An alternative term: YUM. Quite possibly the single BEST form of fast food you can prepare on your stove in half an hour or less. Forget all your US-centric ideas of a tortilla as a Latin American corn-meal shell used as a vector of delivery for loads of soggy, plasticised cheese, wilted salad, and meat of highly dubious orgin from that greasy Taco Bell tray direct to your colon. No, ladies and gentlemen, this is an Iberian original in the truest sense of its namesake, a dimunitive cake or "torta" shaped by lightly beaten eggs, sliced potatoes and piquant vegetables, and fried into a nice neat little patty with the diameter of your hand and the thickness of your thumb.

Besides the fact that it's a hearty, savoury dish without being overwhelming in taste or too heavy, tortillas have the benefit of versatility on their side. They can be eaten at literally any time of day, whether fresh off the skillet or (ideally) at lukewarm temperature over the course of a few hours. Best of all, tortillas española can be easily and neatly divided into separate slices or cubes to serve as an impromptu party platter. It's also next to impossible to make a mess during the course of this kind of consumption, a statement that definitely doesn't apply to their Mexican counterparts.

So you want to make some of your own and impress your friends with your wordly knowledge of "real" Spanish cuisine? Then put on that phallic chef's hat and round up these ingredients:

  1. 3 eggs (The key ingredient at hand. Get free-range ova if you can; it does make a difference)
  2. 1 medium-sized potato
  3. A fairly small egg pan (about 6" to 7" inches in diameter)
  4. Extra Virgin Olive oil, enough to cover your pan twice
  5. 1 small to medium-sized onion (About the size of an egg will do)
  6. About half of a red bell pepper
  7. Whatever else you feel like dumping in there. Basil, pepper, and garlic salt do the trick quite nicely.

Peel the potato and slice it into thin wedges no more than a couple of millimeters thick. Chop up the onion and bell pepper. Put your egg pan on a burner on medium heat, add olive oil, then fry the prepared ingredients until they're nice and crisp and oily. Dump the whole mess together in a bowl, oil and all. Crack your three eggs on this bowl and add the yellow and white goop on top. Pierce the yolks with a fork and schmear them about for one or two strokes without agitating them too greatly. Add more oil to the pan if necessary, then dump the contents of the bowl back into it. Keep the proto-tortilla on medium-low heat, turning when needed, then take it off to let it cool after you've achieved the desired level of doneness.

And give yourself a nice friendly pat on the back before you sit down to eat. You've just forever changed your personal connotation of a word that so many people in the Western Hemisphere find clear cut and unambiguous AND discovered a cheaper and much healthier option than those 99 cent tacos at your local fast food outfit for late-night study sessions. A definition of enlightenment if there ever were one. Plato would be proud.

A nodeshell rescue by Deckard97. R.I.P.

I have tried many recipes for Spanish tortilla - or tortilla de patatas as it is commonly known in southern Spain where I first encountered it - and I find that although it can achieve an edible standard when made haphazardly, as a sort of paean to fast food, it becomes oh-so-much more exciting when made to the somewhat more exacting, but by no means too demanding standards and methods below:

  • 1lb potatoes
  • .5lb onions
  • 4 large fresh eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: bell peppers, chillies, olives, fresh herbs, sausage, squid rings, prawns or in short pretty much any extra ingredient you fancy.

  1. Preheat the oven to a high temperature (Gas Mark 6-7, 220-250C).

  2. Peel and halve the potatoes, then parboil them briefly and quickly drench in cold water to cool.

  3. Slice the potatoes and onions thinly, then place them in a roasting tin in the following way: oil the pan, then spread an even layer of potato slices followed by one of onion slices; season with salt and pepper to taste; drizzle with more olive oil. Continue to alternate thin layers of potato and onion until they're all done, then finish with a good drizzle of olive oil.

  4. Cook for approx. 45mins in an open pan. It is a good idea to turn the vegetables over then expose a new layer to direct heat every 10mins or so, but if you're too busy to do that it's not the end of the world. What we're looking for here is the gorgeous roasted flavour that is so surprising in what in the final analysis is a fried dish.

  5. Remove from the oven and transfer to a heat proof bowl. In a separate dish beat the eggs to an even mixture, and season just a little.

  6. Pour the egg mixture over the spuds, mix well and leave for at least 15mins. This is important as the egg will soak in to the hot potatoes, giving the dish it distinctive and improbably cake-like texture. If you fail to do this you'll end up with an omelette with bits of spud in - nice, but not the same.

  7. This is the stage at which you want to add you extra ingredients, although I should say this is by no means necessary; this dish is lovely just as it is. If using seafood or meat, make sure they are pre-cooked, while soft vegetables such as peppers or courgettes can go in raw. Mix them well into the egg and spud mixture and let stand a few minutes longer, to absorb the flavours and the eggs.

  8. Heat a large skillet or non-stick pan, and add a touch of oil (you don't need much). Lower the heat, then spread the vegetables evenly in the pan using a fish slice. I usually make a single big tortilla which I then cut into wedges, but if you have a small pan and wish to make individual portions that's fine; they'll take a shorter time to cook, that's all.

  9. Cook slowly on one side until the egg on the top side of the tortilla becomes firm almost to the center, then, using a fish slice and a palette knife for a big tortilla and just a fish slice for a small one, carefully flip it over and cook for a few minutes longer, until it separates from the pan and slides around freely when you prod it.

  10. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temerature. The Spanish eat this dish on its own as part of the tapas tradition, however I have found that it makes a very serviceable side dish to pretty much any fish or meat. Enjoy!

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