So, to continue the preparation for my Catalan meal with 90 year old couple Sion and Lluis from La Pera which is about 20kms from Girona.
So far we have the onions baking in the fireplace, the sausages are being grilled on the fire and now it is time to toast the bread in the flames. Once this is done we are ready to get the onions out (1.5 hrs in the fire) and peel the burnt outside layers off until we have the soft and moist interiors perfectly cooked. Olive oil an salt are added and we take the broad beans off the cooker too and take everything to the table.
So we start with cutting a whole garlic clove in two and rubbing it on the toasted bread followed by specially grown juicy tomatoes which also get spread on the bread along with olive oil and a little salt and then you can add some of the dry sausage or cheese on top. This is called "pa amb tomàquet" and forms the base (or starter) for many Catalan dishes and is perfectly acceptable as a meal in itself.
The wine I brought as my contribution is served from the bottle although Sion prefers her own from the barrell they keep in the cellar and she drinks from a "porró" which is easier to see and understand in a photo (see photos attached). The cauliflower salad is also on the table being one that Sion had made a few weeks ago with red wine vinegar and consequently looks red and tastes great.
Sausages with a garlic sauce "alioli" and the broad beans follows and by this time we are feeling not only replete but very merry and after dessert of walnuts, hazelnuts and fresh fruit we need a walk around the village to let it all settle.
This meal was not quick at some 3 hours but will certainly be one of the more memorable for the quality of the ingredients and company! Thank you Sion and Lluis.
Food and its preparation are an important part of all communities but when you are invited to eat at the house of a couple who are 90 years old and grow almost all their own food you realise how much we have complicated our lives for the sake of saving time.
Sion and Lluis have lived in the village of La Pera (pop 40) some 20kms from Girona all their lives and in this house for 60 of them. They have an old gas stove but cook over an open fire in the kitchen where in winter they spend most of their days keeping warm. Their other modern appliance is a fridge/freezer where they freeze many of the vegetables they grow in their large vegetable garden for use during the winter months.
First Sion showed me how to pickle cauliflower, an ancient tradition to be able to preserve vegetables for use in the winter. This simple process involves washing and cutting the cauliflower into manageable chunks and stuffing them into a large glass jar to which 1 cup of wine vinegar (white or red) and 2 cups of water is added proportionately along with plenty of sea salt until the jar is full. It's that simple, screw the lid on and put in a dark place for two weeks and voila!
While we were pickling Sion took four onions and buried them in the coals of the fire whole and without doing anything to them. Now it was back to the rest of the food which was a selection of sausages from a local butcher. Until maybe 10 years ago every village had a festival in january/february where a large pig would be killed and parts of the pig were butchered and divided amongst the villagers each of whom had their own special recipe for making sausages.These would frequently include mushrooms, garlic, and other local spices. Health and safety regulations gradually did away with this tradition but older people still have vivid memories of this winter festival and the feast that was had by all.
To be continued…