Pa amb oli tapas
Just back from the sizzling heat of the Mediterranean and memories of the food we ate are still tingling my taste buds. A classic but little known local dish from the north of the island is a tapas style delicacy called Pa amb oli or rye bread and oil. We basically ate plates and plates of this nearly every night instead of an actual meal. Like many peasant dishes it was inexpensive but superbly easy to eat and many people order it with layers of cheese and Ibérico ham laid on top but we would go for a mixture of the cheese, grilled vegetables and tortilla options and they were so good. An amazing starter for sharing with large groups but they are also very much like a pizza so would work as a main course too. There are just so many options of toppings to choose from. The rye bread is also very low in gluten. It’s not quite gluten-free but for some people it may be a nice alternative to high-gluten breads.
For the rustic rye bread
A type of rustic rye bread is the traditional bread used for this dish. For toppings, any selection of fresh vegetables such as courgettes, beef tomatoes, red peppers or aubergine.
Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together, then add the water and bring together with a rubber spatula until you have a sticky shaggy mess – cover with a tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, drizzle a little oil onto your work surface, rub around with your hand and then using your oiled hand lift the shaggy mess from the bowl and place it onto your oiled surface. Then drizzle a little more oil into the bowl and rub this around the inside of the bowl with your oiled hand and set aside.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes until soft and silky then place the dough back into the bowl and stretch cling film over the top of the bowl. Set aside for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
After an hour pre-heat your oven to 220C or as hot as it will go and place an oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven.
Oil your work surface and then scoop out the risen dough onto the oil. You want to knock it back with your knuckles and fold it over envelope-style a few times and then shape into a ball. Set aside on a baking tray lined with parchment, for another 30 minutes.
Spritz the loaf with water, then sprinkle on a little rye flour and rub gently with your hand. Slash the top with a sharp knife. Quickly open the oven and pour a little cold water into the tray in the oven and then place in the loaf and bake in the oven for 10 minutes on 220C followed by 20 minutes on 180C. It will be done when they are risen and golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom – set aside on a wire rack to cool.
Slice your vegetables quite thickly and then set aside – halve one of your tomatoes. In a large bowl pour in two tablespoons olive oil, a selection of fresh torn herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano, salt and pepper, then place the cut veg into the bowl and smoosh around with your hands until the veg are nicely coated.
Place a griddle pan on the heat until smoking hot. Turn down the heat to medium and then carefully and relatively quickly griddle your veg… they only need a couple of minutes on each side. They need a little crunch.
Slice the bread into medium slices and grill on both sides.
Slice a clove of garlic in half and rub the hot toast with the garlic on one side, then taking your ripe tomato, cut that in half and rub it on the garlic-rubbed side of toast. Do this quite firmly until the tomato breaks apart. I used roughly a quarter beef tomato on each slice of bread. Drizzle each slice with olive oil and then layer the toppings of your choice onto each slice.
Eat and of course, enjoy!