Updated: Jun 12
Have you ever heard of this typical Catalan tradition called Calçotada that consists of eating giant burnt onions with a sauce?
Not long ago I also had no idea of this tradition, even though I had been living almost 4 years in Barcelona.
In this article I will tell you why a calcotada is a must do for a winter visit in Catalonia!
My First Calçotada
One day, Cristina offered me to go to a typical calçotada at her godfather’s house in the Barcelona surroundings. I really did not know what to expect with the few explanations that I had had from her, but generally, I’m pretty adventurous (not planning much when travelling or doing slow travel is definitely being adventurous). So I just agreed and we went.
To my surprise, after driving a short 15 minutes, we were already outside Barcelona. The house was in a really quiet area, that seemed lost in the middle of the forest, far away from the noise of the city.
1. Preparing the calçots
After being greeted upon arrival, we started to prepare the calçots, which are some kind of thin and long onions, looking much like thin leeks. While we were putting them on some grills, Cristina’s godfather started a wood fire in his garden’s fireplace.
2. Cooking the calçots and the meat
As the fire became more intense, we put the calçots on top of it, and let them cook -or maybe we should say burn- for a few minutes. Once the outside was carbonated, they started to release some juice. That’s when you know it is done!
So after taking them out, we wrapped them in some old newspaper. Then we started the second round of calçots grilling. Wrapping the calçots inside newspaper allows them to rest hot and ends the cooking process slowly.
Between each round of calçots, Cristina’s godfather threw in some more wood so that the fire kept burning intensely.
After all the calçots were made, the fire was stopped, and then we started to cook the meat (a lot of it!) on the embers. There was lamb, botifarra, chorizo and morcilla. All of it typically Spanish and a must for a calçotada!
3. Eating the calçots!
And then -finally!-, we were called in to eat! My first calçotada! All of this cooking had made me really hungry… Plus let’s not forget we are in Spain, so it was already at least 3 in the afternoon!
Even though cooking the calçots was good fun, this was nothing compared to eating them…
To be an expert at this Catalan tradition, you must get the help of locals to explain you some tips on how to eat it! There is a strange technic about sliding away the burnt part with 2 fingers, then plunging the calçot into the “salsa de calçots” (also called “salvitxada”), pretty similar to the “romesco” sauce. Then you need to bring this thing back to your mouth, and the only way to do so is by raising it 20 cms over your head!
Another funny fact was that the calçots are traditionally served on top of old tiles!
After eating at least 2 dozens of calçots each, you find your hands are pretty dirty!
But when they told us the nutritive facts about the calçots, I couldn’t believe it! Calçots have diuretic, tonifying, digestive and aphrodisiac properties!
So what are you waiting for to try this typical Catalan tradition? The calçotada happens each year generally in March, but as it became very popular in Catalonia, you can also find some during the months of February and April.
UPDATE 2018: We have released a Farm to Table Gastronomic Day Trip from Barcelona which takes you to 2 sustainable projects of organic farming where you can pick your own food, cook it with a professional chef before eating it in a traditional catalan lunch in a rural farmhouse. And the good news are that in winter (January-early April) you will pick your own calçots straight from the field before cooking and eating them! Do not miss this experience if you’re coming to Barcelona at this time of year!!!
At Barcelona Slow Travel, we have set up authentic and sustainable experiences for travellers that want to immerse themselves in the local culture. All of our experiences are verified by locals, follow sustainable guidelines and represent slow travel in every way, check them out here. And don’t hesitate to contact us to find out more about the top things to do in Barcelona.
Pictures credit: Guillaume Jaques & Cristina Gil for Barcelona Slow Travel