One of Catalonia's traditional specialities is Pa amb Tomàquet, bread rubbed with tomato. Catalan people eat it all year long: in winter during the Calçotades; as side dish of a good platter of cold meat; with fish, meat or cheese... Let's take a look into its history.
The origin of Pà amb tomaquet is not clear. Despite Nestor Lujan, writer and gourmet, sets the first reference to this Catalan National Dish in a book about gastronomy in the year 1884, the fact is that its also made in other territories. It is known that in the mid 19th Century, it was used as a way to soften hard bread and olive oil was added to make it tastier. We can find it in Andalusia or Murcia under the name of Media Tostá con Tomate, in Valencia as Pa amb Tomaca or in Aragon as Pan con Tomate.
But, which is the way to make a good Pa amb Tomàquet?
This are the ingredients:
- Genuine and well baked bread.
- Ripe tomatoes.
- Olive oil.
Easy Peasy, isn't it? Not so fast.
First. Avoid industrial made bread, specially the Baguette, sliced soft bread or packing bread. You need a genuine bread, handmade in a good bakery with a crunchy crust: rustic bread or ciabatta are the perfect ones. Ah, and bread must be toasted! Tomato is also an important player on the game. In Catalonia the most used varieties are de penjar (Garland tomato) o de ramellet (cluster tomato) both with their origins in Mallorca. These two kinds once picked from the plant continue their ripening until they become very juicy. When you scrub the tomato on the bread the skin remains. Tomato should never wet the bread, only coat it. In the case that you are not able to find the kinds mentioned before, use fully grown ones. Never ever blend the tomatoes neither mix them with olive oil in a bowl; never use caned tomato or ready to serve stuff that you can buy in a supermarket. And remember: tomatoes must be cut in two halves by the middle of the fruit. Oil must be olive oil, extra virgin and with a strong taste, avoid sunflower or other vegetable oils. Be generous in pouring the oil and let it coat the bread gently. Last step is to add the salt, quantity is to taste. From this traditional and basic recipe one can make variations: you can scrub a garlic clove on the toasted bread or you can not toast the bread if it's freshly made and good quality. You can also use some special salt such as Maldon or crystal salt. One last thing, Pa amb Tomaquet can be enjoyed solo, as a single dish, or can be accompanied with Iberian or Cat