“Life is one pa amb oli after another.” – Tomás Graves
Ah! Pa amb oli…that most Mallorcan of food delights, and so simple, right?
You’d think it would be impossible to mess up bread and oil, but there are some fairly serious rules about pa amb oli making. So, get out your pencils, folks, Affordable Mallorca is about to give you the 101 on how to create the best pa amb oli ever!
The dish has roots in the 18th century and is attributed to a friar by name the name of Jaume Josep Bernat Martí i Oliver. The name is quite a mouthful, and not easily remembered, but he was a scholar who made the first known compilation of Mallorcan cuisine.
The recipe itself was reportedly created to use up bread that was on its last legs and was far too dry to be enjoyable anymore without a bit of sprucing up and became a hit nearly immediately.
The enduring love of this simple country fare has inspired books dedicated to it’s making and consumption. The writer Tomás Graves dedicated an entire book to the humble pa amb oli called Bread and Oil, a fab read for those interested in Mallorca and its culture and people.
The unpretentious dish has even spawned a pa amb oli crawl, called the Ruta Pa amb Oli, around the streets of Palma, giving tasters a chance to try different preparations and new adaptations.
Official Recipe #
This is the most traditional recipe for pa amb oli, and one you’ll find at most authentic Mallorcan restaurants.
Peasant Bread (Pan Payés)
Virgin Olive Oil
The bread is cut in slices and ramellet tomato is “scrubbed” onto the surface making it turn a lovely rosy colour. The native Mallorcan ramellet is the preferred varietal on the island. This is because it grows well in dry climates, has a hard and rather bitter skin ideally suited for being stored for much longer periods (up to nine months!) than other types of tomato, meaning it can be found and eaten most any time of the year. Local olive oil is then generously poured on top, and then local sea salt flakes are sprinkled on. Voila! Pa amb oli worthy of a Mallorquin.
Whilst this is the most classic way to make pa amb oli, over the centuries people have made deviations and turned the dish into their own. Some prefer to toast the bread and/or use brown bread rather than peasant bread. The more rebellious souls also rub raw garlic on the bread.
Many punch it up by adding local cheese, sobrasada, local sausages or cold cuts, capers, pickled peppers, shallot, olives and even complementary fruits such as fig, prickly pear, and grapes.
Whatever your preferred way of eating pa amb oli, the one thing that is generally agreed upon is that it makes for a darn good way to start a meal. Bon Profit!
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By Stephanie Horsman
18 November, 2020