I wonder if there is a more Spanish dish than tortilla. I’m not talking about the flour or corn flatbread that wrap Mexican food — I mean tortilla española, or “Spanish Omelette” as it is known amongst the British ex-pat diaspora.
From the upscale nouvelle cuisine joints in Madrid, to sunflower seed and cigarette butt-strewn holes in the wall in Andalusian bus stations, with all the tapas bars in-between — noisy, smoke-filled, and with legs of jamón serrano hanging overhead — when I think of the many tapas bars I’ve eaten in, I think of tortilla: a lovely yellow wedge of cool potatoes, flavoured with onion, bound by eggs, and served with a few slices of crusty white bread.
So ubiquitous and simple is tortilla, that my mother will often cheat and buy it, shrink-wrapped, from the gas station at the bottom of the winding road that leads to her village.
Here, on the other side of the Atlantic, I have had to learn how to make it. My friends seem to love it, because there’s never any left over at parties — so it’s become my go-to dish for a pot luck: easy to make, easier to transport, the ingredients are cheap, it’s vegetarian, it can be served hot or cold, and eaten as a side dish or as a main course. How much more versatile can you get?!
I have perfected the recipe over the years and think I am finally ready to share my version of tortilla with you… here it is:
• 9 free range eggs
• 6-7 medium-sized potatoes (about 1kg or 2lbs)
• 1 large onion
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• Slice your potatoes into thin discs, 3-5mms (1/8″) thick.
• Julienne your onion — cut in half, then slice into thin strips along the grain.
• Season with salt and pepper.
When you’re done chopping, your ingredients should look like this:
• Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large pan.
• When the oil thins, add potatoes and onion.
• Sauté on a medium high heat until the potatoes are cooked all the way through, but still firm. (The onions should be lightly caramelised.)
• Meanwhile, beat the eggs together in a large bowl.
• When the potatoes and onion are done, tip into the egg mixture and gently stir, coating all potatoes.
• In a 25cm / 10″ frying pan, heat up a little olive oil.
• Rotate the pan to coat it with the oil, then, when hot, add the potato mixture.
• Cook on a medium high heat for 10 minutes, until there is a pale yellow edge.
Here is the beginning of the pale yellow edge (at “six o’clock”), and this is when it starts to smell reaaaally good…
• Turn down the heat and cook for another 15 minutes, or so.
• When it’s cooked enough for you to be able to do the following, it’s time to…
• … grab a plate, place it over the pan, and flip the tortilla onto the plate.
• Slide the undercooked side of the tortilla back into the pan, and tuck in the sides.
• Cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until a knife comes out damp, but clean.
The Hard Part
• Now you have to wait until it’s cool enough to eat!
• Potatoes: use Yukon Gold, or another low starch spud that will retain its firmness during cooking.
• Seasoning your potatoes before cooking is key to good flavour!
• Nine eggs sounds like a lot, but any fewer and your tortilla will be quite dry.
• Do tip the potatoes into the eggs and not the other way around, else your tortilla will be dry.
• Slicing potatoes into discs, not cubes, reduces cooking time and means it will be easier to serve — like a brick wall, the discs will layer and retain the shape of the tortilla.
• Serve with a simple green salad for a lovely lunch or light supper.
• Um, it’s also really good with HP Sauce!
• For easy transportation to a put luck, simply tear of a sheet of aluminium foil twice as long as the diametre of the tortilla, and fold in half. Then wrap as usual to transport. This extra layer makes it all the easier to slice upon arrival at your host’s home.
Will you be making this? How did it work for you? Any adjustments you’d make? How did you serve it? Do share below!