a simple pleasure: tomatoes on toast (pan con tomate)

tomatoes on toast (pan con tomate)
Contrary to my family lore, my father Henry did not invent tomatoes-on-toast. But ask any member of the family and you will find that one of their all-abiding memories will be of my father eating tomatoes on toast, tomatoes on crackers, tomatoes on biscuits or sometimes, just on their own. This is a man who has no shame and will quite happily forage in other people's kitchens for a simple snack at all times of the day or night, evidenced by a smear of tomato pips, dried-up nubs of garlic and a trail of crumbs.

Growing up, this was a normal part of life. It was only recently that my aunt, my father's sister, told me that she and her husband were convinced that Henry had invented this simple delicacy sometime in the early 1950s's. My uncle snorted with laughter. "Well, we just thought it was one of your eccentric father's idiosyncrasies but after a while, although it was a bit odd, we started to understand. It is bloody delicious!"




During my teens, my mother had a job working in the City. Several times a week she would nip out to Petticoat Lane market to one of the fruit 'n veg stalls to buy a big brown paper bag of tomatoes. "Blimey,  Missus!" the stall holder frequently exclaimed. "Your husband really does love his tomatoes. He's keeping me in business!"

Little did the stallholder know that on the days that my mother wasn't buying tomatoes, my father was nipping out from his office in
the City to buy yet more tomatoes from the same chap. And that was on top of the tomatoes Henry was growing at home. I think you'll agree, that's a lot of tomatoes for one man.

To this day, Henry at 82 is still a thoroughly committed tomato eater, although now his enjoyment is enhanced by various flavoured oils (chilli, walnut or hazelnut) and a much wider variety of different types of tomato. But can we account for his longevity on his colossal consumption of tomatoes? I do hope so and long may it last.

Recently my favourite market stall in Kentish Town, on the corner by the Co-op, run by a lovely Kosovan family, have been selling punnets of cherry tomatoes on the vine. At £1.50 for half a kilo, they are a bargain. But having tasted them, at £1.50 they are an absolute steal. These are tomatoes that taste the way tomatoes should taste - sweet and vegetal with a slight hint of cloves. I don't know whether tomato-eating is in my genes but I have been working my way through bucket-loads of them.


tomatoes on toast (pan con tomate)
Talking to the lady that runs the stall today, she said with a big grin that she takes a punnet home every night to feed her family. I told her that I have been eating them at every meal of the day and snacking on them like sweets. "Exactly!" she laughed.

The guy who she had just served and who had been walking away, had overhead our conversation. He came back and bought a punnet. Oh the power of word-of-mouth!


I am buying locally but if the tomatoes themselves don't actually come from Britain, and in fact are Dutch, then frankly I am not going to beat myself up over it. They taste bloody lovely!


So this is my version of a classic Spanish tapas, pan con tomate. I know Henry will approve.


Skill level: Easy

ingredients:
sourdough or good-quality rustic bread
1 x garlic clove
extra-virgin olive oil (a very green, pepper one works beautifully here)
cherry tomatoes on the vine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, to serve

directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C / Gas Mark 7.
  2. Place the vines of cherry tomatoes on a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are beginning to soften.
  3. Lightly toast slices of sourdough (or griddle in a griddle pan).
  4. Rub the toast with the cut surface of a garlic clove and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  5. Mash the cherry tomatoes onto the toast and season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Top with fresh thyme leaves and serve.

4 comments:

brunchatgoodies said...

Rachael, A great story and as ever a super tasty dish, the simple ones are always the best! With the advent of locally grown tomatoes from "Clyde Valley Tomatoes" tomatoes of all types and sizes have been looming large in my life of late. I have also discovered the pleasure of slowly oven roasting tomatoes which have been halved, sprinkled with oregano and olive oil then cooked long and slow for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on size, at 150 degrees C. The intensity of flavour is amazing.
Best regards,
Keith

Jenny Eatwell said...

Tomatoes on toast is one of my favourite breakfasts. I'll even settle for tinned tomatoes at a pinch! :)

belleau kitchen said...

we have friends who live near Almeria and whenever we visit they take us to this teeny cafe where we have tomatoes on toast for breakfast and every time I think this is such a simple idea yet how come it tastes so good... yours looks lovely with the baked toms... really pretty x

belleau kitchen said...

we have friends who live near Almeria and whenever we visit they take us to this teeny cafe where we have tomatoes on toast for breakfast and every time I think this is such a simple idea yet how come it tastes so good... yours looks lovely with the baked toms... really pretty x