Since everyone seems to be nipping off somewhere nice over the next few weeks (myself included), thoughts turn to sunny flavours from holidays past: the perfect, crusty Jambon Beurre baguette eaten under the shade of a tree in Gordes in Provence last year; the menú del día beside the sea in Getaria, with grilled sardines, fresh bread and a cinnamon rice pudding for dessert; the Margherita pizza eaten late at night at the outdoor, tree-lined restaurant in the hills outside Rome; the seafood lunch on the island off Sardinia, accessible only by jetty. All wonderful food memories, all impossible to replicate.
This Romesco sauce, however, manages to deliver the essence (if, admittedly, not the substance) of those sunny memories at home. It’s punchy, delicious and exotic, and tastes of nuts, red peppers, smoked paprika, and, crucially, that mysterious something else that makes holiday food so memorable yet so hard to replicate. It’s sunshine bottled and summer in a jar.
Reportedly first made by Catalan fishermen, this Romesco sauce is great as a dip (with grilled bread or roasted cauliflower florets) or as part of a meal – it’s fantastic with white fish, either served at room temperature alongside it, or roasted with it. It’s also really quick to make, so it’s a good standby option for speedily tarting up grilled meat, seafood, vegetables and fresh bread at summer barbecues.
Makes about 1.5 cups
1 large red pepper
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and diced
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2tbsp tomato purée
A few drops of Tabasco
Salt and pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Halve and empty the seeds from the pepper. Grill both sides with the skin facing up for about 10 minutes, or until the pepper has totally collapsed and its skin is blackened (this step could be done on the barbecue too!). Toast the almond slivers in the oven until gently golden. Meanwhile, mix all the rest of the ingredients (bar the parsley) in a bowl. Add the toasted nuts. Peel the peppers – the skins should slide off easily – and roughly dice. Add them to the bowl too and blitz with a hand blender until smooth, and then cover until needed. It’ll keep for about a week in the fridge.