Now then! Is there a better way to start a Spanish cooking blog than with the absolute favourite of Spanish dishes: the humble tortilla? It certainly is the favourite of my friends (or, rather, those who have had the chance to try it), for it is by far the number one of my sPezialities. Do not be deceived by the simplicity of its ingredients: you may only need potatoes, eggs, oil, onions and salt to make it, but it is in the combination of those ingredients and the techniques involved that the secret to omelette perfection lies. How many people will this particular tortilla feed? That is, I fear, an unknown quantity: it depends on whether you’re having it as a single dish (2-3 people) or accompanied by what we call “salad-y bits” (3-4 people, or 5 or more but don’t expect any leftovers), or how big your appetite is: one could happily eat a whole one, but I suspect not without feeling quite ill afterwards. Each to their own.
Utensils you will need:
- A potato-peeling implement, whether it is an actual potato peeler or a sharp knife
- A sharp, medium-sized knife (oh alright, you can use the *really* big one if you like, but mind your fingers; you’ve been warned) for slicing the potatoes and dicing the onion
- A chopping board
- Two bowls, or one bowl and one colander
- A wooden spoon, a draining spoon or skimmer, a fork
- A non-stick frying pan: this is very important, especially if you’re a tortilla novice. It just means that your tortilla will have a nice, tortilla-like finish, and not a non-descript egg-and-potato-mess-like one. The deeper and smaller in diameter the frying pan, the thicker and juicier the tortilla will be. Drool
- A plate slightly bigger in diameter than the frying pan, for turning the omelette
- 9 small-medium potatoes (the smaller the potatoes the longer they’ll take to peel and cut)
- 6 eggs
- 1 white onion
- Abundant oil (light olive or sunflower, or a mixture of both work best)
Recommended cooking music: Amar en Tiempos Revueltos
Let’s get started, shall we?
Peel the potatoes and place inside bowl numero uno or colander
Cut potatoes into thin slices: they way I do it is, I half them lengthways, then make another lengthways cut into each half leaving an inch or so at the bottom so they’re easier to handle. Place one half flat side down on the chopping board and slice thinly.
The slices don’t have to be very small, as long as they are thin; this way they’ll cook more quickly.
Place abundant oil in the frying pan: the potatoes have to be deep-fried, so you may have to do them in several batches. The oil must be very hot when you put the potatoes in; while it heats up, salt the potatoes to your taste. One way of checking when the oil is ready is to put a piece of potato in the frying pan. When it starts bubbling and moving about, then it’s ready!
Place the potatoes (or first batch of them) in the hot oil with the aid of the draining spoon/skimmer. They’ll need space to breathe, so don’t put too many in! The oil must be hot, but not so hot that the potatoes get burnt or even browned, so you may need to turn it down a bit. A moderate simmer tends to be good.
In the meantime, beat the eggs in bowl numero dos.
When the potatoes are done (cooked through but not brown or burnt) take them out of the pan with the draining spoon and stir into the bowl with the eggs.
If you have a second bath of potatoes to fry, do so now. If not, or while they are cooking, chop the onion into smallish pieces. Then, you can either fry it in a little bit of oil until it’s soft, or you can add it to the last batch of potatoes you’re cooking.
Once all the potatoes and onion are cooked, place everything in the bowl with the eggs and mix thoroughly to form a heterogeneous mix. You can then decide whether the mixture needs any more eggs or not – as long as it’s soft and there’s enough egg to bind it together, the rest is up to you.
Once you’re happy with the texture of your omelette mix, pour away most of the oil in the frying pan, leaving just a bit to cover the bottom and prevent the omelette from sticking. Once it’s *really* hot (which can be checked by pouring a tiny bit of the mixture into the pan and wait until it sizzles), pour the whole tortilla mix into the frying pan, distributing it with a wooden spoon to make sure it’s even.
One way to find out whether this first side is cooked is by grabbing the handle of the pan and trying to make the tortilla slide around inside the pan; if it slides easily that means it is cooked. Then comes the most daunting part of the tortilla-making process: the turning of the omelette! It really isn’t difficult: all it needs is determination and a fairly strong wrist. For turning the omelette, place the plate face-down over the pan, lift the pan by the handle and, holding the plate tightly against the pan, turn it upside down quickly, being extra careful not to let the plate slide out of place. Lift the pan, keeping the plate straight, and slide the omelette back into the pan to cook the other side. It’s a good idea to do this over the bowl, to capture any spillage that may occur!
Once the other side is done (repeat the sliding around operation same as with the other side), you can check for consistency by pricking the tortilla with a fork. There isn’t a “correct” texture: as long as it’s cooked inside, it’s up to the cook’s taste how runny or well-done it can be served. I would recommend turning the omelette several times as opposed to just once or twice, as this helps cook the omelette inside without browning it on the outside. A golden hue is ideally what we’re looking for.
Once the tortilla is cooked to your taste, simply turn it back on to a plate and serve. You may want to wait until it’s cooled a bit!
One of the many good things about tortilla is you can eat it hot or cold, by yourself or sharing with friends, at any time of day or night. Especially delicious when coming back from a night out, and perfect picnic food. All in all, one of my favourite dishes ever.
For a vegan version of my world-famous tortilla, please visit the lovely Goldtop‘s blog, where you’ll find a vegan tortilla recipe I wrote a looong time ago http://www.goldtop.org/news/2007/05/tortilla-power/
I hope you enjoy your tortillas. Please feel free to add any comments, questions or feedback!