I spent three months in Spain in 2009, a post-redundancy treat. And one of the things I love most about Spain is the fact that breakfast, like early evening drinks, like the nightly stroll, like life, is public not private. Everyone seems to have breakfast out in Spain; a quick cafe con leche, or manchada, a tostada con tomate or con mantequilla, and plenty of chat and noise. I sometimes think noise is as essential as salt to Spanish eating habits. It’s not a country, like Britain, of ‘quiet drinks’ or a quick one; no, this is a place that wants pleasure to be loud, shared and on the street.
And I love it. Especially the eating breakfast out thing. I was taking Spanish lessons and in the mid-morning my classmate Maia and I would dash out to the nearest cafe, a place called Bar Aixa, for a coffee and a pan con tomate. She’d always have an entero (a whole toasted roll) with tomato and jamon, and I’d always have a medio (half a roll) with just tomato. It’s one of my favourite breakfasts and, since I’m not there and there is no equivalent to Aixa in North London, or not that I’ve found, I thought I’d try recreating it.
There are tons of recipes on the web, and most of them suggest rubbing half a tomato on the toast. But in Aixa the toast wasn’t just coloured red, but had what looked like tomato jam spread across the bread. So I went for this recipe in Saveur. Not only does the picture look just right, but grating the tomato creates the exact effect I was after: a sort of savoury spread. It had none of the noise but all of the flavour of Aixa; a sunny breakfast to cheer up a not-so-sunny London.
Pan con Tomate
A) a slice of good bread (it needs to be baguette, or cut from a loaf, not ready-sliced)
B) 1 medium-sized tomato (depending on the size you may have some ‘jam’ left over … maybe enough for another slice)
C) 1/2 clove garlic, peeled
D) good olive oil
1) Grate the tomato, on the biggest holes of a grater, into a bowl.
2) Toast the bread.
3) Rub the cut side of the garlic on one side of the toasted bread.
4) Spoon some of the grated tomato onto the toast. Season with salt and olive oil to taste.