Romesco sauce

This delicious, colourful Catalan sauce made with red peppers and ground almonds originates in Tarragona and is traditionally eaten with calçots, sweet onions which are barbecued in early spring and eaten out of doors.  The sauce goes very well with grilled chicken, pork or fish too, like mayonnaise, and can be added to stews.  I was once slightly surprised in a restaurant in Tarragona where there was no written menu and when the waitress told us the choices I missed the word ‘manitas’ from the dish ‘manitas de cerdo’ in romesco sauce – expecting pork, I was served pig’s trotters, not a problem as they made a very tasty sauce with the spicy romesco ingredients although there were a lot of small bones, but it was an unexpected delight!

I sometimes buy a very good version of this sauce in a jar, made in French Catalunya, but at this time of year when we have so many red peppers and tomatoes in the garden there is no excuse not to make my own again.  Looking at the bowl of red and yellow peppers I’d picked yesterday evening I thought to myself that it’s no surprise that both the Occitan and Catalan flags have red and yellow as their colours – they are the colours of summer here.

There are many variations of this dish, but this is what I did today:

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I skinned 10 long red peppers that had been cooked on a vine-wood fire on the barbecue.  You can use barbecue charcoal, or even a gas grill, but I think the vine wood gives the peppers a special flavour.  Let the skin burn a bit because this makes them easier to peel.  I blended the flesh of the peppers into a paste and added them to 2 tablespoons of fresh breadcrumbs (from day-old bread), 2 roasted tomatoes that I’d pressed through a sieve to remove the skins and seeds, 3 tablespoons of ground almonds, a teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and salt to taste.

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Once all the ingredients have been mixed together, the sauce is ready to serve.  I divided this quantity into four, leaving some out to eat tomorrow with chicken or fish and putting three servings into tubs to freeze.  I haven’t tried freezing it before, although I can’t see why it shouldn’t work.  I’ll let you know one day in the depths of winter when I thaw this taste of summer!

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