Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 8: Tortilla

I have been teaching myself to crochet. An absolute beginner.  I’ve just hurled crochet hook, yarn and my sanity into the basket.  I know – I’m over-reaching myself as usual.  Sue Maton – the yarn genius – has a new online project and I thought I’d join in.  With no experience. Obvs, I was going to be a disaster.  I digress.

Brenda has so generously offered me wilting celery, half a pot of Quark and half a jar of red peppers.  It is crying out to be a tortilla darling!  One of our all-time standbys when we don’t know what to cook. In fact (I am now editing this piece) I find that I have already posted a tortilla recipe in 2016. Never mind, here’s another with a little variation to fit Brenda’s requirements!

If it’s just for you and Brian tonight then halve these quantities. Or, damn it, make all of it and have the rest of it for lunch for a couple of days.

OK. Those all too familiar staples of sliced onion (two of) and a cup full of finely chopped celery in a good sturdy frying pan that you can put under the grill with plenty of olive oil.  Add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.  If you have a nubby end of chorizo you can chop this up and put it in, or some bacon, at the same time. Peel and slice potatoes about 1cm thick. Add to the pan, making sure there is sufficient oil, and fry them gently; keep turning them, turning them. It doesn’t matter at all if they break up.

If you prefer a lower fat option then put the potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water and cook for three minutes then drain. Let them cool a bit and then add to the onions and celery.  Add chopped parsley and fresh thyme or oregano, a goodly amount of salt and black pepper.  Drain the red peppers and pat dry, then cut into strips and add to the pan, distributing evenly across the top.   Break four large eggs into a large bowl and beat them then add the quark. If you have half a tub of thick yogurt or cream you could add that too. But half a tub of quark is fine if you haven’t.  Mix the quark/cream/yogurt into the eggs and beat again. Season with salt and pepper.

Check that the potatoes are very nearly cooked, then turn the heat up and add the egg/quark mixture. Move the potatoes around a bit so that the liquid is evenly distributed.  Watch it carefully. The idea is to seal the eggy base on a high heat (which will take 4-5 minutes) then turn down the heat, sprinkle smoked paprika on top and then put a lid on it and cook gently on the hob for another 10 minutes. Keep the heat low so the bottom doesn’t burn. Alternatively you can put it in the oven at 190C for about 15 minutes without the lid, to set the top.

Leave in the pan until it cools. Then either turn in out onto a plate  (plate over pan and invert it – easiest to do this when it is cooler) then bring to the table and slice into quarters. Or serve straight from the pan if it is hot with green beans or spinach or with a salad.

This is a regular dish for us.  Usually all the ingredients are in the house and if we don’t have Quark we just use eggs.

Hope you enjoy it Brenda.

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.