in Anglesey, will take you right back there. We scored it 10/10, worthy of any Michelin-starred gaff in the UK, for under a tenner. Fill yer boots. Gordo

Grafene, 55 King Street, Manchester M2 4LQ

42oz wing rib – 20 Stories (£80)

Let’s address the downside first. Yes, this is a lot of money to fork out on a piece of meat, and no, that doesn’t include any sides or sauces. It does however, come with a 360 degree view of Manchester (if that’s your sort of thing) and a bit of pre-meal ceremony. 20 Stories own dedicated meat man will come over with his special meat trolley and respectfully talk you through his display of different cuts, going into as much detail as you want about breeds, the ageing process, name of the farm, name of the cow etc. Aside from that, this giant steak will happily feed two or even three with a few added sides. It was cooked to perfection tender and delicious. Deanna Thomas

20 Stories, No 1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, M3 3EB

Calzone Fritti - Salvi's (£7.50)

Squeezing into a 1970 Fiat 500 with a handsome Italian chap named Andrea and a large bottle of Limencello di Capri. What better way to toast Festa Italiana - Manchester's upcoming summer Italiano extravaganzo? Propping up Salvi’s Terrazza Bar in the atrium of the Corn Exchange with owners Maurizio and Claire Cecco, we were washing down a fine evening meal which included a stupendous seafood stew (top image) and, my favourite, Salvi's calzone fritti - a tomato and mozzarella pizza, fried and folded. Yep, fried pizza. Frying is, we're told, the traditional Neapolitan way to make pizza. It's also fucking brilliant (but of course it is, it's fried pizza). Doesn't look much at first glance, a bit like a large Cornish pasty, but cut yourself in to its hot, chewy, cheesy belly and you're winning, mio amico. David Blake

Salvi's, The Corn Exchange, Corporation St, Manchester M4 3TR

Ox cheek Benedict - Blanchflower (£8.95)

I’ve been to visit some vegan friends recently and while, as ever, I’m in awe of just how vibrant and delicious really good vegan food can be, I came back from my travels ready to break a few rules. This breakfast is a vegan’s nightmare, from the hearty slow-cooked ox cheek (‘you ate something with a face? And you actually ate part of its face?’), buttery, lemon-infused hollandaise sauce and tremulous poached egg spurting sunshine yolk all over the place. The only way I could do worse - from a vegan perspective - is if I smothered it in honey and ate it wearing a full leather catsuit. I went for homemade Sriracha and a bib instead, but I fear I’m still in the bad books. Never mind, because it was delicious. Lucy Tomlinson

Blanchflower, 12-14 Shaw's Rd, Altrincham WA14 1QU

Squid and ox tongue (cooked yourself) - Annyeoung (£9ish each)

I don’t trust chefs anymore, I find them shifty, devious and unreliable except when they are talented, honest and brilliant. It’s almost like they are normal human beings, aside from the fact normalers don’t have a hundred people a night judging their every move. And taking photographs of their handiwork, posting it somewhere. Maybe up their own arse. Best restaurant joke, waiter to customer: “Do you want me to send your food back to the kitchen?” Customer to waiter: “No, it’s absolutely fine. Why do you say that?” Waiter to customer: “Well, you haven’t taken a picture of it yet.”

If you really don’t trust the chef go to Annyeoung and cook your own bbq, get the squid (£9.90) and the ox tongue (£8.90), cook them through on the kit in the middle of your table and then wrap them in the recommended sauces and lovely lettuce - it’s superb. And suddenly you’re your own chef. And if you’re doing it wrong and you don’t like it, then jump onto Tripadvisor and give yourself a terrible one star rating, maybe read it through a few times thinking your clever, and destroy your own one moment chef's career. Jonathan Schofield

Annyeoung, Tudor House, Half moon chambers, Chapel Walks, Manchester M2 1HN

Peach Melba – WOOD (tasting menu starts at £45)

A Peach Mitchell doesn’t really have a ring to it. Mebourne-born Nellie Mitchell adopted the stage name Melba to further her career as an operatic soprano, gaining immortality as a dessert. What’s not to lick? Peach Melba was invented around 1892 by great French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy. In the same London hotel Arnold Bennett had to settle for being a haddock omelette. In the hands of Simon “Did I tell you I won MasterChef 2015” Wood the Melba template of peaches and raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream gets deliciously deconstructed. Hats off to the transformative addition of basil ice cream and meringue swirls. You can find it on the tasting menu. Simon is also not averse to tinkering with a Pavlova, named after Russian Ballerina Anna. Who needs to cross the street for a culture fix in HOME? Neil Sowerby

WOOD Manchester, Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, M15 4RA.

