Llescas are a Catalan bread pizza or loaded toast, with various toppings. Here are 2 classics: spinach, pine nuts and raisins and ham, mushroom and cheese. Both delicious and incredibly easy to make.
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It's summer vacation time for many people at the moment, and that can bring back memories of foods you have enjoyed on vacation or things that are easy to make in self-catered accommodation. Even just things that are super quick to make or that you can get the kids to help make.
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. True, I wasn't on vacation as such, but I would often go to a place that made them with friends as we celebrated the end of the week. They are also so quick and easy to make - and you can get the kids involved - and you only need a skillet and broiler/grill to make them. The end result is so tasty, too.
My time in Catalunya introduced me to a whole range of new foods. I'll admit I didn't really know that much about Spain before I went and I definitely didn't know about the regional differences. Catalunya is definitely an area that has both a distinct language and cuisine that reflects where it's located.
There is a whole group of dishes known as 'mar y montanya' (sea and mountain) that combine seafood with land animals - some paellas or fideua are made that way as well with pork or chicken in there. I discovered many now favorites like romesco sauce, romesco de peix (fish stew) and crema Catalana too. And these llescas.
In the restaurant we used to go to, the list of llescas in the menu was huge. Toppings ranged from relatively simple cured meats or cheese to more elaborate mixes. Here I've gone with what were two of our favorites, and both are very classically Spanish.
The first is spinach with pine nuts and raisins - sometimes called 'espinacas a la Catalana' (Catalan spinach). I've also made a chard variation on it's own as a side - Catalan-style sauteed Swiss chard - that's really tasty too.
The other is ham, mushroom and cheese, another common mix (not just in Spain, it's true). 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. Plus, it gives options for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
How to make llescas - Catalan bread pizza
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.
- For the mushroom topping, cook the mushrooms in butter, then add the thyme, ham and cheese.
- For the spinach topping, wilt the spinach in a little olive oil then add the pine nuts, raisins and parmesan.
- Spread the toppings over the toasted bread.
- Warm for a couple minutes under the grill so the cheese melts.
If you don't have a grill, then keep warming the mushroom mixture to soften the cheese before putting it 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 con tomate' or 'pa amb tomaquet' (bread with tomato) that is a Catalan classic, these days found all over Spain. For pan con 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!
Do 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!
Try these other sandwich-like ideas:
- Danish smørrebrød (open sandwiches)
- Goat cheese and prosciutto croissant with balsamic figs
- Caprese focaccia sandwich
Llescas - Catalan bread pizza
- 2 slices bread large slices, ideally a relatively plain but dense artisan/country-style bread
- ½ clove garlic
For spinach topping
- ½ tablespoon olive oil approx
- 2 oz spinach 55g, tough stems removed
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 1 tablespoon parmesan finely grated, optional
For ham & mushroom topping
- ½ tablespoon butter
- 3 oz mushrooms 85g
- 1 dash thyme optional
- 1 oz cooked ham 28g, 1 slice ham (e.g black forest, Virginia)
- 1 oz Swiss cheese 28g or other non-crumbly cheese (eg 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.
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