This recipe relies on two Catalan essentials, a sofregit, which is in this case a rich and complex tomato and vegetable sauce, and a picada to hold the sauce together. A picada is ‘one of the bookends of Catalan cuisine,’ according to Colman Andrews, author of Catalan Cuisine. I love the word picada – it isn’t quite a sauce in itself, unless you think of bread sauce perhaps, it is a luscious paste of bread or fried bread, plus nuts, olive oil, spices or herbs all pounded together.
Authentically, and most enjoyably, this is done with a large pestle and mortar and the sweat of the brow, but it can be made more quickly in a food processor – keep pulsing for a long time or the texture of the nuts will not be smooth enough. The picada is a useful tool – it is used as a thickener, but it also adds heart and a whole spectrum of deep flavours to any dish.