Fish soup - Côte Brasserie (£5)

Gordo sat down one very cold Saturday lunchtime in Côte Brasserie, a bit miserable. 'Sod it,' thought Gordo, 'I’ll try this fish soup off the specials, it might be somewhere near the real thing'. It arrived. 'Fuck me,' thought Fatty, 'that looks bangin’'. Ok, a crouton smeared (thickly) with rouille, dropped on top of volcano-hot soup with a big, fat pinch of grated gruyere on top. Get a spoon in, fight the cheesy strands sticking to the marmite, burn mouth, go to heaven.

Côte are good. Gordo enjoys a civilian lunch here, reading the paper and pretending he’s in Brasserie Lipp. It’s also great value. Alright, so the soup was not made on the premises, but by the Goddess of Soup, this was utterly fabulous. It suited being made in a bloody big vat somewhere. Not sure how long this special is on, so get in there. Gordo

Cote Brasserie, 4-12 St Mary's St, Manchester M3 2LB

Calcots – Lunya (Eight for £4 - special request)

One thing the Catalans know, aside from their football, human towers and unauthorised referendums, is their onions. In particular, calçots, a large variety of scallion grown around Barcelona and Tarragona. Now, calçots looks like lanky spring onions, only more slippery, and taste like, er, spring onions. only milder. a little sweeter. maybe more like a leek. a wet, oniony leek. I'm not really selling this, I know, but it's probably the most fun you'll ever have with an onion.

Every year, sometime between January and April, Catalans celebrate the calçot harvest with calçotada, best described as a boozy onion barbecue. You'll find them gathered, sometimes in their hundreds, in public squares, gardens and parks, whacking great piles of calçots over flaming vines. Take one by the leaves, pinch the bottom and remove from it's BBQ-blackened skin to reveal the long, dripping green and white bit. Now, dip it in romesco sauce, tilt your head back and down it in one. If you're hardcore (and most Catalans are), you'll follow this by emptying a full porró of wine, at arm's length, down your gullet. Now repeat a dozen times, belch and fall off your stool. Viva Catalonia! David Blake

Lunya, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BB

Smoked sardines - Lunya again (£4.95 for 100g)

Oh, by the way, Lunya's smoked sardines are genius: plumper than your average, tender and oily with a mild smoky tang. Love, love, loved them. David Blake

Lunya, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BB

Leek Calçotada with Romesco Sauce

I anticipate this post causing some controversy. I imagine my Spanish readers saying “what’s the point? Just use calçots . and that sauce ain’t right”. Well this post is not for you, privileged ones who know and love the yearly tradition of the calçotada.

This post is for the select few who have travelled to Barcelona at just the right time of year to enjoy these sweet, tender, smoky green onions and then had to return to their dull, sad, tender onion-free existence in whatever country you came from. Tears and violins.

No more! Here’s the solution for you: leeks! Yay!

Let’s back up and explain a little about the calçotada for the uninitiated. Calçots are a type of onion, bigger than a green onion but smaller than a leek, which are in season at the end of winter. They’re put on the barbeque until charred, wrapped in newspaper to steam and cool, then you slip the charred outer layer off with your hands and dip them in a special sauce.

Basically, it’s a huge mess. Your hands turn black and the sauce drips down your chin. But it’s a great excuse to get together with friends and drink a lot (like we needed another excuse).

Here's a terribly unfocused picture of a real calçotada from our trip to La Rioja last spring:

Although calçots aren't readily available in other countries or in the summer, it turns out that leeks make a great substitute and you can roast them in the oven with basically the same flavour as a barbequed calçot.

The first time I tried calçots I thought they were good, but it was really the sauce that gave made them so interesting. So what’s up with the sauce? Generically it’s known as romesco sauce , but I was informed by my Catalan husband (repeatedly and annoyingly) that it’s not exactly the same as salsa calçots. Although from my research, they both have exactly the same ingredients.

The difference would be that salsa calçots is a little thinner in order to dip more easily. The sauce recipe I’ve got below is a basic romesco, which you can adjust to the consistency that you like with more or less oil.

Apparently my husband thought the romesco sauce was good as he was eating it by the spoonful in the kitchen while I was taking these pictures. He also conceded that the leeks were not super sacrilegious so, Spanish people, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

Watch the video: Calçotada 2009