Ok, so here is the secret to Spanish culture. Forget about the language.
Forget about the literature. Almodovar and everything else you might have ever considered quintessentially Spanish. The one and only real thread that keeps the peninsula together is the Tortilla de patata. (Potato Omelette)
Foreigners think about Spain as a sunny place with happy relaxed people, often having siestas or enjoying fiestas and from such a position most cannot appreciate the multiculturalism beneath the surface. The richness in the local cultures, its idiosyncratic ways and varied cuisine.
Only after living abroad for almost 14 years I see why. The average foreigner thinks that the Potato Omelette is called Spanish Omelette and therefore cannot understand that each omelette, in each region, village or home is different. They cannot make sense of the pride behind making a great potato omelette.
I think specific cultures such as the Mediterranean touching countries weaved by Arabic heritage or like the Japanese, maintaining a degree of independence, can empathise with this thinking. Globalization, thankfully, has not washed their heritage off either.
Heritage. Reading the news, it worries me that Spain has to live through times which (in my humble opinion) are a consequence of the effect of global thinking and the lack of appreciation of local thinking. People have, for years forgotten about the tortilla
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Quantity: This mix makes a starter size portion for 4
1. Chose the potatoes carefully. Waxy like Charlotte or Maris Peer rather than floury like King Edwards or Maris Piper.
2. Use onion. Many people don’t but it makes a massive difference. It gives extra moisture.
3. The eggs rule is generally a large egg per potato. However, if you chose a floury potato, they tend to absorb more. One thing I do is waiting for a few minutes once I add the eggs to the potatoes, to see if the mix dries. It is worth taking the time as otherwise the potato mix might crumble.
4. To check if the oil is hot, when the oil begins to bubble, add a single piece of potato. If it begins to bubble, then you can add all the potatoes.
5. To check if potatoes are cooked, you can press them with the wooden spoon and they should break.
6. Use a 20/25mm frying pan to make the omelette. No need to risk a disaster when turning it.
7. Do not overcook the tortilla. Please. Do not put it on the oven either, please. Each egg is the hard work of a hen, so make sure that you treat them with respect.
4 (fist size) potatoes
1 onion finely chopped
Cut the potatoes in thin slices. I normally do 3mm deep slices of pieces which are 3cm by 2cm. This is to ensure that they cook evenly and don’t burn. If you make them too thick, whilst the inside gets cooked, the outside crisps and that is not the idea.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan to cover the totality of the potatoes. Calculate by eye and top up when you add the potatoes.
When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and keep the heating on set to medium low.
Make sure that you turn the potatoes regularly with a wooden spoon to help them cook evenly.
When the potatoes are almost cooked, add the onion and cook until golden.(My mom adds the onion from the beginning, but this means that the onion might become golden and some small pieces crispy. You might prefer that way.
Whilst the potatoes finish cooking, whisk the eggs in a bowl.
When the potatoes and onion are cooked, drain and place in a clean bowl. Press the mix gently with the wooden spoon for the excess oil to get to the top. Remove excess oil.
This is a good time to add salt and pepper.
Add the eggs to the potato mix and bring it all together. Wait for a few minutes and meanwhile prepare your pan for the next stage.
Heat a small-ish pan and add a spoon of oil. Move the pan around to ensure the bottom is coated with the oil.
If more egg is required in the mix, add, if not, add enough mix to the hot pan as to be 1.5 cm deep.(1 inch)
Cook, shaking the pan a bit, for a minute, a minute and a half. Move the pan from the heat. Place a large plate on the top of the pan. With one hand, hold the handle of the pan. Place the other one, opened, on the top of the pan. Push the plate tight against the pan without letting it slip. Turn the omelette on to the plate.
Place the pan back on the fire, add another spoon of oil. . Move the pan around to ensure the bottom is coated with the oil and let the omelette go back on to the pan sliding from the plate, uncooked side down.
Let it cook for another minute, again shaking it a bit to avoid sticking to the pan.
Take it off the heat and let it cool.
There are many ways to serve tortilla. I love it with fresh bread, but you could slice it in half and fill it in with some of these: Crab and mayo , Tuna and mayo , Lettuce ham and cheese. You could, even add red pepper to the mix.
Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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