Tapas – tomato bruschetta and ‘pa amb tomàquet’

28 Aug

Green eyes, clenched teeth and that unbearable feeling of suppressing the urge to throw one’s plate of food on the floor, stamp one’s feet and do a big “waaaaaaaaaaaaaah” until the person sitting opposite you at the table agrees to let you eat their food instead : food envy.

Now, I’m rather indecisive at the best of times, but when it comes to eating out at restaurants I really struggle. I want to make sure that I choose the best one, and that everyone wishes that they had chosen my dish. Not the other way round. In fact, sometimes I get so worried that the green eyed food envy monster might rear it’s ugly head that I choose exactly the same dish as PD when we go out for dinner. Now that I’ve seen that written down in front of me, I realise how sad that sounds. But all is not lost, for I have discovered TAPAS! The answer to my prayers. Now I can have a bit of absolutely everything (well, depending on the size of the tapas menu of course). I’ve heard many delightful stories about the origins of tapas, but one of my favourites is that it became illegal to sell alcohol in a Spanish establishment unless food was ordered alongside the drink. To solve this problem easily, people began serving up small pieces of bread along with the drinks, and gradually it became a little more competitive. Things started to appear on top of the bread. Suddenly there was a whole new way of eating, as different places began conjuring up increasingly spectacular bread toppings. Oh, and one of the other things I heard was that the little plate on top of the drink simply served to keep the bugs out. Who knows. Double whammy?

I’ll hopefully find a few nice little tapas dishes for you, but here’s one or two to start with. An incredibly simple one, because I’m tired, and I’ve just had my first day back at med school, and I snuck in a gym sesh (my first one after a long week of food, lazing and partying – you can imagine), and I forgot to take my contacts out and they sat in my eyes for sixteen hours and I can already feel my eyelids drooooooooping, and……..zzzzzzz……..

Okay. Tomato bruschetta.

One thing I love about the Med are the tomatoes. Deep red, perfectly ripe, wonderful aromas and delicious flavours, not to mention the ridiculous numbers of tomato types available. Tens, hundreds. SO MANY. I tend to stick with the normal-fit-in-your-palm-size tomatoes, they’re reasonably priced and I know how to tell whether they’re ripe. I like to squidge them a little between my thumb and forefinger. They should give a little but not be so squishy that if you dropped it on the floor it would become something resembling passata straight away. Smell them; ripe tomatoes have a wonderful smell. If you can’t smell the wafty deliciousness, it’s probably not ripe yet. PD has a thing about storing tomatoes too – don’t put them in the fridge. I can’t remember exactly why, but I’ll check with him later. You can find decent tomatoes in the UK, it’s just a matter of searching for them, rummaging through various packets in the supermarket, and sometimes forking out a few extra pennies for the better ones.

I’m not even going to bullet point the recipe for this one because it’s that simple, but done well with nice ingredients, it is one of my favourite things to nibble. Especially when it’s too hot to eat a full meal, or you’re just not that hungry, or you just need a little late supper whipping up, or you just want a nice starter to serve up to keep people schtum whilst you work on the main course.

Tomato Bruschetta
For two people I use two goodly palm-sized ripe tomatoes chopped up relatively small (so that they’ll fit nicely onto a piece of bread), a jolly good drizzle of olive oil (because you know that one of the best bits is dipping the left over bread in the left over olive oil), some salt and pepper, and if you have some handy – a sprinkling of dried herbs (like oregano – yes I know it’s probably more Italy than Spain, but it’s yummy). Cut up a fresh baguette diagonally – as this gives it a bit more length and space to pile tomatoey goodness on top – and gently toast both sides under the grill. Simply serve the toasted baguette with piles of the tomato on top. Sounds too simple to be true, but it is GOOD. Believe me.

 

‘Pa amb tomàquet’

There’s an alternative to this called ‘Pa amb tomàquet’ which is the typical way bread is served in Catalonia. In this style any bread is used, and again it’s gently toasted. A clove of garlic is rubbed onto the bread, a tomato is halved and the juicy side rubbed roughly over the garlicy bread until it’s well and truly coated, followed by a drizzle of olive oil over the top of it all. In some places, the tomato, garlic and olive oil are whizzed up together to form a paste, and this is spread over the bread instead. Again, it’s really tasty with a sprinkling of herbs. And a nice, chilled glass of cava. 

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