Tortilla – it’s so not an omelette

Tortilla de Patates. A staple for dinner, packed lunch, tapa. However you want it, it never fails to please.

In Mexico a tortilla is a flatbread made from flour or cornmeal. Add a filling and its a burrito. In Italy its a Frittata. In the eastern Europe its a Latke. In Switzerland its a Rosti. In Azerbaijan it is Kuku and is mostly eggs and herbs sometimes with added cumin and turmeric.

But in Spain it is Tortilla de Patates. And it is simple. And you can make it as you like it, with whatever you have in the fridge. Or just with potatoes and eggs.

Today we ate this for lunch with a cucumber and tomato salad and a thick, garlicky yogurt dressing.

Chop as many potatoes as you like, then add a bit more. Don’t peel them, just make sure they are clean. Boil gently in water but don’t add salt. Cook until just cooked then drain and leave them to cool. I am going to describe what other ingredients I added to the pan, but believe me it is just as delicious with two ingredients – potatoes and eggs.

Into my frying pan I poured a generous 50ml olive oil. Don’t be scared…. Really! Into the hot oil, add half a big onion, sliced, plenty of roughly chopped garlic and some chopped red pepper and some chopped red chilli. Stir it around a bit till soft and then add the potatoes. Remember that a Spanish tortilla is supposed to be thick. A good 3-4cm. Don’t be tempted to press it all down like a cake (yet). Move it around in the pan and then add four eggs beaten with half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Pour onto the potatoes in the pan and only then do the ‘mash and smash’ to make it into a firm cake. Cook gently on the hob until the underside easily slides across the pan (and to achieve this means you must be patient, and not probe – you want to ‘hear’ a slight crust has formed on the bottom) and the top is only just set (I often put the lid on at this stage, or cover it with a plate).

After about 5-8 minutes the fun starts. You need to turn it over! I didn’t have enough hands to photograph this bit – but a trick to remember is to choose a pan with a lid that fits tightly or use a plate slightly larger than the pan. And you must use enough oil at the beginning to prevent the tortilla from sticking – but no so much that when you invert it (as you are about to do) the boiling oil drips over your arms. This you should avoid at all costs for obvious reasons.

When you are sure the egg is just about set on top, wrap your hand in a tea towel, clamp on the lid, shake the pan gently and invert the pan – do this over the work surface and not the floor incase something slips. And if the phone rings, a child cries or someone knocks at the door – let them wait!

Now, lift the pan off the tortilla, which is now balanced on the lid and you are wondering whether you are in fact rehearsing for The Generation Game. Put the pan back on the hob. At this stage you may shout ‘Halleluliah’ and accept generous rounds of imaginary applause. If the postman appears at the window, just wave at this point. I digress.

Carefully slide the tortilla back into the pan, with the (former) topside facing the bottom of the pan. Viola! (It’s the same in Spanish as in. French, I checked). Now cook for a couple more minutes and take off the heat. You have a few choices here ………. You can eat it hot. You can leave it with a plate on top and a heavy weight on top of the plate and eat it in an hour or so whilst it is still warm. or you can weight it, cool it and put it in the fridge and cut into slices tomorrow. My bet is the best you can last is a couple of hours! As for me? I tootled off to have a swim, picked some lemons to make more candied peel, had a beer and ate a slice for lunch and I am just about to have another slice for dinner, con jamon.

The picture shows cheese on top. That’s definitely not authentic. But I like it sometimes. Just as I like to occasionally add anchovy, or peas, or baby broad beans. The choice is yours.

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