Tag Archives: garlic

Pan Con Tomate

Pa amb TomaquetThis morning there were two rather soft, slightly wrinkly tomatoes lurking in the fruit bowl, they had pan con tomate written all over them. Why put tomatoes in the fridge? So many shop-bought tomatoes are like bullets anyway and even the most unpromising, cotton -wooly specimens can only improve with a couple of days maturing on the side in the kitchen. If you do happen to forget them for a few days, and they’re past the firm tomato salad stage then they’ll be perfect for squashing on some good toast; the Catalan answer to bread and butter.

I ate my first toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, tomato and then doused with wonderful olive oil, as a child in Ibiza. My memories of the tiny Balearic Island are a million miles from the wild nightclubs that most people that most people think of. My grandparents moved there in the ’60’s and my sister, Libbus, and I spent holidays trudging down the dirt track through the pines to the beach, visiting hippi markets, eating the best peaches in the world, watching geckos and getting sunstroke (thankfully just the once). This month we finally said good bye to Ibiza Gran, who had reached the incredible age of 100. She was a legend: worldly-wise, fabulously outspoken, with a superbly exotic wardrobe (that used to fill me with dread as a teenager) and an unmatched talent for “Spanglish”. As we sat down on the beach at her favourite restaurant Ses Boques (below Es Cubells) I just had to dive into a plate of gambas a la plancha and some pan con tomate with a glass of vino rosado, to toast her on her way. Gran would have been tucking into the alioli too (the feistily pungent garlic emulsion served with bread); she always maintained that garlic was key to good health and long life.

But back to the business of the bread and tomato. It is quite simply one of the very most surprisingly delicious things to do with a tomato and so, so much better than just slicing it onto a piece of bruschetta.

You will need, per person:
A couple of slices of country, rustic or sourdough bread
1 clove of garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
1 very ripe tomato, cut in half equatorially
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
A good pinch of salt


The bread is great toasted on a ridged griddle, or better still on a toasting fork over an open fire, but an everyday toaster will do the trick too. It’s definitely not the moment for brown or granary bread, most Spaniards still think that you must have some distressing health problem to even consider eating the stuff but, more to the point, it doesn’t work as well here.

Rub the toast with the cut side of the garlic clove, it’s amazing how much flavour the bread soaks up.

Now squeeze the tomato directly onto the bread, you want as much of the soft flesh as possible, the skin gets thrown out. You can grate the tomato half at a time and you’ll be left with the just the skin in your fingers, it’s a restaurant trick, but I always prefer to squash and squeeze my own.

Drizzle with some delicious extra virgin olive oil (I love the Spanish oils extracted from the tiny Arbequina olives) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Dive in whilst it’s warm.

Pan con Tomate makes a great snack alongside other Tapasy bits like tortilla, calamares or fried artichokes. You could have some, D.I.Y. style, at your next barbeque or you could indulge, as I did, with some sublime Ibérico ham.DSC_7728

And here’s just a glimpse of idyllic Ibiza, for those of you who might think that it’s all about  sweaty DJs, pedalos and cheap sangria. OOh I could do with a bit of that right now.

Fiery Spaghetti with Purple Sprouting

sprouting in colander

The first veg box has arrived. I’ve been umming and ahing for years about getting one. It’s just that I always plan to scour farmer’s markets and local shops for my seasonal produce, but have finally faced up to the fact that I usually end up in the supermarket. I’ll still pop up the road to the fabulous Reg the Veg for extra bits and pieces but from now on it’s the surprise element of my weekly box that will dictate what I cook (and sometimes write about).

So, amongst all the other fabulous veggies, this week’s highlight –  purple sprouting.  I love the stuff, it’s so much tastier than the green Calabrese broccoli they sell everywhere month in month out. It seems mad that a few decades ago purple sprouting broccoli was the British norm and the Italian import was considered rather exotic.

The sun shone today, it actually felt like we might be leaving the sub zero weather behind at last and so I got over excited and cooked up a rather summery feeling dish. I wanted my sprouting to play centre stage and so I opted for pasta. Italians love to cook broccoli and cauliflower with chilli and garlic, and perhaps it was the sunshine that had me feeling nostalgic about summer holidays and fiery bowls of spaghetti alio e olio. Spaghetti with oil, lashings of garlic and a good dose of chilli is about as cheap and basic as a bowl of pasta can get, but I became addicted on last year’s holiday in Calabria. (Highlights: the stunning old town of Tropea, the Aeolian islands and amazing food all round. Low point: JoJo getting a jelly fish stuck down his swimming trunks.)

But, back to the pasta. You could add all sorts of other bits to this dish such as toasted pine kernels, capers, salted anchovies or sun blush tomatoes (the juicy semi-dried ones) but I love its simplicity. You really don’t need parmesan, the crispy breadcrumbs are often referred to as poor man’s parmesan in any case. And, if pasta’s not your thing then just try this dish with butter beans instead.

Fiery Spaghetti with Purple Sprouting

Sprouting pasta and fork

300 g purple sprouting
A large handful of fresh bread crumbs along with 2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes, or a couple of dried chillis finely chopped
About 250 ml extra virgin olive oil

Trim any tough stalks from the sprouting (the guinea pigs are in heaven) but keep all those delicious leaves. Give it a rinse.

Toss the breadcrumbs around in the olive oil and roast on a tray for around 10 minutes in a hot oven (200c ish) until throughly crisp and golden. You can toast up a double quantity and keep some in a jar for a few days too (they add a good bit of crunch to a salad)

Throw the garlic and chilli into a small pan with the cold extra virgin oil and heat through really slowly so that the garlic flavour infuses the oil. Whip it off the heat as soon as the garlic begins to colour, it will continue to cook for a minute or two. You want to finish up with glorious gold rather than burnt brown. Set the oil aside (do it ahead if you feel like it).

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente and steam or boil the sprouting for a matter of minutes until just tender. (I have a steamer that fits perfectly on top of my pasta pan.)

Now it’s just a question of tossing the drained pasta in the wickedly fiery garlic oil and then carefully rolling in the purple sprouting. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and serve.

purple sprouting and EVOOther Wonderful Ways with Purple Sprouting

Classic anchovy dressing – Pound about 6 salted anchovy fillets together with the juice of half a lemon, about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Steam or boil about 500 g of sprouting. Drain and toss in the oil. Sublime alongside lamb.

Try going down the Oriental route – Steam or boil about 500 g of sprouting until just tender and then refresh in cold water. Stir fry about a teaspoon of chopped garlic, a teaspoon of chopped ginger and a couple of finely diced chillis in a splash of vegetable oil until fabulously fragrant. Toss in a tablespoon of fermented black beans along with the sprouting, stir to heat through and serve.