As aubergines, peppers , tomatoes and barbeques  come into season, escalivada is a tasty and easy way to enjoy them: just throw them on the fire!

Escalivada is a traditional Catalan dish prepared on an open fire, as it uses both the flames and the embers,  but it can also be done on a barbecue.  Done in an oven it will be quite delicious too, just less smoky.

If you want to eat the escalivada along with the rest of your barbeque, start roasting the vegetables while the flames are still there: the skins will char but they are discarded anyway. If you want it for the next day, use whatever heat is left after cooking everything else and maybe cover the barbeque to make the most of it.

Escalivada is delicious on its own and it also goes very nicely with meat (obviously) or fish:  cod, herring and tuna are the classical sidekicks. It also works as a pizza  topping.


  • Aubergines
  • Red peppers
  • Onions (and garlic heads)
  • Tomatoes

Wash and dry the vegetables. Leave everything whole.

Onions and garlic heads: wrap them in aluminium paper and cover them in embers.

Aubergines: place them on the sides of the barbecue and rotate them from time to time to cook them slowly and evenly . They are done when they become soft and start to crack. Don’t worry if the skin is a bit charred.

Peppers and tomatoes: roast them quickly  on the hottest part of the barbecue until the skins swell and blacken. Flame licked is good but keep your hands safe!

As the you finish cooking the peppers and tomatoes, place them in a salad bowl or in a baking tin and seal it with cling film to trap the moisture in. When the aubergines are done, put them in the same recipient and seal again. Don’t forget to take the onions and garlic out of the embers!

Let the vegetables cool down until you can handle them and peel them over the bowl: they are juicy! Discard all the skins and the seeds of the peppers (let the tomatoes’ seeds be unless you really have something against them).

Tear the aubergines and peppers in long stripes, cut the onions in wedges and halve or quarter the tomatoes. Place the vegetables in a serving platter alternating the colours, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Done!

Basil, parsley or rosemary are not required but go for them if you like.

You can use the  roasted garlic heads for an alternative  dressing sauce: squeeze the roasted cloves out of their skins, mash with a fork and mix with some of the juices left over from peeling the vegetables and some olive oil.

You can save the leftover garlic cloves for up to a week if you peel them and place them in a jar, covered with oil and refrigerated. Stuff them in a baguette with some grated cheese and you will fall in love with garlic bread again!


Dublin Romesco

Romesco  is a delicious sauce that goes with fish, meat, vegetables… or a spoon and some privacy.
It originated in the coastal region of Catalunya with two main varieties, the fishermen’s one – with dry bread, and the peasant’s one – with almonds, according to whatever was easily on hand. Nowadays most recipes include both ingredients. Romesco  is very popular and there are as many variants as households making it, so feel free to tweak the recipe to your taste.
If you are going to Spain, particularly Catalunya, nyora peppers would make a nice souvenir. They are available dried or in jars (pulp only, so you cut down the preparation time). You could also buy the readymade sauce but I find that most brands have far too much tomatoe and not enough nuts.
I have two different recipes for romesco: “just-back-from-home” or “Dublin-shopping”. These two versions  do not taste exactly the same but they both hit the spot. As I cannot get nyora peppers in Dublin, I substitute them for dried ancho chilies. The “just back” recipe is nuttier as there is no bread but the “Dublin shopping” one is speedier and spicier. Also, the proportions are slightly different, as ancho peppers are bigger, fleshier and spicier than nyora peppers as you can see from the picture.

Nyora and ancho peppers

I don’t like it too hot so I tone them down with extra red peppers and more bread.
When fresh red peppers are not in season (or I find them wrinkly and expensive), red peppers from a jar work nicely too, just mind the amount of vinegar you add to the romesco, as the brine might be quite strong.
Feel free to combine both recipes to suit your taste: you will become a fully fledged romescaire in no time!

Dublin romesco sauce (500 g) Just back romesco sauce
  • 1 Ancho chile pepper, dried (30 g rehydrated)
  • 3 Garlic cloves, unpeeled (15 g)
  • 2 Tomatoes (150 g)
  • 2 Red peppers, fresh or tinned (175 g)
  • 2 Slices of (decent) bread (60 g)
  • 1 Handful ground almonds (20 g)
  • 1 Handful ground hazelnuts (20 g)
  • Olive oil as needed (25 g)
  • Vinegar to taste
  • Salt and pepper taste
  • 4 Nyora peppers, dried
  • 3 Garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 Small red pepper
  • 2 Handfuls almonds, shelled but unpeeled
  • 2 Handfuls hazelnuts, shelled but unpeeled
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Vinegar to taste
  • Salt and pepper taste

The weights above do not need to be exact, this is a very flexible recipe!

