Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bread and tomato

Here in Alicante and just across the border into Murcia we eat a lot of toast with grated tomato  - particularly at breakfast or brunch time. It's also very common to get either bread or toast served along with little dishes of grated tomato and all-i-oli as a free appetiser before a substantial meal. Easy enough, nothing too complicated. Then I came across this piece written by a Catalan. You will see that they take the whole thing pretty seriously. The writer is disparaging of our ready pulped tomato - the devil's work!

The ingredients to prepare it couldn't be easier – bread, ripe tomatoes, olive oil and salt. There is a second option which is to toast the bread and rub garlic on it but that's a matter of choice.

In Catalonia which, claims this snack as its own, they use “pa de pagès” or “peasant bread” which is the typical rounded loaf found in bakers the length and breadth of Spain. It's usually described as “village bread” or “farmhouse bread” or sometimes as “a drum loaf” - the important thing is that the bread should have an open grain and not be too compact. The bread is cut into slices and theses can be used as they are or they can be toasted a little. Should you decide to use garlic to flavour the bread or toast don't use much and just rub the garlic once or twice along the length. If you don't have access to the correct shaped bread wood baked bread of any sort does nearly as well.

Cut some ripe juicy tomatoes in half and rub the open face of the tomato onto the bread until the juice and the pulp give a nice pink colour to the bread. Never use tomato purée or ready pulped tomatoes – that's just not right – always rub fresh tomatoes directly onto the bread. The best tomatoes are “hung vine tomatoes” or “tomates de colgar” which are soft, juicy and have a lovely red colour.

Afterwards we add a little sprinkle of salt and a generous squirt of good virgin olive oil. Eat immediately.

The secret is not to prepare the dish beforehand because the bread will absorb the juice and become too sloppy and flabby. You have to prepare it as you're ready to eat it before the tomato and the oil soak into the bread.

In Catalonia it's very common to eat the bread and tomato with good mountain ham or with one of the the many varieties of local sausages. It goes well with a potato omelette too, with French omelette and indeed with any number of dishes.

It's a typically Mediterranean dish – bread, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic – healthy and easy to make. But the best thing is that it is yummy.

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