My heart sinks when the café’s not-quite-open look suggests that we might be too early for the Andalucían breakfast we were too late for the other day.
But the door swings open, and we find a man crouched over the bar, stirring endless sachets of sugar into his black coffee. He has the comfortably sleepy look of an early morning regular, and is quietly waiting for his tostada (toast) which is crisping up nicely under the grill.
Stubby glasses of pure red tomato pulp are lined up neatly on the shiny clean bar, ready for waves of hungry customers, along with several bottles of local olive oil.
For now it is still calm, with just the low murmurings of a café coming to life. We want what the heavy-eyed regular is having: tostada con tomate y aceite (toast with tomato and olive oil).
Cafetería Fleming is our local café, recommended by our Airbnb hosts, who have also advised that unless you can eat like a horse, opt for the tostada media (one sliced half of a big baguette) rather than the tostada entera (both halves).
The bar-slumped regular perks up when his breakfast is placed before him. He stabs his fork into his tostada entera with a light touch, before slowly drizzling olive oil to colour the toast a gentle green. Then he heaps plentiful spoonfuls of tomato pulp on top, and finishes with a generous sprinkle of salt.
Having noted his relaxed but meticulous method, we have a go ourselves.
It’s a DIY breakfast of delicious simplicity. And at an easy price too – 1,90 euros together with a café con leche.
Authentically Andalucían though this breakfast is, the idea is apparently centuries-old in Catalonia, where it’s well-known by its Catalan name as a regional specialty – pa amb tomàquet – and the DIY element includes the tomato pulping.
Halves of tomato are rubbed straight onto the warm oiled toast, leaving the skin to be discarded. Sometimes garlic is smoothed over the toast prior to the oiling and pulping process.
Back at home, I wonder if my attempt at the Andalucían way of grating tomatoes into a pulp will leave my hands red raw, but only the skin of the tomato is shaved away. It’s surprisingly painless.
The tomatoes I am using are lamentably small and supermarket-perfect. And all I have is seedy brown bread, rather than a crusty white Spanish loaf. I love garlic, so decide to make it even more unauthentically Andalucían by scrubbing a sweet Calalonian punch over my toast.
It turns out to be a perfectly acceptable Anglo-Spanish-Catalan mish-mash (for a late bite instead of breakfast). Not quite as good as the real thing – and at the wrong time – but it’ll do for now.