Dublin romesco ingredients

  1. Pierce the tip of the dried peppers and soak them in a bowl of hot water for about 15 minutes, weighed down with a smaller bowl or dish.
  2. In a hot oven (180 C), roast the fresh red peppers along with the tomatoes and garlic cloves (or use leftovers from escalivada). On a separate tray, toast the almonds and hazelnuts: about 10 minutes if they are whole, about 5 minutes if they are ground.
  3. Fry the bread (if using it) in some olive oil and set aside. If oil-conscious, toast it.
  4. Peel the garlic, tomatoes and peppers (and the whole nuts for the “Just back” recipe). The peppers, both soaked and roasted, should be peeled and deseeded. The easiest way to peel the soaked ones is to place them on a chopping board, open them flesh side up and scrape the pulp out.
  5. Blend all these ingredients together until you have a coarse paste (don’t forget the bread!). If you need to spend some energy, go traditional and use a mortar and pestle.
  6. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper and incorporate enough olive oil to get thick sauce.

Make it yours:

  • Fry the garlic and the nuts along with the bread
  • Keep some of the garlic raw
  • Add pimentón  for a smoky taste and pimentón picante  for a hotter smoky taste
  • Blend in some roasted onion
  • Add more tomatoes and call it salvitxada [sal-vit-shah-dah] instead of romesco [roo-mes-coo]  to… impress your friends!
  • Share with your (impressed) friends: double or triple the recipe and use a Thermomix to save time cooking and washing up. Let me know if you want the full instructions for Thermomix!

Coca de ceba

You could call it onion focaccia, you could call it pissaladière… and you would find yourself in the middle of one of those never ending debates about which country invented what. Coca de ceba is but one variant of  a traditional dish found all around the Mediterranean:  flatbread with toppings.
A note on flour………..
Make sure that the plain flour is really plain: it should not contain any raising agents at all. The easiest way is to order organic flour from Home Organics and get it delivered to your door along with the veggies.
The hard way is to run around several supermarkets reading the list of ingredients on the side of the “plain” flour packages: you will be surprised to see that for most brands they are the same as in the self rising flour (one of those mysteries!). Otherwise go to a Polish shop and look for ‘mąka pszenna’ but it will not be organic.
For a 20 cm by 30 cm tray, you will need:

  • 400 g plain flour (white, wholemeal or half each)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bag instant yeast (or 20 g fresh yeast)
  • 200-250  g water
  • 75 g olive oil + some extra for drizzling
  • 400 g chopped onions

Prepare the dough using  your favourite method. I use the Thermomix as it takes only 5 minutes for both the dough and onions. If you do it by hand:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in some of the water and set aside.
  2. Place the flour and the salt in a roomy bowl and push to the sides. In the central cavity, add the yeast mixture, the oil and most of the water.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together and then knead. If you are using half wholemeal flour or more, you will need all the water and maybe a bit extra. The dough should be soft as your ear lobe and not sticky .
  4. Place it on a 20 cm by 30 cm  baking sheet lined with baking paper or a silicon mat. If the sheet is shallow enough, roll out the dough using a rolling pin. If the borders of the sheet pan are too high, roll out the dough on the counter and then transfer it.
  5. Wrap the top of the tray with cling film (not too tight but sealing et well) and leave it to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. If you are in a hurry, place it in the oven at its lowest setting (40 C, keep the door ajar if the lowest setting is 50 or 60 C).
  6. Chop the onion in thin fans and drizzle it with olive oil.
  7. When the dough has risen, peel off the cling film and start heating the oven to 220 C.
  8. Using your fingertips, press the dough against the tray to create little holes all over the surface, without piercing it.
  9. Spread the onion fans over the dough and bake on the lower half of the oven for 20 minutes or until the borders of the dough look done. If the onion starts to brown, cover the coca with baking paper.
  10. Let it cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.

To make it French you will need:

  • 600-800 g of onion instead of 400 g (as they will shrink during the slow cooking step)
  • 2 tins of anchovies (60 g drained weight in total)
  • Black olives

Proceed as for coca but, instead of step 6, slowly cook the onions in the oil from the anchovies until they are soft and golden. Make a paste with half the anchovies and some water and add it to the onions. Once baked, decorate with the remaining anchovies and the black olives.

