Yes it’s here again, that great season of the calçot which runs from January to April. You see them lying, like slender leeks, on the grocery shelves, either bound in bunches or singly, conjuring up visions of barbeques and thin cellophane aprons.
SO WHAT ARE CALÇOTS?
Calçots are a seasonal Catalan vegetable, usually eaten between January and April. They are similar in appearance to leeks though they actually originate from onions. They are chiefly grown in the area around Barcelona and Tarragona. The Calçot from Valls is, like Champagne, a registered EU Protected Geographical Indication. It is the calçot’s method of cultivation that makes it special.
The origin of this form of cultivation is not certain but most say that it was Xat de Benaiges, a peasant farmer from Valls, who, around the turn of the 20th century, began his experiment. He cut off and planted the sprouts from garden onions, covering them with earth so a longer portion of their stems remained underground, white and edible. This action is known as calçar, (a Catalan agricultural term which means to cover the trunk of a plant or vegetable with soil. As the plant grows, soil is continuously added, i.e., “calçar”), hence the name calçot. By increasing the depth of soil around the stems throughout autumn and winter you end up with the long slender vegetable that we enjoy today.
HOW TO PREPARE CALÇOTS
Actually, it couldn’t be easier. There’s no need to clean them or cut the roots off, simply place them on the barbecue. Unlike meat and other vegetables which cook best over hot embers, calçots should be cooked while the flames are still alive. After about five minutes of this treatment you will see bubbles of juice escaping through the blackened outer leaves signaling that the calçots are cooked. Wrap them in newspaper to help them steam and then carry them to the table.
HOW TO EAT CALÇOTS
Cooking them is one thing, eating them in an elegant fashion is quite another! First cover yourself with a protective cellophane apron – usually provided. Then peel off the blackened outer layer from the calçot. Dip the white, inner part in your dish of Romesco sauce (red bell pepper, slivered almonds, garlic and tomato purée). Now tip your head back, lift the sauced calçot above you so it hangs down vertically, and lower it, and the sauce, into your mouth. Yup! It can be a pretty messy business!
WHAT IS A CALÇOTADA?
A calçotada is a gastronomic celebration where barbecued calçots are consumed in massive quantities. The blackened calçots are accompanied by Romesco sauce, red wine or cava and bread. But make sure you leave room for even more food later on. The first time I went to a calçotada I thought the calçots were the whole meal. A mistake. For, once you have eaten your fill of calçots, you move on to a main course of roasted lamb and sausage and white beans. For dessert, oranges and cava are served.
So now for my
CULTURAL PICK OF THE WEEK
COSI FAN TUTTE: Thursday, 16th February at 19.30 at the Cinemes Illa Carelmany, Escaldes-Engordany. Opera direct from the Palais Garnier de la Ópera de París: Così Fan Tutte (a comic opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and sung in Italian. Running time approx. 3h 35 mins with one interval) Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Direction and choreography: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Starring: Jacquelyn Wagner (Fiordiligi), Michele Losier (Dorabella) and Frédéric Antoun (Ferrando) THE STORY: Prompted by Don Alfonso, a cynical old philosopher, two young idealists decide to put their lovers’ fidelity to the test. But love will teach them a bitter lesson: those who believe themselves phoenixes and goddesses will discover the desires of the flesh… In 1790, one year after the French Revolution, in what would be their final collaboration, Mozart and Da Ponte conducted a scientific investigation of love.
The music of Così fan tutte is truly extraordinary – complex in its symmetry, jovial and yet infused with an almost sacred melancholia. An extraordinary score where each note seems intended to make us accept a loss – lost paradise, lost youth, or a lost loved-one – and to portray a world where all is in a constant state of flux. This laboratory of eroticism could but inspire choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who excels in revealing a work’s innermost geometry on stage. With six singers doubled by six dancers, she depicts the desire which unites and separates human beings, like the interactions between atoms that, once broken, make new bonds possible.
MACACO Friday, 17th February at 20.30 at the National Auditorium, Ordino (20€) Macaco Comando Sierra Semilla. Macaco, one of the most important artists on the Spanish music scene and one of the most influential performers of Latin music worldwide, to the rhythm of “Moving”, “Volar” and “Tengo”, will present, in semi-acustic format, his most popular songs in special, intimate arrangements to create a closer connection with the audience. Along with three of his musicians: Tirtha (guitar), Miki Huracán Ramírez (Spanish guitar) and Didac (calaixos and percussion) he will make this concert an unforgettable night. Macaco’s sound is unique and easily distinguishable.
A mixture of reggae, rumba and other Latin sounds with a groove that results in unparalleled great songs, characterized by his personal voice and unmistakable beatbox style. His repertoire has, for more than 15 years, taken him to major venues and festivals around the world, brought him numerous awards and produced seven studio albums. Macaco, a socially active artist committed to the protection of our planet, has his own project, “Movimiento”, supported by National Geographic, has earned the prestigious Ondas Award for its contribution to the struggle for the preservation of our ecosystem. This concert offers an opportunity to see Macaco in a much closer and more exclusive setting.
Concert in aid of Mans Unides’ campaign against World Hunger Saturday, 18th February at 21.30 at the Church of Sant Esteve, Andorra la Vella. (5€). Those participating include: Andorra Gospel Choir, Marie-Noëlle Coulon & Françoise Demarèz, Cor de SAAS qui Cantar, Guilleme Tudó (saxaphone) Petits Cantaires Lauredians, Coral Rocafort, Thomas Preibsch & Natàlia Preibsch, Coral d’Escaldes, Teresa Vidal & Thomas Peibsch. One third of our food ends up in the garbage while 800 million people throughout the world suffer from hunger!
FIFTY SHADES DARKER Monday, 13th and Wednesday, 15th February at 18.45, 20.15 and 21.30 and Thursday 16th at 20.15 at the Cinemes Illa Carlemany, Escaldes-Engordany. Directed by James Foley and starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson. THE STORY: While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia has broken off her relationship with him to pursue a new career in a Seattle publishing house. But there she must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her. According to the BBC, “Fifty Shades Darker gets a critical spanking.” Rotten Tomatoes gave it one star out of five. However others thought it was good for a giggle! (Sequel to 50 Shades of Grey. For over 18s. 1h 55mins.)
SNOW CARVING COMPETITION 2017. Friday, 17th February at 10h to Sunday, 19th February at 12h, at Pas de la Casa. The competition aims to raise public awareness of this form of artistic expression while providing a tourist attraction in the parish of Encamp. The teams are organized in pairs to carve blocks of snow. Participants must be over 18. The blocks of snow should be exploited to the maximum in both mass and volume, and the block is the only material allowed. On Sunday, from noon, the jury will assess the sculptures for their creativity, technique and the consistency with the proposal. Professional participants are eligible for awards.
If you want to learn more in depth about Andorra try reading “Andorra Revealed”.