Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tortilla de patatas

What's tortilla to you? Is it that Mexican pancake or is it a thick and unfolded potato (and onion) omelette?

Tortilla Española or tortilla de patatas is a Spanish classic. Basically you fry some spuds cut into slices and maybe some onions too. With or without onion is a debate - cubed or sliced potatoes too. Whilst the potatoes are softening you beat some eggs into a bowl - usually adding a pinch of salt. Then, when the frying is done, you drain off the oil and add the potatoes (and onions) to the beaten eggs. You return the mix to the frying pan, cook on one side till the "pancake" starts to firm up and then you either flip it over, a la Shrove Tuesday, or you use a plate or lid over the frying pan to help  you get the sticky side back into the pan to fry. When it has set to your preference you slide it out of the pan and set about eating it.

Of course you could set it aside to cool, Tortilla is nice cold too. It goes well in bread rolls. I'm not absolutely sure whether it gets wrapped in silver paper when it's going to be eaten later as part of a mid morning snack, on the beach or even as you sit at your lunchtime desk but if not silver paper then it is cut into wedges and popped into plastic containers, always called tupper here, for the snack to come.

It was one of my little language exercises to get students to tell me the ingredients and method for making a tortilla. Everyone had some subtle variation. The students were convinced that we Brits, out of Spain at least, call the dish Spanish Omelette. I'm not sure, it's a long time since I lived in the UK, but I'm pretty sure that a Spanish Omelette was something from the 1960s or 70s that was a normal omelette loaded with veg - things like peas and peppers.

We're trying to lose weight at the moment and I picked up one of the ready made tortillas in Mercadona to check the calories. I put it back quickly. The surprise though was not the calories. The shock was that there were two new recipes to add to the standard with and without onion varieties. One with peppers and one with chorizo. Had Jamie Oliver had a word with Mercadona about how to "improve" a classic? 

Good Lord I thought. What is the world coming to! Is nothing sacred?


4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
6 eggs
1 onion, chopped
¼ litre olive oil

First, heat the oil in a large frying pan and then gently fry the sliced potatoes until almost soft, stirring from time to time so that they don't burn on the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and continue frying until all the pieces are soft. Drain the vegetables in a colander to get rid of the excess oil.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, etc. and mix well and check seasoning.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a moderate heat. Pour in the potatoes and eggs and shake the frying pan from time to time so that the omelette doesn't stick to the bottom. Once the bottom of the omelette has set, turn the heat down low and cover the pan. After about ten minutes, turn the omelette by placing either a flat plate or saucepan lid on the frying pan and quickly turning over. Gently slide the omelette back into the frying pan and continue frying, once again shaking the pan from time to time so that it doesn't stick to the bottom, until it has set all the way through.

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