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
- Olive oil
- Optional: bell peppers, chillies, olives, fresh herbs, sausage, squid rings, prawns or in short pretty much any extra ingredient you fancy.
- Preheat the oven to a high temperature (Gas Mark 6-7, 220-250C).
- Peel and halve the potatoes, then parboil them briefly and quickly drench in cold water to cool.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!