This salad is a work of art and like all great art, he said pompously, it utterly transcends its form.
It is also simplicity itself. It is an ancient Catalan recipe and very versatile. I prepare it here as an accompaniment to beef but it can also be served on its own as a salad course. It is sublime on toast with Escala anchovies as a canape or starter and I have even heard of it served with foie gras, which I think sounds frankly bizarre.
There are additions people make to it, garlic, tomato, courgette and more – all of which are nice but entirely unnecessary. It does in fact distract one from what is a perfect dish, needing no adornment, nor chef’s attempts to raise it. Follow the recipe.
It is said that the Catalan flag, La Senyera came in to being in the 9th Century when Wilfred the Shaggy and his old chum Charles the Bald where having a lovely battle against the Moors. At the point of victory the Hairy One drew his blood-drenched fingers across the golden shield of The Bald One creating four red bars on a background of yellow. It is my private belief that Escalivada emulates this flag and I always bear it in mind when laying out the salad.
As I say, this is a perfect dish. This is not my recipe, it is THE recipe. Do not veer from it.
2 large red peppers
2 large aubergines
Char the peppers and aubergines on all sides until the aubergine has inflated and then collapsed and the pepper blackened and collapsed. You can do this on a barbeque or directly on the hob in a pan with no oil.
For this to work you must not balk at the seeming burnt-ness of the vegetables. The flesh of the peppers not only has to blacken to allow peeling but the flesh must also be cooked. Keep it on the heat until it has completely collapsed and the flesh underneath is soft.
The same goes for the aubergines. An undercooked aubergine is a revolting aubergine and if you are ever presented with one throw it at the chef, host, hostess, whoever. It is not to be tolerated
Keep cooking the aubergine until it is completely collapsed and its flesh softened. Once cooked they take a while to cool down so you can open them up down the middle. Peel the aubergines by pulling away the burnt skin. Deseed the peppers by turning it inside out and removing the top part that holds in seeds and stalk. Scrape out any renegade seeds and the peel the now charred membrane by wiping it away with your fingers.
STRIP AND LAY DOWN
Once the peppers are peeled and deseeded and the aubergines peeled pull them into strips and lay them on the plate in stripes. Season them with salt and finish with olive oil. Now stand back and admire what you have done. The chances are, if you have followed the recipe correctly, you will hear the heavenly choirs announcing to God that LUNCH IS READY.