Tortilla de patatas

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The Spanish national dish – if there is one based purely on popularity – is tortilla con patatas (Spanish omelette), and it is simply a matter of whisking a few eggs and frying with potato and onion, so what’s the big deal?  The fact is that you take pot luck in any Spanish bar or restaurant and it can range from good to appalling, but is mostly very poor.

On Monday, coming home during the heat of the day, I stopped in Orxeta and decided to have a light lunch of tortilla and a beer.  This was at the recently opened bar called “Plan B” on the main road, so it doesn’t require going into the village and finding a parking spot.  A functional quick lunch, in other words.

The segment of the round tortilla (or ración) from the glass tapas display at the counter was put into the microwave and serves with four slices of dry bread.  It was the classic rubber tortilla, completely dry inside, and virtually inedible, except I ate it because I was hungry.  On the terrace outside the bar “Plan B” a solitary retired Englishman annoyingly played Moroccan music on his mobile phone and blew coulds of cigarette smoke over me.  This is the hazard of eating outside these days, isn’t it?  It did not improve the tortilla experience.

I am sure the tortilla would have bounced off the floor back to table height, if thrown down vertically.  Or indeed it could have knocked an antisocial neighbour out of his plastic terrace seat if thrown horizontally.  The tortilla and two beers (a second was needed to wash the experience away!) cost me five Euros and fifty cents.

Bar “Plan B” instantly became “Plan Z”, as far as I was concerned, but the experience was very serendipitous.  When I arrived home I had a quick read of the Spanish newspaper El Pais which had an article on the food page about the Spanish tortilla, and the fact that it was quite often served in a very sorry state.  There followed a very good recipe for doing it properly.  Today I followed that recipe and here it is, with my photos.

 

(Sorry. 6 photos will not upload.  This has been a continuous problem with this WordPress blog for two months.  It makes writing a blog post a real pain.  Will need to speak to WordPress tech advisers again.)

The potatoes must be thinly sliced and fried first with olive oil (about a cup-full) with the onions if required.  There are purists who say no onions should be part of it!  Then the fried potatoes and onions should be strained and put in the mixing bowl with the whisked egg, and left for five minutes.  Then return the mix to the frying pan and cook on medium heat, turning with a saucepan lid.  And that’s it.

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8 thoughts on “Tortilla de patatas

  1. Perfect for chicken fiestas! It will taste even better when your potatoes are ready in the valley. We will have to try this method one day this week!

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  2. Are we to use raw or cooked potatoes?
    We have a very fine potato dish in the Leitrim/Cavan area called Boxty. There are a few different methods of making it but all start with raw potatoes.

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  3. Sheel: Definitely no smoking inside, or anywhere in Europe as far as I know. Maybe they’ll brink it back in the UK after Brexit? Who cares? 🙂

    Alys: Yes, the potatoes in the valley are going to be a surprise, as I have no idea what’s going on under the surface. All attempts at root vegetables here have been poor until now, so we’ll have to wait and see.

    Annie: Just raw potatoes sliced thinly. It is more or less as you would fry very thin French fries but not for too long, as you don’t want them crispy. (I wanted to show the process with the photos that took me some time to organise but still cannot load them on this page.)

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  4. That one looks quite tasty, Gareth — the single most important thing is that it needs to remain juicy and not overcooked (nor of course undercooked).

    Anyway, of course there are many variants, all quite fine if prepared well.

    Over here, I follow my mum’s recipe, which in turn is a Catalan one (though I cannot remember if she learned it at Minorca, Barcelona, or up in Catalunya proper …)

    Half-boil your potatoes (whole) as your onions simmer gently in olive oil ; then take your potatoes out (only partially cooked), peel them then dice them (slicing them as Gareth does is fine too, my mum did too with certain types of potatoes and/or certain types of onions, but the end flavour and texture will vary from that choice), then add them to the simmering onions (simmered to taste, but again should not be fully cooked at this point), turn the heat up slightly, stir, and fry, stirring to make sure nothing burns nor clumps together (add an extra slosh of olive oil if it seems too dry).

    While those are cooking, beat your eggs in a large bowl ; then, when the potatoes and onions seem cooked, dump the whole mess into your eggs, mix it with a wooden spoon.

    (Two options if you want to salt or pepper or etc to taste ; 1. into the eggs after you’ve beat them but before adding the potatoes and onions ; 2. add the potatoes and onions, salt, pepper, whatever, then mix — personally, it’s liberal amounts of ground black pepper stirred into the beaten eggs, but then the Catalans and my family use a lot more black pepper than most)

    Pour into a wide frying pan, fry on not too much heat til the underside is cooked ; then, fold the tortilla over into a half-circle form, move to the centre of the pan, and putting the flame up, cook ’til one side browns slightly ; flip over, ditto to brown the other side (whilst it’s cooking, carefully put a little pressure in the right places to ensure that the edges of the tortilla are well cooked — also, ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan ; not really a disaster though if it does, except if you’re cooking for guests), then remove, place it gently on your serving dish, et voilà !!!

    The outside of the tortilla should appear browned, whilst the inside should be juicy but NOT runny ; the potato dice or slices should be soft, but not undercooked ; the onions should have partially but not completely melted into the rest of the food.

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