Late summer veg ……. Barcelona style
October 1, 2010
Sorry about the last few weeks – I was in Catalonia. First of all we went camping on the Costa Brava in a beautiful place called Cala Llevado and then we were in the thick of it in Barcelona. Years ago I lived there as a strict vegetarian – no meat or fish. This was generally considered to be…..well, completely nuts by most of the natives. They just didn’t get it. I remember how waiters, having never heard of the concept, would offer me jamon (ham), atun (tuna) because they “aren’t really meat”. Well, I suppose compared to the hunks of lamb, roasted rabbit, tripe (often the dish of choice for clubbers after a hard night on the tiles eaten on a busy street corner as the rest of the world went to work in the morning), trotters and sausages they are kind of lightweight but hello????
As a veggie I ate unbelievable amounts of tortilla de patata (spanish potato omelette) which thankfully, I loved and still do and tons of Escalivada perhaps the most quintessential of Catalan dishes but one which is pretty much unknown outside the region. It’s a salad of roast aubergine, onion and peppers. Like most Catalan dishes it’s very, very simple . Roasted vegetables generously doused with top class olive oil and maybe a little vinegar. That’s it – no herbs, spices or sauces. It doesn’t need it – the ingredients are seasonal and local so at their very best. It’s often served with salted anchovies which I find a bit too hardcore or goats’ cheese which I prefer.
Escalivada is generally served as a starter or as part of a what’s called a “pica pica” (I don’t think I need to translate) which has to be my favourite way to eat – small amounts of lots of things. So, you might serve it alongside a potato omelette (maybe with some courgette thrown in as we are so overrun with them at the moment), olives, a green salad, some pan-fried sardines or octopus a la romana (dipped in batter and fried), a nice local goat’s cheese (there are loads in Catalunya) or a lovely creamy Tetilla (literally translated nipple!) cheese from Galicia (available in Sheridan’s from time to time if you’re interested), a chickpea salad and pa amb tomaquet – country-style bread rubbed with garlic, tomato then generously drizzled with olive oil. Dessert might be a perfectly ripe peach or one of this week’s plums.
Escalivada – Roasted Aubergines, Peppers and Onions
The quantities for this can totally vary depending on what you have. The amounts below are a guide only
2 sweet red peppers – yellow will also do fine
1 Onion – red or yellow
Red wine vinegar
Salted anchovies and/or goat’s cheese
The veg is roasted whole without oil so just put them on a baking tray and roast in a medium oven (Gas mark 6) for 1 hour or until all the veg are tender. Let them cool down then peel and chop them. The aubergines I half and then cut into eighths, the pepper I cut into chunky strips and the onions can be halved then cut into eighths. Traditionally the veg are laid out on a plate separately but feel free to mix them together if you prefer. Generously drizzle with your best olive oil and a little vinegar (a lot of Catalans don’t bother with this so, again, it’s up to you). Serve as I said, with anchovies and a piece of goat’s cheese.
This keeps well in the fridge and can be made in advance
Pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato)
A round of country-style white bread (baguette or sliced pan will not do!!!!)
1-2 cloves of garlic peeled and cut down the middle
1-2 tomatoes cut horizontally in the middle
Toast the slices of bread then rub on one side with the garlic. The crispiness of the bread will break down the garlic and make it stick to the bread. Follow this with a rub of tomato. As a rule 1 tomato will do 2 or 3 large slices of toasts and leave you with little more than the tomato skin when you’re finished. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle with a little fine salt.
Serve with cheeses, cured meats, tortilla…… anything really. Kids often have it as a snack in the afternoon when they come home from school. Mine were reluctant at first (what??!! no butter?) but are coming around. The garlic isn’t always used so you may want to try it without but given the winter is coming I reckon as much of this stuff raw as possible is what’s needed to ward off the sniffles.
Have a great weekend,