Recipe: Blackened Leeks with Garlic Mayonnaise, Romesco and Charred Sourdough
From Helen Graves' "Live Fire"
This method of cooking leeks is inspired by the Catalan calçotada – a festival where vegetables called calçots (very much like large spring onions/scallions, or small leeks) are cooked over fire until blackened, then wrapped in newspaper and served on terracotta tiles. They are eaten with a sauce called salvitxada, which is similar to romesco, with the addition of blended, garlic-scrubbed toast. It’s fantastically messy, particularly in light of the fact that it’s served with red wine, poured directly into the mouth from a vessel called a porron.
Blackened Leeks with Garlic Mayonnaise, Romesco and Charred Sourdough
Setup: Direct cooking
Equipment: Tongs, old newspaper
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
16 small leeks
sliced sourdough (a few slices per person)
2 egg yolks
160 ml (5 ½ fl oz/ ⅔ cup) sunflower oil
40 ml (1 ¼ fl oz/2 ½ tablespoons) olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated sea salt
3 red (bell) peppers
100 g (3 ½ oz) blanched almonds
3 large tomatoes
100 g (3 ½ oz) stale white bread (no crusts)
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
— First, make the mayonnaise. Whisk the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a bowl if you are using a hand whisk. With the motor running (or the hand whisking), very slowly begin adding the sunflower oil, a drop at a time, making sure each drop is incorporated before adding the next. Once the mayonnaise starts to thicken, you can start adding the oil in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. Once it’s used up, add the olive oil in the same way. Whisk in the lemon and garlic and season with salt. Set aside.
— Prepare a barbecue for direct cooking over medium heat.
— Grill the red (bell) peppers over direct heat and cook until black all over, turning with tongs – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate or put in a sealed bag and set aside for 2 minutes. Remove the skin, stalks and seeds.
— Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat then remove and set aside. Skin the tomatoes by cutting a cross shape in the skin on the bottom, placing them in a heatproof bowl and pouring over boiling water. Leave for a minute, then remove, refresh under cold water and peel off the skin.
— Place the almonds and tomatoes in a blender with the remaining romesco ingredients and a couple of big pinches of salt and pulse to a coarsely textured sauce.
— Trim some of the long green ends off the leeks to make them tidier (you won’t eat the green parts anyway). Grill the leeks for about 10 minutes over direct heat, turning them regularly until totally blackened. Wrap them in newspaper, in bundles of 3–4, and leave to steam for 5 minutes.
— Grill the sourdough on the barbecue over direct heat, until lightly charred on both sides.
— Serve the leek bundles with the sourdough, romesco and garlic mayonnaise.
Excerpted with permission from Live Fire by Helen Graves, published by Hardie Grant, May 2022, RRP $40.00 Hardcover.