It’s summer vacation time for many people at the moment, and that can bring back memories of foods you have enjoyed on vacation, thoughts of good recipes to make with the kids or things that are easy to make in self-catered accommodation. These llescas – Catalan bread pizza or loaded toasts – are a bit of all of those for me. They are something I enjoyed a few times while I was living in Catalunya, Spain many years ago (ok not on vacation as such, but one of my first jobs so in a way remembered a bit vacation-like at times!). They are also so quick and easy to make, they are both great for getting the kids involved in making them and work with minimal appliances and ingredients if you’re away from home. Plus, they are really tasty and adaptable. So lets get started!
There are numerous possibilities to top these bread pizzas, ranging from relatively simple cured meats or cheese to more elaborate mixes. Here I’ve gone with what were two of our favorites at a llesca restaurant in the town I lived in, and both are very classically Spanish. The first is spinach with pine nuts and raisins – sometimes called espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan spinach) – and the other is ham, mushroom and cheese. The restaurant we went to used huge slices of bread that hung off even a large plate so one bread pizza was definitely enough. I guess I chose to do both as I couldn’t decide which is my favorite, but also because with more normal-sized pieces of bread, two slices are about right for one generous serving, so one of each solved the decision problem. Plus, it gives options for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
These are incredibly quick to make and all you need is a small skillet/frying pan and a broiler/grill. If you are somewhere without a broiler but have a toaster, then you can still make a pretty good version of these. All you need to do is first gently toast the bread and rub it with garlic. Then for the toppings, cook the mushrooms in butter, or wilt the spinach in a little olive oil then add the other ingredients to each. If you have a grill, finish off under the grill, or if you don’t then keep warming the mushroom mixture to soften the cheese before putting on the bread. Either way, it takes only around fifteen minutes in all for a delicious meal that everyone will enjoy.
In case you are wondering about rubbing the bread with garlic, this is the first step to making ‘pan tomate’ or ‘pa amb tomaquet’ (bread with tomato) that is a Catalan classic, these days found all over Spain. For pan tomate, after the garlic, you would rub the bread with a cut tomato and then drizzle with a little olive oil and a dash of salt. I would do this as a base if I was using a simple Serrano ham or cheese as a topping, but for these two, the tomato is less of a fit. But if you are still hungry and have more bread but not topping, then pan tomate is definitely worth making!
These Catalan bread pizzas are served up as part of this week’s Weekday Supper where various bloggers share ideas for busy weekday meals – see all of the great meals that are being shared this week:
Monday – Balsamic Burgers with Bourbon Peach BBQ Sauce by The Redhead Baker
Tuesday – Llescas – Catalan Bread Pizza by Caroline’s Cooking
Wednesday – Shrimp Salad Rolls by Grumpy’s Honeybunch
Thursday – Lobster Tacos with Avocado Aioli by Casa de Crews
Friday – Shrimp Scampi over Linguine by Planet on a Plate
Do take a look at the other recipes as the week progresses. In the meantime, I hope you’ll give these delicious llescas/Catalan bread pizzas a go – they are so worth the few minutes they take to make. I for one will be having them again soon!
- 2 large slices of bread (ideally a relatively plain but dense artisan/country-style bread)
- 1 small clove of garlic
- for spinach topping-
- a little olive oil
- 2oz/55g spinach, tough stems removed
- 1tbsp pine nuts
- 1tbsp raisins
- a couple gratings of parmesan (optional)
- for ham topping -
- ½tbsp butter
- 3oz/85g mushrooms
- A dash of thyme (optional)
- 1oz/28g (1 slice) ham (e.g black forest, Virginia)
- 1oz/28g hard, non-crumbly cheese (eg Swiss, Jarlesberg)
- Get everything ready before you start - cut the mushrooms in half then slice fairly thinly. Cut the slice of ham into small squares, and slice then cut the cheese into similar sized square pieces. Roughly chop the spinach. Cut the end off the garlic and peel back the skin.
- Toast the bread lightly on both sides then rub one side with the garlic. Leave this side up to put toppings on.
- For the spinach topping, heat the oil in a small skillet/frying pan and add the spinach, stir occasionally as it wilts down (only a minute or two). Add the pine nuts and raisins, mix then remove from the heat. Put the topping on a slice of bread and grate over a little parmesan, if using.
- Melt the butter in the skillet (can be same one) and cook the mushrooms until soft, around 5min. Add a little dried thyme, if you like. Remove from the heat and add the ham and cheese, mix through. If not able to grill, then leave on the heat for a minute longer to soften the cheese then either way, carefully stack on top of a slice of bread.
- If able to grill, put both types of llesca under the grill - with the spinach, this is until the cheese softens and pine nuts browning slightly, around 1-2mins. With the ham version, it's until the cheese is melting both on top and further in, nearer 5min.