Pa amb tomàquet - A mighty-vine Catalan tapa

Pa amb tomàquet - catalan tomato and bread tapa.
Mighty vine: Pa amb tomàquet - catalan tomato and bread tapa.

Hopefully some of you out there - possibly, my Dad at least - may be aware that my previous post on Scrumptious Scran was a foodie travelogue encapsulating culinary discoveries made during a recent visit to Barcelona.  Publicising such musings on social media, as is the want of most food bloggers, I was a bit surprised to be accused by some, seemingly, smart Alec that the article was ‘completely oblivious to its [Barcelona's] culture.’  'How odd' thought I - or words to that effect.  For what could typify a city's, region's or country's culture more than the food and drink that is uniquely associated with it?  For it effectively represents a place's history and literature on a plate, or in a glass.

And when it comes to Barcelona and Catalunya, there is one dish that ultimately typifies the culture there.  It is uncomplicated, harking back to when what is now modern-day Catalonia was much more rural, and certainly less of the industrial powerhouse it has become in modern times. It uses locally-sourced ingredients, and stems from a time when wasting any food - even stale bread - would be treated with disdain.  I talk, of course, of the straightforward yet exquisitely delicious tapa/dish that is pa amb tomàquet, which literally translates as 'bread with tomato'.

Pa amb tomàquet is a dish that is ubiquitous in Catalunya, being served from high-end restaurants to neighbourhood canteens, as well as consistently cropping up in the kitchens of practically every household. It's also a dish that is ideal for easy dining on warm summer days, so great for an alfresco lunch or supper back in the UK, when the sun is shining. And what’s more it takes just minutes to make and involves the use of just four or five ingredients; bread, tomatoes, salt, garlic (optional but adds real flavour and a little kick) and olive oil.
 
So if you fancy a bit of Barcelona on a plate, back in Blighty, here’s my guide as to what you will need to make your own, pretty authentic,  pa amb tomàquet, and the achingly simple process for putting the dish together.  ¡Salud!

Serves 2 as a tapa or part of a light lunch.

Ingredients
  • 2 large, thick slices of rustic bread - sourdough is really ideal for this.
  • 2 tomatoes, halved - these should be ripe and sweet with not too much acidity, and ideally posses a pulp that isn't too watery.  Catalans traditionally use tomàquets de ramallet (tomatoes still on the vine) so go for properly vine ripened heritage ones, if possible.
  • A clove of garlic, peeled and halved - a nice fat juicy clove is ideal.
  • Olive oil - the best quality one you have in the kitchen, a fruity, extra-virgin, Spanish variety would be right there in terms of flavour.
  • Course sea salt.
Preparation and cooking
  1. Heat a grill to a medium heat.  Place the bread on a tray under the grill and cook for a couple of minutes each side until just beginning to turn very slightly golden.  Remove, and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Sprinkle the bread with a few grains of the sea salt, then gently rub one side of each slice all over with the garlic, so that it releases its oil on the surface. A little salt on the bread will help with this.
  3. Rub the same surface of each slice with the tomatoes.  The pulp of each tomato half should cover the bread leaving just the skin behind.
  4. Generously drizzle the olive oil over the tomato-laden side of each slice, and sprinkle with a little more sea salt, to taste, if desired.  Consume with gusto and a crisp, cold beverage.
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