Catalunya or Catalonia is a semi-autonomous province in Eastern Spain. Bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenees and the Els Ports mountain ranges. The region is very distinct from the rest of Spain with its own language and customs. As with everyone else in Spain the Catalan people enjoy a good fiesta particularly when food is involved. Even the tiniest villages will arrange a fiesta to show off their cherry harvest or quality of olive oil.
In the Tarragona region the Calotada is one of the first fiestas of spring. To an outsider the theme may seem a trifle odd and maybe not worthy of a fiesta. But once you’ve tried the succulent roasted flesh of a calot dipped in sun warmed piquant sauce, trust me you’ll be converted.
The area of Valls is particularly well known for the Calotada. Here, along with the towers of teetering humans (always topped off with a small child of course) you can enjoy eating and drinking among beautiful surroundings of the Medieval city.
If you’re living further afield why not create your own Calot Fiesta? Firstly you’ll need to track down some calots of your own. These are a variety of fully mature, sweet Spanish onions. They’re taken out of storage and replanted in autumn. The bulbs will then split into ten or more large scallions. The plants are ‘earthed up’ as they grow to blanch the leaves and promote lots of white flesh.
Come early spring the scallion type shoots are pulled up and thrown straight onto a barbecue grill to be grilled until the outsides are completely black. The outer leaves are pulled away to reveal soft sweet flesh which is dipped into a tart, nutty sauce of tomatoes, garlic and dried chili’s.
If you have reasonably cool winters you’ll be able to grow your own calots from any home-grown onions left in store come early autumn. There is more information on how to grow calots here. If you cannot grow or find authentic calots you can have create a calotada with large scallions, spring onions or baby leeks. The vegetables must be fresh and juicy.
If you do not have charcoal barbecue you can always cook the calots indoors on a cast iron griddle pan or equivalent. Remember you really want them to blacken so you might want to open the windows!
Everyone must eat their calots standing up to minimise mess as there is usually a lot of onion juice and sauce dripping from chins! Every family has their own version of the traditional calot sauce. If you don’t have a Catalan Mama to show you theirs try a to accompany the calots try making your own homemade romesco sauce recipe.
Don’t forget to serve plenty of fresh bread to soak up all the lovely juice from your calots and romesco sauce. There should be plenty of olive oil for people to dress their calots if desired too. And of course, since this is a foodie fiesta there should be plenty of good wine for the grown-ups too!
The calotada is a fantastic feast and thoroughly messy fun. So come on, unleash your inner Catalan and create your own calotada soon!