Most of London woke to a light dusting of snow this past Sunday morning but while there are Narnia like scenes outside, we’ve got a bit of the Mediterranean inside. We’ve still got a handful of so of tomatoes grown in our garden and harvested last autumn.

Tomacons

Now what kind of tomato keeps for months like that?! Hanging tomatoes do – let’s ignore the fact that I haven’t actually hung mine. These thick skinned tomatoes are the kind to use for the famous Catalan pa amb tomàquet (literally ‘bread with tomato’) and are generally not available outside Spain, maybe not even outside Catalonia. In Catalan, these go by the names tomàquets de penjar (hanging tomatoes) or tomacons.

Have you tried making pa amb tomàquet at home with regular tomatoes? There’s not much to squish out of those fleshy salad tomatoes, is there? Many Spanish restaurants here, either unable to get the original tomatoes or who need to make lots in advance, tend to puree tomatoes and premix the puree with olive oil and salt and when it’s time to serve, brush this mixture onto toast. It really doesn’t taste the same.

These tomacons have lots of liquid and seeds inside their thick skins, making them absolutely rubbish for eating like a salad tomato but perfect for rubbing onto bread. Cut them in half around their equator, and rub their flesh vigorously onto a slice of gently toasted bread. You’ll find the tomato flesh give and release itself all over the bread, leaving empty skins between your fingers. Drizzle with olive and a bit of salt (and you could also rub a little garlic on the toast before the tomato) and you’re feasting.

We've gotta eat pa amb tomàquet while watching the Catalan election results! These are our home grown tomacons - the usual tomatoes used for this. I'll write a blog post about them one day.

And here's our pa amb tomàquet! #27s

Here’s a photo of another variety in a market in Barcelona. Oh look, they’re being properly hung for storage!

Hanging Tomatoes

You’ll notice that they look a little different than the ones I grew. Ours were tomacons of the variety mallorquí, which are quite distinct with their pointy bottoms. I’m growing a different variety next year – Domingo.

If you’re looking for seeds to grow them, you can, of course, get them in garden shops in Catalonia but I’ve also found them at Real Seeds – they’re listed as the variety De Colgar (Spanish for ‘hanging’). Ignore what they say about them being nearly extinct as that may be the case in the rest of Spain but it’s definitely not the case in Catalonia; you can buy them from pretty much any grocers. I believe those are the correct seeds!

Wasn’t the weekend glorious? Sun in the sky, light breeze to keep things cool – it was perfect for a picnic. The first of the year! We’re getting pretty good at packing picnics now; I remember a poor one we had years ago when we first started going out and we didn’t have napkins or plastic cups or anything to even sit on. We have two mats/blankets, even a few throw pillows, all manner of plastic cutlery and cups, napkins, …. and camera, of course!

Picnic

To keep things simple this time, I packed some cookies I’d baked the night before (recipe in the next blog post!), some strawberries, a few individual yogurts, and some sandwiches. We based these sandwiches on some we bought in Barcelona this past trip – we were going for a day hike and that morning, we stopped into the local bakery and picked up a few plain-looking sandwiches: they were small baguettes, one with ham, one with chorizo, and one with some other preserved sausage. They didn’t look particularly exciting but when we unwrapped them, we found that the bread was rubbed with tomato and olive oil which lubricated everything nicely and made that sandwich utterly fantastic. (Well, I was surprised while Blai and his brother were not. Apparently, it’s the usual thing over in Catalunya to make sandwiches from pa amb tomàquet, that very Catalan combination of bread with tomato).

A Pa amb Tomàquet Sandwich

This is again one of those no-recipe, more-of-a-description posts. To make these sandwiches, use a small baguette per person; we used those half baked ones that you get at the supermarket and baked them that morning and allowed them to cool before preparing the sandwiches. Slice them in half horizontally lengthwise. Take a couple of very juicy tomatoes, slice them in half along their equators and then rub the cut sides into the cut sides of the bread. Really squeeze those tomatoes and get all the juice and seeds and flesh that squishes out onto the bread. The bread shouldn’t be soaking wet but there should be enough that the cut side is stained red. Sprinkle with salt if desired (I usually leave this step out) and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (never skip this step!). If necessary, press the two halves together to prevent the oil from leaking everywhere! You now have pa amb tomàquet! It’s lovely eaten by itself or topped with some ham (open-faced) or with some cured sausage on the side but we’re here to make sandwiches!

Now choose your filling – we had some thinly sliced honey roast ham and sliced cheese. Don’t be too generous with these fillings! You want a nice balance between them and your pa amb tomàquet. A few slices will do. Wrap up your sandwich (we just used plastic wrap) and it will be good for when you’re ready to eat it! I’m not usually a fan of sandwiches but I am a sucker for these!