Above: Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking, demonstrating the proper way to eat a calcot.
The one thing I've grown to love most about living in a seasonal part of the world is to celebrate foods at the peak of their season. By celebrate I mean eating said foods in grand obsessive festive fashion.
It's this seasonal celebration mentality (or mental something, at any rate) that caused me to buy and hand-squeeze kilo after kilo of blood oranges week after week in the late winter months. This mentality also recently caused me to spend some 9 hours shucking and gutting 120 scallops in our wee flat / home office. More of that madness in another post soon.
Thanks to Rachel of Catalan Cooking, calcots and calcotadas are now firmly on my calendar of festivals that I didn't grow up with, but will henceforth brazenly adopt because they taste so damn good.
Calcots are a delicate flavoured cross between a green onion and a leek, grown in the Catalan region of Spain. Earth is heaped up around the stems as they grow, to keep the stems white and tender. A calcotada is a big party where the community gathers to heap calcots on the grill, then peel off their scorched outer skin, then dip them in romesco sauce, then eat the sweet stalks in the most phallic way possible.
And then everyone eats a lot of meat.
What's not to like?
On this particular Thursday we gathered at The Drapers Arms in Angel to carry out this grand Catalan tradition, with calcots brought in from their spiritual home Valls. I ended up sitting next to a group of Spaniards, whom assured me that all the flavours, from the croquetas to the calcots to the romesco to the allioli, to the perfectly grilled chicken thighs and morcilla links and lamb chops were absolutely spot on. I believe them. As they ate, they had those slightly teary eyed smiles and little gasps of people who were getting homesickness assuaged after far too long.
The only hitch to the whole evening, they said, was that it wasn't on a Sunday and a booze-all-afternoon affair, which would be the case in Spain.
Ah well. Perhaps something to look forward to next year. Oh yes. Rachel is planning to host more calcotadas next year, and for many years after, I hope. Meantime, she's closing out this year's calcot season at Borough Market this Sunday (22 Apr). So get a taste if you can, and join me in marking your calendars for next Spring.
The Drapers Arms
44 Barnsbury Street
London, N1 1ER
+44 20 7619 0348
Disclosure: I'm the founder of Edible Experiences. Unless otherwise stated, I attend events as a paying guest. Click the logo below for the latest events and classes by Catalan Cooking.