You may end up wondering through a random street in any town along the Catalan speaking coast, and feel a little peckish and wonder into any bakery that may be around. The chances are that you are going to come across what looks like square pizza without the cheese, and several varieties of them in the window. Then, you see someone come in and order a whole of of these baked goods in a special box to take to an event of some kind. Coca de Recapte everybody.
This pastry is an extremely popular in the east of Spain, especially in the Catalan regions of Tarragona and Lleida, but what surprises me is how diverse it is. You can see it at a 5 year old’s birthday party, or at an executive event with the suited and booted. The origins are unclear for the original recipe, but it’s said to come from La Noguera in Lleida or somewhere near Tarragona. Wherever it’s from, many bakeries from both regions have earned a following, prompting people to travel several miles out of their way to buy one.
But what exactly is coca de recapte? Essentially thin baked bread which has a similar consistency of pizza dough (though the ingredientsare not the same as pizza dough) which is topped with escalivada, another eastern Spanish favourite of roasted and skinned aubergines and red peppers, with sardines or anchovy. However, the number of variants are also always present, but not overwhelming. Onion is often a common topping, as well as butifarra, a sausage common in this part of the country, black pudding, tuna, mushrooms and goats cheese are the main additions or substitutions at play here. You may find that many large sharing coques have different ingredients piled on to various parts of them so they can be sliced and presented like a platter.
My first experience with coca de recapte came around 2014 when I moved to Reus in Catalonia and my host family took me to a town some 15km away called Les Borges Del Camp to pick up a Coca from a bakery that had a renowned reputation. My impression is that the base is quite dry, but the olive oil helps, and the toppings complement it a lot, making it an enjoyable experience overall. From then onwards, I was used to seeing it on the table for most gatherings, and it became almost a normality until I moved to Andalucía, where you don’t see it very often at all. I think one of the reasons why it is so popular in Catalonia is because it is very easy to share, and is topped with aubergines and peppers, which is such an important element in Catalan cuisine.
Despite this pastry being everywhere on the Catalan speaking Mediterranean coast, you will almost certainly not find it in a restaurant, but rather a café if you want to sample it for yourself. They don’t cost much either, around 1.50€ 2.50€ for a standard slice or individual one. The cost of whole ones to share really do depend on the place, but you won’t be ripped off at all, and the best part is, their availability and easiness to prepare makes them infallible to tourist traps. So even if you are in the centre of Barcelona and you want to buy one, the prices are very rarely inflated as locals are more likely to buy them. Be aware that if you order just coca, you might get the sweet version, like a sugar bun, which are very popular with children.
So if you fancy a savoury snack, and you happen to be in a bakery, then by all means, ditch the pizza, or empanadas and give coca de recapte a go for a change at least once. It won’t blow you away, but you will blend in a lot more and it is quite healthy as far as snacks go, and they are delicious. If you decide to move to the Catalan coast, get used to them, as they are there to stay, and you may find yourself going for seconds when at a celebration with a glass of Cava to hand. There you have it, coca de recapte, check it out for yourself.