Serve with rosé wine from Provence and call it pissaladière instead of coca. If any of your friends makes jokes about the name, cut them a smaller part and explain that the name derives from ‘peix salat’, wich is old Catalan/Provençal for salted fish.
To make it Italian you will need:

  • 2 balls of mozzarella
  • Proceed as for coca but top the onions with thin slices of mozzarella before baking.

Call it focaccia alle cipolle or focaccia San Remo.

To make coca de recapte you will need:

  • Escalivada
  • Herrings or anchovies in oil (drained) or canned tuna (from a good brand) or sausages

Use the dough and top it with escalivada and any, or all, of the other ingredients arranged in neat pretty lines.

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

You’ll need:

2 aubergines

2 sweet red peppers – yellow will also do fine

1 Onion – red or yellow

Olive oil

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)

You’ll need:

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

Olive Oil


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,


Fresh Garlic

June 12, 2009

This week the Garlic in your bag is the Fresh or Wet kind. It’s the same as the other stuff but it hasn’t been dried and as a result should be kept in the fridge and used within the week. More subtle and delicate than the regular kind, you can use lots more of it when cooking and it can be used raw in salads along with the stem which adds lovely colour.  It’s amazing roasted and served on bread. Just top and tail the head and drizzle with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper then roast for about 40 minutes in a medium oven. If you’ve nothing in the fridge before we deliver next week saute as much as you like  in plenty of Olive Oil and a little Chili and you’ve got a pasta sauce that even a child (train ’em young!) could make. This Garlic reminded me that it’s been ages since I’d made Aioli (the Catalan version of Garlic Mayo) so I made some last night which we ate with some chips and veggie kebabs. When I learnt how to make Aioli years ago in Barcelona everyone had something to say about it  – don’t use eggs at all, add a little piece of bread dipped in vinegar at the beginning, add the oil drop by drop etc etc. The best way was shown to me one day after I had tried to make it at least 3 times unsuccessfully and it was getting very dangerously close to lunchtime. You use a whole egg as opposed to just the yolk and a blender and it is pretty foolproof…


1 Egg at room temperature

2 Cloves Garlic


200ml/roughly 1/2 Pint light Olive Oil – don’t use extra or even virgin Olive Oil as it gives a very strong flavour. If all you have is virgin Olive mix it with a vegetable Oil

I use a handheld blender and I find that things are easier to manage if your receptacle isn’t too much wider than the blender. If you don’t have something that’s made to go with the blender try using a pint glass.

Chop up the Garlic and drop it into the glass along with an Egg, a pinch of Salt and a glug of oil. Put in the blender  turn it on and very gently move it up and down (I’m taking about an inch) until  the egg and oil have emulsified (you’ll see a thick creamy paste almost like whipped cream). Continue adding the Oil moving the blender a bit more to ensure the oil gets incorporated properly) until you have a thick emulsion then set aside (in the fridge as there’s raw egg).

Serve as I did with chips, baked Potatoes or roast veggies.

wet garlic and mango chutney

wet garlic and mango chutney

I’ve been making Bhajis a lot recently which are vegetable fritters from India. They can be made with pretty much anything so last night I tried them with this week’s fresh Garlic and some green Chili. They are very quick to make but you’ll need to get some Gram Flour in as they really do work best with it. Any of the Eastern shops around will have this as will a decent health food shop. We usually eat them with Mango Chutney but some plain yogurt is lovely too..

Fresh Garlic Bhajis with Green Chilli and Coriander

You’ll need

1 Head of Fresh Garlic very finely sliced

1 Green Chili deseeded and finely chopped

75gr Gram Flour

2 Tablespoon Chopped fresh Coriander Leaves

1/2 Teaspoon ground Coriander

1/2 Teaspoon Onion Seeds

A pinch of Salt

60 ml Sparkling Water or Beer (the bubbles add lightness)

Groundnut Oil for frying

Sieve the Flour, Salt and Coriander Powder. Add the Garlic, Onion Seeds and Chilli. Stir in the Beer or water and make a smooth batter.

garlic bhaji

garlic bhaji

Heat the Oil in a pan then drop tablespoonfuls of the Batter into the pan and fry each side until golden (about 2 mins). When they’re done drain on  some kitchen paper then eat immediately with some Chutney and/or yogurt.

bhaji and chutney

bhaji and chutney

Hope you enjoy these recipes,

Have a great weekend,