No butter… no problem

What do you do if you run out of butter and it’s not convenient to nip out to the shops to get some more?

I suppose there are probably many answers to that question, probably depending largely on why you want the butter in the first place (with apologies to anyone who is now thinking of Last Tango in Paris – if you don’t already know, I suggest you don’t google it!).

In my case, I wanted it to go on some bread-type products – more specifically in pitta bread and on crumpets, all in a savoury context.

As I was contemplating what to do in light of my rapidly diminishing butter reserve and the remaining pitta breads and crumpets I was hoping to finish over the weekend, before my next grocery delivery (including a couple of blocks of butter) arrives on Monday night, I remembered enjoying bread with olive oil on my visits to Catalonia a few years ago.

In fact, they have a regional delicacy called pa amb tomàquet, which consists of bread with tomato (and, as I recall, usually also garlic) rubbed in, then salt and olive oil sprinkled on top. This is very delicious. However, I’m fairly sure that bread with just salt and olive oil (or even just bread and olive oil with no salt) is also a thing in those parts, and even if not it’s certainly something I’ve enjoyed from time to time, preferably with nice fresh, still slightly warm bread.

I figured that this ought to work with pitta bread since that’s also a mediterranean thing (albeit from further east than Catalonia), and my guess turned out to be correct, so I decided to save my remaining butter for the crumpets I had lined up for tea tonight and instead enjoy my pitta breads (or pitta(s)?; pita breads or pita(s) for any visitors from the USA; I’ve no idea how the rest of the anglophone world spells them but according to a brief survey of Wikipedia in different languages, most seem to favour a single ‘t’) with oil and a little salt.

As it happened, I didn’t have quite enough butter for my crumpets in any case. I considered having the last couple with honey instead, but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see what they would be like with oil and salt. The answer is, to my palette at least, “surprisingly nice”.

I think I’ll probably stick to butter (with a bit of salt and pepper – an idea I picked up from the classic Grammar of Cookery by Philip Harben, widely recognised as the first celebrity TV chef, though I’m not sure his name would be all that well-known these days) for my crumpets when I have it available, but it’s good to know that olive oil works as a fine alternative. And I’ll definitely be aiming to have pitta breads with oil from time to time in the future.

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