This sauce is one of Europe’s oldest: hailing from the Roman stronghold of Tarraco (modern-day Tarragona), many believe that romesco evolved out of a Roman recipe.It is an interesting accompaniment for roast chicken or cold salmon but is most frequently served with fried fish, especially fried trout. It’s also an indispensable part of the springtime open-air feast, the calçotada. There are as many romesco recipes as there are chefs in Catalunya; this simple version uses standard store-cupboard ingredients.
- 25g blanched almonds
- 25g blanched hazelnuts
- 200g can of tomatoes
- 2 finely chopped garlic clove
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 slice of day-old bread
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons fino sherry
- Pinch of cayenne pepper or a small piece of canned jalapeno chilli (seeded)
Start by toasting the nuts in a low-heated oven (about 150ºC) for 20 minutes until biscuit coloured; set aside. Heat four tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, frying the garlic gently as the oil heats; remove and reserve the garlic, then fry the bread briskly on both sides and set aside.
Add two more tablespoons of oil to the frying pan, then the chopped tomatoes and cayenne or jalapeno pepper, stirring until reduced. Grind the nuts in a blender, then add the bread and garlic and pulverise them with the vinegar and sherry to make a picada—a smooth paste. The exact composition of the picada will vary but the issue is to crush, grind and pulverise the ingredients mentioned. Gently stir this into the tomato and pepper mix to achieve the finished romesco.
Some chefs prefer to use a dried red pepper (a nyora) in place of jalapeno or cayenne peppers: soak the nyora for a couple of hours and then scrape the flesh from the skin. For another variation, replace the tinned tomatoes with oven-roasted ones: roast three large tomatoes in a hot oven for 45 minutes and then scrape out the flesh.
• This recipe comes from My Favourite Food, a charity cookbook written by Jacqy Harding
First published March 2009.