This weekend I visited the charming and historic village of Hostalric where I had my first Calçotada, a traditional Catalan meal celebrating the harvest of calçots (a type of onion).
Hostelric is located just over halfway between Barcelona and Girona. In Roman times Hostelric was in a strategic position situated along Via Augusta, a road stretching from the Pyrenees to Cadiz in southern Spain. Therefore, it was an important site in many battles up until the 18th century. The castle which you can visit today holds testament to this.
Inside the castle there is a new exhibition on the history of the village and role of the castle from the 14th to the 18th century. An introductory video explains the history and design of the castle. As the video ends, the screen splits in two revealing a doorway leading to an interactive and informative exhibition.
There is no avoiding the history here, and the castle gives spectacular views across the surrounding countryside. At the top of the castle there is a restaurant which comes highly recommended, with prices a little above the average, but worth it for the quality of food. I will have to come back another time to test it out as I had to save myself for the calçotada!
Torres dels Frares (Monks’ Tower)
Another historical monument worthy of a visit is the tower, Torre dels Frares (Monks’ Tower). Named after the monastery opposite which is now the town hall, the tower dates back to the 13th century. Half of it is newly made as it was severely damaged during the Peninsular War in the 19th Century. It is worth climbing to the top of the tower for the great views of the village, castle and surroundings.
After exploring Hostelric and a walk along the river, I was more than ready for some food. Bring on the Calçots! So what are Calçots? They are a type of onion unique to the region of Catalonia, mild in taste and similar to leeks, but quite sweet. The Calçotada is a meal eaten from the end of January until March which celebrates the harvest of Calçots.
A generous bunch of calçots which have been grilled until black. To eat them, you have to strip the black outer layer to reveal the white onion beneath. You then dip it in Romesco sauce or Salvitxada (calçots sauce) made from almonds, hazelnuts, tomatoes, red peppers, garlic and breadcrumbs. The combination is delicious. It’s quite a messy process as you get the burnt bits all over you – your hands, your face etc (well I did anyway) but it’s very fun and a great social event.
It is also common to serve the onions with another Catalan staple pa amb tomàquet, a personal favourite of mine, which is basically bread rubbed with garlic, tomato and olive oil. So simple but so good.
The main is primarily comprised of botifarra (traditional Catalan sausage), lamb, chicken and baldana (black pudding). It is basically a meat extravaganza, which is my idea of heaven!
With the colder temperatures in Spring, there’s no more perfect way to warm up and enjoy delicious Catalan cuisine than with a calçotada.
How to get there
Hostelric is pretty easy to get to from Barcelona. It takes just an hour by car or you can go by train which takes about the same amount of time.