Pan con tomate: Find out what all the fuss is about

Bread with tomato is a very simple combination but it proves itself as an exciting dish

Pan con Tomate, a cold tapas plate of toasted  bread, fresh grated tomato, garlic, olive oil and sea salt. Photograph: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald.

Pan con Tomate, a cold tapas plate of toasted bread, fresh grated tomato, garlic, olive oil and sea salt. Photograph: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald.

 

Perhaps it’s too early to talk of tomatoes, considering our own tomatoes are still many months away. Yet, on a recent trip to Barcelona I was reminded again of that simple tapa that is often eaten for breakfast: pan con tomate (bread with tomato). If you have already had it yourself, you’ll know what all the fuss is about. Others will wonder how such a simple combination can be so exciting.

Did many of us not grow up eating soggy tomato sandwiches with no salt and too much margarine? Maybe it’s the sheer foreignness of it. The fact that you are sitting in a small café in Barcelona for breakfast and there isn’t a full Irish in sight. I don’t mind the odd sausage and rasher, but when someone offers me a tomato bread with slivers of Jamòn Iberico (Iberian cured ham) I do tend to melt. 

Let’s not get too disheartened about the Irish tomatoes whose due date is somewhere far off in July. There are plenty of good flavoursome Italian or Spanish varieties now in the shops. The trick is to get ripe ones. This doesn’t mean vine ripened, as often the presence of a vine in the package means little or nothing. It’s better to be able to pick up the tomato and smell it, though I know this is often not possible. If all else fails, use your eyes to judge ripeness. 

To make the tomato bread, you need a really nice crispy baguette or sourdough. Sliced pan won’t cut it unfortunately, but batch bread (my mother’s favourite when we were growing up) will work too. 

Toast the bread and rub with a garlic clove. Half a tomato and squeeze each half over each side of the baguette. Drizzle with a nice extra Irish virgin rapeseed oil (Kitty Colechester’s is great) and finish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

There are many variations to this process. In Cava, we blend the tomatoes in a food processor and season with oil and sea salt. 

Whatever way you make it, it’ll lend an Iberian appetite to your mornings. 

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