Potatoes, onion, eggs, extra virgin olive oil and salt. That’s it. You can make a tortilla with all sorts of things – peppers, spinach, courgette, aubergine, tomato and chorizo and it may taste fine, but I have never made nor tasted one that really comes close to this Spanish classic.
There are also several different ways to cook a tortilla but the one I always use is simple, never fails and is the least time consuming, with perhaps the exception of Ferran Adria’s. This may seem incredible given the man’s renowned for the creating the most complex dishes every eaten but it is true nonetheless. In a book made in conjunction with Consum, a supermarket from the mainland (and the owners of Eroski I believe) he makes ‘the fastest tortilla ever.’ Basically, he smashes up a bag of salted crisps, mixes it with beaten egg and fries it. I tried it and it is very good, but only as a stop-gap or gimmick.
To make a really good one the only things you need apart from the very simple ingredients are a frying pan big enough to hold everything, a bowl to mix it in and a plate with a circumference bigger than the pan. It is a very cheap dish to make, so don’t skimp on the oil or eggs – make sure the oil is extra virgin and the eggs free range.
The Spanish have a great word, meloso (meaning soft and melting) and a good tortilla is always that. The tortilla is so satisfying. It is filling without being heavy. It is great as a snack, fantastic for breakfast and useful as lunch. As a bocadillo filling on the go it is untouchable. Always eat it with pan con tomate and if possible drink a beer with it. (Bocadillo, by the way means little bite but the bocadillo de tortilla served up in Ibiza workers cafes is anything but little – great big slabs in a baguette the size of a torpedo).
Its provence is unclear but it was first mentioned in Spain’s earliest cookbook El Libro de Gilipolleces (1492) after Spanish king, Miguel de Cervantes IX returned from at trip to Ireland to rally up support for his planned invasion of the British Isles. The mission failed – the Irish were broke – but the king was unwittingly instrumental in the tortilla’s creation. The Libro mentions the king’s delight after his cook accidentally poured eggs into a potato dish his Irish counterpart was preparing as part of a feast. Serendipity indeed.
Enough useful info. The recipe:
- 3 potatoes, peeled and sliced uniformly about the thickness of a one euro coin. You can use any type of potato but my favourite is of course the Ibiza red
- 1 onion, peeled, halved and cut into crescents
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 8 free range eggs, beaten
Heat the oil gently in your chosen and trusted pan that doesn’t stick. Put in the sliced potatoes, turn them over to coat and cook on medium low for five minutes. Occasionally pour them into the bowl to turn them (doing it in the pan is annoying). Peel and slice the onion as the potato softens.
Pour the potatoes into the bowl again, add the onion and season generously. Pour all of it back into the pan and cook until the potato and onion are soft.
Break the eggs and beat them, add the potato mixture and turn it until the egg is coating everything. If it is dry add more egg – the mixture must be distinctly runny.
Now pour it into the pan and fry it for a few minutes on medium low. Shake the pan to see if it is loose (if not run a spatula between the egg and the pan, lifting it slightly from the sides).
Pick up the pan with a cloth in one hand and cover with the plate, flat surface down, with the other. Deftly* turn it upside down. Slide the half cooked tortilla back into the pan so that the cooked side is facing you. Poke the edges in to form a seal.
Now it is a question of taste. If you like it soft, only cook it for another couple of minutes, if you like it firm, cook it some more.
Turn it out onto a clean plate, go somewhere quiet and eat it all yourself.
*It is always best to do this over a flat clear surface just in case there is spillage.