Four indispensable dishes for a tasting in Barcelona
Catalonia’s gastronomy boasts a wide variety of world-renowned traditional recipes and, in Barcelona – where you can fly from 9,000 Avios – all of them are based on products from its sea and its market gardens.
1 Pa amb tomàquet, not pan tumaca
Bread with fresh tomato is already common in nearly all Spanish cities. A Catalonian invention, more than a mere dish, it’s a hallmark of identity. There are several theories about its origin, but they all agree that it emerged as a way to soften bread that was a few days old. It might seem like a simple dish, but it has certain requirements: the best bread is “Payés” and it has to be toasted; in summer, the tomatoes should be well-ripened, and in winter of the “cluster” type. The olive oil must be, of course, extra virgin.
Els Quatre Gats – one of the most traditional restaurants and a favourite of artists such as Picasso and Dalí – makes one of the best pa amb tomàquet. Its secret: to ensure the salt is properly dispersed, it’s sprinkled on the toast, which is then rubbed with the tomato.
2 Calçots with the family
Calçotadas are a classic event in Catalonian winters. Although the custom began in Valls, Tarragona, the tradition of this get-together with friends and family to eat a kind of scallion cooked over a fire has extended throughout the region and the rest of Spain. The calçots are grilled directly over the fire, leaving the outsides charred but the insides juicy and delicious. Afterwards, the coals are used to grill other meats and sausages. The calçots are then dipped into a sauce very similar to Romesco.
Can Travi Nou – an authentic 17th-century country house in the middle of Barcelona offers two different calçotada menus – they start at about €40 – keeping their long-time customers happy.
3 Crema catalana: the Father’s Day dessert
In the past, this pastry-cream-based sweet was eaten only on 19 March (St Joseph’s Day, and Father’s Day in Spain), which is why it’s also known as “crema de San Josep”. It is now so popular that you can find this flavour in ice cream, Christmas nougats and even a liqueur. When not used to fill pastries like ensaimadas, cocas or tortells, it’s served in a little clay dish with a crunchy layer of caramelised sugar on top.
In Barcelona, cafés are called “granjas” in a reference to former dairy farms. Granja Dulcinea is one of the city’s legendary spots for those with a sweet tooth; since 1941, it’s been caramelising the sugar on its crema catalana using the traditional method: scorching with a red-hot iron.
4 Botifarra amb moneguetes is the star in the menus of Catalonia’s country houses
This traditional 19th-century farmhouse dish can be eaten alone or with a good calçotada. Beans arrived in Catalonia from the Americas, but it wasn’t until four centuries later that they began to shine in their first recipes. Today, although there are many variations, the first step is always to cook the beans – after they’ve been soaking all night long – then to fry the butifarra sausages and finally sauté the beans in the fat released from the sausages. Minced garlic and parsley or alioli makes the perfect accompaniment.
At Can Culleretes, near La Rambla, besides enjoying botifarra amb moneguetes à la carte, you can order the Agut-Manubens family special, featuring local cuisine classics.