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June 20, 2014 1:23 pm
It is only June but we have already clocked up five trips to Spain, one to Paris, one to Croatia and two weeks in Vietnam, which is pretty impressive by anyone’s standards (though, I hasten to add, not the norm). Half of these were work trips but in our profession the definition of business and pleasure is always blurred.
We often take our waiters and chefs on food and wine trips abroad. For years, our cava producers Raventós have wanted us to go a calçotada festival in Catalonia, which celebrates the harvest of the calçot – a cross between a spring onion and a leek.
Once there, we soon stumbled across row upon row of the revered vegetable lined up neatly on wooden trestle tables in the town’s main square. We scooped up a bundle and headed to where thick wafts of smoke signalled the vast charcoal barbecues of the grilling station. Fifteen minutes later, the calçots were given back, wrapped in newspaper to finish cooking.
We peeled the charred skin and dipped the soft flesh in a small tub of romesco – the famous Catalan almond and pepper sauce. The whole lot was washed down with copious amounts of red wine and Catalan vermouth. Somewhat merry, and with black fingers, we moved on to another square, where we found more grills, sizzling away with botifarra, Catalan sausage.
The food was hearty and simple, perfect for the joyous atmosphere of the festival, where all social barriers are brought down by the humble grilled onion. A return visit has already been planned.
Last February, a friend invited us to stay in Girona. The purpose of the trip was to eat at the famous El Celler de Can Roca, which she had seen rise from modest beginnings to its stellar position today. As she knew the family, it only took us six months to secure a table, rather than the usual 12. But sometimes the spontaneous ideas are the more memorable.
For lunch we decided to go to Palamós in search of its famous prawns. With no restaurant in mind, we wandered around the port until a local directed us to a spot beyond the fishing nets.
The second we walked through the door of Restaurant Club Nautic we knew we were in for a treat. Toasting our good fortune with Raventós cava and a tomato and anchovy toast, we stared out at the bright, white harbour. The menu was extensive but we are professional eaters, after all. First up was the lightest, most delicate fried squid, then a luxurious seared scallop with foie gras and balsamic dressing. Next came the prawns, crimson and succulent, with heads that tasted like nectar of the sea. As if our senses hadn’t already been overloaded, another speciality of the house, arroz con langosta, arrived, the rice almost sweet from the lobster. After all this, I’m ashamed to say, the John Dory was not as appreciated as it should have been. But if you love seafood, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Morito, 32 Exmouth Market, London EC1
|1-2||small-medium native lobsters|
|1||celery stick, roughly chopped|
|1||carrot, roughly chopped|
|1||white onion, roughly chopped|
|A few parsley stalks|
|A few black peppercorns|
|A generous splash each of white wine and brandy|
|Pinch saffron (20 strands)|
|8||tbs extra virgin olive oil|
|1||large Spanish onion, finely chopped|
|2||cloves garlic, finely chopped|
|½||fennel bulb, finely chopped|
|1||green pepper, finely chopped|
|1||red Romano pepper, finely chopped|
|4||bay leaves, preferably fresh|
|500g||cherry tomatoes, blitzed|
|1||tbs flat-leaf parsley, chopped|
|Garlic mayonnaise (optional)|
|Thin wedges of lemon|
|4||tbs fresh ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or grated|
|4||tsp extra virgin olive oil|
|4||best quality salted (Ortiz) anchovy fillets (brindisa.com)|
|1||green chilli, seeded and chopped (optional)|
|For the romesco sauce|
|35g||hazelnuts, blanched if possible|
|1||dried guindilla pepper, seeded, or 1-2 bird’s-eye chillies|
|2||ñora peppers, seeded, or ½ tin piquillo peppers (brindisa.com)|
|2||sun-dried tomato halves|
|½||pitta bread, torn into pieces|
|1||garlic clove, crushed to a paste with ½ tsp salt|
|Splash of sweet red-wine vinegar|
|3||tbs extra virgin olive oil|
|For the onions|
|3-4||bunches grelot, tropea (natoora.co.uk) or continental (waitrose.com) onions|
|3||tbs extra virgin olive oil|
|1||tbs sweet red-wine vinegar|
|2||medium-large globe artichokes|
|3||green asparagus spears, cut into 1cm slices on a diagonal|
|1||small pinch of dried oregano|
|1½||tbs olive oil|
|1 level||tbs finely chopped parsley|
|50g||jamón, sliced into matchsticks|
|1||clove garlic, finely chopped|
|2||tbs sherry vinegar mixed with ½ tsp brown sugar|
|A drizzle of olive oil to finish|
This recipe tries to emulate the “a la plancha” style. The plancha is a large griddle pan that allows one to cook with relatively little oil and achieve a pleasingly blackened colour on the vegetables.
|For the avocado mojo|
|1||large bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped|
|4-5||fresh green chillies, seeded|
|100ml||extra virgin olive oil|
|1||ripe avocado, peeled and stone removed, chopped small|
|2 tbs||lemon juice|
|1 tbs||sweet white-wine vinegar|
|For the prawns|
|3-4||prawns per person (thefishsociety.co.uk; thewrightbrothers.co.uk)|
|1-2||tbs olive oil|
At Morito, we serve Palamós prawns with avocado mojo – a green chilli and coriander sauce from the Canaries.
The colour, flavour and texture of these prawns are spectacular. They have a vibrant red shell that retains its colour even after cooking, a sweet flavour and a soft and smooth texture that melts in the mouth.
If you are unable to get hold of Palamós prawns, ask your fishmonger for another type of wild prawn, preferably from the Mediterranean, or Scottish langoustine, as these will have a much better flavour.
Morito by Sam and Sam Clark is published by Ebury, £26; the Morito: Inspirational Tapas and Mezze app is available free from the App Store on iPhone and iPad.
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