• Charred leeks with romesco sauce (Sharyn Cairns)Source: Sharyn Cairns

This combination is sensational and easy enough to recreate at home on a barbecue.






Skill level

Average: 4.6 (38 votes)

"Every year between November and April in the Catalan province of Spain, a special type of onion called a calçot (looks like a young leek with a white stem) is harvested and cooked over grapevine cuttings until it’s charred and black. The outer leaves are peeled off and the sweet steaming onion served with a marvellous sauce made with mild roasted peppers and garlic, nuts and lots of olive oil blended together. Chef, Pablo Tordesillas Garcia shares this magnificent recipe from his homeland, a testament to the sweetness and complexity of onions combined with some wonderful earthy flavours. Seek out the dried Nora peppers which make the romesco come alive." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth 


  • 40 baby leeks (about 2 cm in diameter) with roots intact

Romesco sauce

  • 5 dried ñora peppers
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 head garlic, plus 1 clove, peeled
  • 400 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 80 g blanched almonds, roasted
  • 40 g hazelnuts, roasted + skins removed
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 slice sourdough bread

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time: 1 hour

For the romesco sauce, remove the top of the dried peppers and empty out all the seeds. Soak in 1 litre hot water for 1 hour. Drain and scrape the flesh away from the skin. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C. Place the tomatoes and the whole head of garlic in a baking tray and drizzle with 100 ml extra virgin olive oil. Cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes or until the garlic is caramelised and the tomatoes are soft. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the tomato skins and squeeze the garlic out of the skin.

Heat 100 ml extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towel and break into pieces.

Place all the ingredients except the remaining oil in a blender and process until a smooth paste forms. With the motor running, slowly add the remaining olive oil and blend until the oil is fully incorporated and has achieved an unctuous consistency. You want the romesco to just coat the leeks. Check for seasoning and add a little more salt or vinegar if required.

Load the leeks top to tail in a grill cage and close the latch. Cook over a wood fire or char grill until completely charred on both sides. Remove from the heat and wrap bundles of 8 leeks in a double thickness of newspaper. Place in a plastic bag for 30-40 minutes to steam.  

To serve, peel off the charred exterior of the leeks and dip in the romesco. 


Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.

Brand-new series Food Safari Earth airs Thursdays at 8pm on SBS then on SBS On Demand. For recipes and more visit the program site right here.