The first few times I shopped in British supermarkets the thing that surprised me the most was the abundance of sauces, spreads and condiments available. That, and one whole aisle dedicated to crisps alone. But back to the sauces. Aisle after aisle, from the classic British condiments (including the dreaded gravy granules) to ready-made curry sauces, mango chutney and similar, it seems to me like the Brits might be a bit scared of dry food. As for myself, I’ve never really given much thought to sauces and spreads. Mayonnaise was banned in our house when I was little. Needless to say, white fish has never been the same again. Sometimes I still dream about my grandma’s homemade mayonnaise but it’s become more like a legend than a memory. Then hummous slowly creeped into my life and now our cupboard is always stocked up on canned chickpeas. The idea of having a slice of crunchy toast or chargrilled flatbread with a thin layer of homemade spread on top has suddenly become very, very appealing. As for romesco sauce, the reasoning behind it is very simple: given that peppers are so good when charred or smoked (or both!), why not make a sauce with them? Certainly not the kind of logic I’m going to argue with. It’s usually said that romesco sauce works brilliantly with anything grilled, be it vegetables, meat or fish. Make it, have it with whatever you like, then come back to see what we had it with.
Start by soaking the noras chillies, halved and deseeded, in boiling water for about an hour. Drain them before using. Prepare the nuts. In a pan, toast the hazelnuts and almonds until lightly golden. Put them in the food processor to cool down. In the pan in which you toasted the nuts, heat the oil and toast the pieces of bread until golden and crunchy. Make sure you don’t burn the edges though, or the burnt flavour will ruin your sauce. Add to the nuts in the food processor. In the (same!) pan, briefly cook the tomatoes until warm throughout but not dry, then add them to the food processor. Mix the garlic, salt, noras chillies and dried chilli in a pestle and mortar and work to a paste. Tip the paste into the food processor. Cut up the roasted bell pepper and get rid of the seeds and membrane. You can get rid of the skin (especially if it’s burnt) but I didn’t bother and left it on. Add to the food processor, along with the vinegar. Finally, blitz until a paste forms. You can choose how smooth you want it to be, I decided to leave it quite rough so that you could still feel the crunch of the nuts. It’s up to you. Take the sauce out of the food processor, pour in a bowl and mix in the extra virgin olive oil. Depending on the consistency, you might want to mix in some water to make it more spreadable. The sauce tastes better the next day, at room temperature.