I’ve been living in Spain for a total of almost 2 years. I love it here. I love the food, I love the lifestyle and I love the weather! But the one thing that has always irked me is the Spaniards’ disdain for those who simply CANNOT make a decent tortilla. I decided that in order to become truly Spanish, it was not the language that I needed to perfect, nor the customs that I needed to adopt – it was the ability to make a good tortilla that I needed to get a grasp of. Nothing else mattered in the eyes of those hungry Spaniards.
In Spain, tortilla is god
In case some of you are confused as to what tortilla is exactly – it’s basically a very thick omelette (that you can slice like a cake) made with eggs, onion and potatoes. There are various other ingredients that can be added (or removed) from a tortilla, but this is the classic recipe that can be found in almost any bar, at an time, in any part of Spain. It is not eaten as a meal, but rather as a mid-morning, mid-afternoon or anytime snack. It’s usually served with a big hunk of crusty baguette and believe me, when it’s made well, it’s bloody delicious.
After much practice, many wasted eggs and a lot of kitchen cleaning products, I’m proud to say that I can make a good tortilla. I am finally semi-Spanish!
Here’s what you’ll need to make an awesome tortilla:
- Medium size, non-stick frying pan. (If you don’t have a non-stick frying pan, don’t even try to make this)
- 2 large plates, that are big enough to fit over the top of your frying pan.
- Wooden spoon
- Chopping board
- Sharp knife
- Large mixing bowl
- Large colander
- Large bowl
- 3 eggs
- 4 large potatoes
- 1 large onion
- Vegetable oil
And here’s how you make it!
1. Peel the potatoes, wash them and DRY THEM before chopping them into small cubes. (Other tortilla makers may slice their potatoes differently but this is how I like to do it.) It is very important that the potatoes are dry because otherwise they somehow end up soaking up the oil and going all mushy in the pan. I’m not going to pretend to give you any science behind this, but that’s what happened to me along the tortilla-perfecting process and it’s not nice. Also, try to make sure that all the cubes are approximately the same size so that they take the same amount of time to cook. Place them into one of the bowls as you chop.
2. Fill half your pan with vegetable oil. (i.e. till the oil comes half way up the sides of the pan). This sounds like a lot of oil (and it is!) but effectively, we are going to deep fry the potatoes, and don’t worry, we’ll get rid of all that oil afterwards. Oh, and turn on the heat high!
3. When the oil is very hot (you can tell by the tiny bubbles that appear in the pan), add the potatoes but be VERY careful because the oil might spit at you and it is absolutely molten. We want to be cooking the potatoes, not you.
4. Every so often, mix the potatoes around in the oil so that the ones at the top get a turn swimming in the oily depths of the pan and vice versa.
5. Meanwhile, chop up your onion into such tiny, infinitesimal pieces that what was once an onion, becomes simply a haze of onion dust. Alternatively, just chop the onion up as small as you can. (The onion is for flavouring the tortilla, not for giving it texture)
6. Whisk together your eggs in the large mixing bowl and add a LOT of salt. Like really a lot. WAY more than you would ever normally add to anything ever.
5. Right, back to the potatoes – once you see that they are becoming slightly brown/golden, you know that they’re almost ready. (don’t worry if they’re not – they take quite a while to cook so just leave them a bit longer) SO, scatter over your onions. Now stir the potatoes around and the onion will cook ever so quickly in the hot oil.
6. Place the colander over the large bowl (the one without the eggs in it) and pour your pan of molten potatoes into it. Drain all the oil out into the bowl. Do this by lightly shaking the colander, NOT by pressing down on the potatoes – they’ll just turn into mush if you do that.
7. Once all the oil is drained, empty the colander of potatoes into your bowl of whisked eggs and mix together with the wooden spoon. It’s advisable to do this mixing process quickly because the potatoes are so hot, they’ll quickly cook the egg around them if they are just left in one place. Once it’s all mixed together you can chill, so don’t worry.
8. Pour a bit of the drained potato-oil back into the pan and put it back on the heat. CAREFULLY swirl the oil around the pan so that absolutely every surface of the inside of the pan, including the sides, is covered. Now pour that oil away. It’s extremely important to lubricate your pan, otherwise your tortilla will go horrible wrong, guaranteed. (been there, done that)
9. Empty the bowl of potatoey, eggy mixture into the pan and spread equally around with your wooden spoon.
10. Let it cook for about 30 seconds before you shake the pan back and forth to make sure the tortilla doesn’t stick.
11. Now comes the tricky part – turning the tortilla. (Remember to breathe!) After about 2 minutes, place the plate, face-side down, on top of the pan. With your left hand, hold the plate firmly on the pan and with your right hand hold the pan handle. When you’re ready and you feel that everything is stable and under control, flip the pan over so that the tortilla is on the plate. Many people worry that because one side of the tortilla hasn’t been cooked yet, the egg will just run everywhere. This is not true – the cooked sides of the tortilla will hold that runny egg in place.
12. Ok so place your plate of tortilla to one side and breathe. (First tricky part over!) Put some more of the drained potato oil in the pan and start the lubrication process again. Remember, all surface area inside the pan must be covered.
13. Pour away the oil and slide the tortilla off the plate and back into the pan (runny side down obviously). Don’t worry if it looks slightly misshapen – just use the wooden spoon to pat it into shape.
14. Once again, after about 30 seconds start shaking the pan to make sure the tortilla doesn’t stick. Repeat this process while the tortilla cooks for about 2 minutes.
15. Now take your other plate and repeat the flipping process – left hand on the plate, right hand on the handle and flip!
DONE! On your plate should be a beautiful, perfectly shaped, golden tortilla. Delicious.
If that’s not the case then it’s most likely that your kitchen is covered in eggs, your hands have been burnt to a crisp and at least one plate has been broken. (I even managed to set the hob on fire once) But DON’T GIVE UP! The tortilla making process is a long and arduous one, but once those skills are honed in and perfected, you’re set for life.
Those sexy Spaniards will love you forever and your own tummy will send praises to the food gods for ever bringing you into existence.
*All these fabulous photos are courtesy of my fellow blogger pal Christine, who I gave an intensive tortilla lesson to a few months ago. Now she’s a bona fide expert! Check out her beautiful blog here.