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Everything Spain

Tortilla española – the Spanish omelette

The “tortilla de patatas” is the popular and world famous Spanish potato omelet.
This simple egg dish was once know as “tortilla de cartuja” as it was a dish originally created by the monks, who whipped egg with cream. Over the following centuries this potato omelet became so typical that it eventually attained the rank of a national dish, the “tortilla española”.

Nowadays, almost anything can be used to make an omelet in Spain; spinach, beans, ham, tomatoes or mushrooms.
In Valencia (northern Spain), tortilla is made with rice and ham or even with leftovers of a famous Valencian paella. In Granada, Andalucía (southern Spain) they make a tortilla called “tortilla de sacramonte” which has bull’s brains and testicles… but the authentic and original tortilla de patatas, that originates from Madrid, has also had a slight change in recipe. It’s very easy to confuse the contemporary Madrid-style tortilla that has finely sliced onions and plenty of garlic with the original potato-only omelet.

“Tortilla de patatas”, the original way

6-7 medium (approx 1 kg) of large potatoes, peeled and thinly diced
6 large eggs
2-3 cups of olive oil for pan frying
Salt to taste (preferably 2 table spoons)

1) Heat approximately 100 ml of olive oil in a heavy iron pan. Put the sliced potatoes into the pan, season with some salts and toss once in the olive oil. Reduce the heat and fry the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, turning them occasionally.
2) In the meantime, beat the eggs (add some salt to them) until they are frothy (bubbly).
3) After the 15-20 minutes, drain the remaining oil from your pan (where your potatoes are). Carefully mix your beaten eggs with your fried potatoes (in the bowl where you beat your eggs) and leave the mixture to rest.
4) Heat the remaining olive oil in a pan (you can use the same pan as before) and put your potato and egg mixture into it. Smooth it out and let it thicken for a few minutes on a low heat.
5) Turn the potato omelet over (use a lid or plate to help you) and cook until you see it turn brown in the same way, on both sides. You can serve it hot or cold, tortilla de patatas is good and tasty either way. Enjoy!
If you would like to have some spicy taste with your tortilla, you can add salsa brava – a typical hot Spanish sauce, orange-red in color. It is a typical dish served in bars and restaurants with potatoes, called ‘patatas bravas’.

“Tortilla de patatas con cebolla” (Madrid-style)

6-7 medium potatoes, peeled
1 whole white onion (‘cebolla’ in Spanish)
5-6 large eggs
2-3 cups of olive oil for pan frying
Salt to taste

1) Cut the peeled potatoes in half lengthwise. Then, with the flat side on the cutting surface, slice the potato into small pieces. If you slice them a bit thick, don’t worry – it will simply take a bit longer for them to cook.

2) Peel and chop the onion into pieces. Put potatoes and onions into a bowl and mix them together. Add salt to the mixture.
3) In a large, heavy, non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Carefully place the potato and onion mixture into the frying pan, spreading them evenly over the surface. The oil should almost cover the potatoes. You may need to turn down the heat slightly, so the potatoes do not burn.
4) Leave in pan until the potatoes are cooked. If you can poke a piece of potato with a spatula and it easily breaks in two, your potatoes are done. Remove from the pan with a spoon or spatula and allow oil to drain.
5) Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat by hand with a whisk or fork. Pour in the potato onion mixture. Mix it all together with a large spoon.
6) Pour 1-2 table spoons of olive oil into a small, non-stick frying pan and heat on medium heat. Be careful not to get the pan too hot because the oil will burn – or the tortilla will!
7) When hot, stir the potato onion mixture once more and “pour” into the pan and spread out evenly. Allow the egg to cook around the edges. Then you can carefully lift up one side of the omelet to check if the egg has slightly “browned.” The inside of the mixture should not be completely cooked and the egg will still be runny.
8) When the mixture has browned on the bottom, you are ready to turn it over to cook the other side. Take the frying pan to a sink. Place a large dinner plate upside down over the frying pan. With one hand on the frying pan handle and the other on top of the plate to hold it steady, quickly turn the frying pan over and the omelet will “fall” onto the plate.
9) Place the frying pan back on the range and put just enough oil to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Let the pan warm for 30 seconds or so. Now slide the omelet into the frying pan. Use the spatula to shape the sides of the omelet. Let the omelet cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for 2 minutes.
Slide the omelet onto a plate to serve, then, enjoy!