Every year, the last weekend of January, in Valls (Tarragona), la Gran Festa de la Calçotada (The Great Feast of the Calçotada) is celebrated – the biggest worldwide event related to green onions – which marks the beginning of the season of the traditional calçotades (annual gastronomical celebration where barbecued calçots are consumed in massive quantities) in Catalonia.
The calçot is a a milder and less bulbous variety of green onion, that is planted and successively pulled out to increase the depth of the soil while growing and eaten roasted. This is where its name comes from, the manner in which it's planted – half buried in the ground (the onion must hear the bells, farmers say), so that the buds be white and tender. The legend says that it was discovered in the late XIX century, by a lonely farmer from Valls, called “Xat de Benaiges”, who cooked on the coals buds born of an old onion grown especially to be cooked. He is also credited with the discovery of the traditional sauce for the calçots, the salvitxada, a type of romesco sauce.
During the first decades of the XX century, the calçotada became a regular meal for many families during holidays. But it was not until mid-century that the calçotada did not experience a great expansion, thanks to the “Penya Artística de l'Olla” (a local entity), who organized their famous calçotades and invited personalities from the artistic and cultural environment in Barcelona, thus helping the tradition to grow roots.
Which are the ingredients for a good calçotada? First of all, you should be in the mood to have a good time. More than a meal, a calçotada is the perfect excuse to gather the gang, to laugh, to prepare the fire together, to discuss who prepares the best sauce … Gastronomically speaking, the key elements are the calçots and the meat – essential second plate for any calçotada- traditionally lamb and sausage. For dessert, oranges and meringues or Catalan cream, all washed down with red wine and champagne.
It all starts by cutting the green tops and the roots at a medium size, then the calçots can be grilled over the hot fire. When they are cooked (charred on the outside), they are wrapped in newspaper to keep the warmth. The coals are used to cook the meat, sausages and artichokes.
While still warm, the calçots are brought to the table still wrapped and placed in a terra cotta tile, where everyone is waiting with their slice of pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) an the jar full of sauce as well. They say that the traditional recipe of salvitxada takes 100 grams of toasted almonds, 30 grams of toasted hazelnuts, four or five baked red tomatoes, 1 head of roasted garlic, 80 cl olive oil from Valls, 1 / 2 glass of vinegar, 1 dry pepper or paprika, salt and parsley, finely chopped in the mortar or with the blender.
The only thing left to say is that at any of the Naturaki houses with barbecues, you can organize a calçotada and enjoy a wonderful day in charming surroundings, along with friends and good food!