Tortilla Espanyol is ubiquitous in Spain and after paella probably the peninsula’s most famous dish. In common with paella the quality varies hugely. Personally, I can’t abide a tortilla from the fridge, I only want them fresh, warm or room temperature. There are more
ways to cook a tortilla than you can poke a stick at; the method that I found works best was taught to me by a Spaniard, who worked me called Igor. I have used it ever since and it never lets me down.
The classic potato and onion omelette.
There are two stages with any form of tortilla. Firstly, make the stuffing as it were: that that goes inside the tortilla.
With a potato omelette, you need to use quite a lot of oil, but this oil can be reused for further tortillas.
Slice some onions. Pick a good heavy bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, that will fit the amount of onions and potatoes that you plan to use. I usually use maybe slightly less potatoes than onions in volume when raw, the onions will reduce in volume greatly when cooked.
Heat maybe 1 – 2 cm of oil. Be generous as the potatoes really absorb the flavour. When hot, but not smoking, add the onions, a good amount of salt and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Now reduce the heat and cook for a further 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes. I tend to halve the potato, then cut it lengthways and then cut at right angles maybe 3-4 mm wide into small pieces. Now stir the potatoes into the onions and put a lid on. Ideally the mixture should almost be covered in oil, but no matter if not quite as the potatoes will steam with the lid on. Cook slowly, with the lid on, using that diffuser you have bought and stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked. No matter if the potatoes break up a little. Drain the mixture and retain the liquid for later tortillas.
Igor’s method for cooking a tortilla may cause a little extra washing up but is worthwhile.
First mix your eggs, no particular rule as to ratio, but I would say slightly more than eggs thea potato/onion mixture in volume. You must have enough egg to keep the whole together. Beat the eggs and season. Stir in potatoes and onions.
Now get a good heavy bottomed saucepan that will fit the mixture comfortably. Put it on the heat and leave for 3 or 4 minutes with no oil. It must be super hot. Now have your mixture and a wooden spoon at hand. Pour in some olive oil and immediately add the mixture stirring rapidly until the egg is almost cooked and remove to a bowl. This should take no time if the pan is super hot.
You will notice that because the pan is so hot you should have little egg mixture stuck to the pan, making cleaning it a dream.
Now to make the tortilla. I use a heavy cast iron pan, but any pan you have that you trust not to stick and is deep enough, I would say at least 4 cm is fine. As the eggs are half cooked their sticking is far less of a issue. Heat the pan to a medium heat add enough oil just to coat the surface, run it around the pan and pour in the mixture. Now use a palette knife to shape it at the edges. After a few minutes put a plate on top of the pan and carefully, holding the plate turn the pan over and then slide the uncooked side onto the pan. Cook until firm.
Murcia is famous for its vegetables, and this tortilla is made with aubergines, peppers and tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes where possible are best, but if out of season or the quality is questionable use canned tomatoes chopped.
Dice the aubergine quite small about 1 cm. Salt for half an hour, rinse and dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Give then a good squeeze. Chop the deseeded peppers coarsely, about 2 cm dice. Red and/or green. I prefer the capia red peppers, thin and pointy as the bell ones in Britain tend to be watery and less flavoursome and I only use some form of long green peppers, Turkish shops have good ones. The green bell peppers I think have limited flavour. I find it sad that the green pepper, which around the Mediterranean are so flavoursome, just fail to get here. Or be grown here and be widely available. Tomatoes should be skinned and coarsely chopped.
Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, a fair amount as the aubergines absorb a lot. When starting to smoke add the aubergines and brown all over, no need to be too anal about it. Now add the peppers and carry on cooking at a high heat, stirring until they begin to soften. Chuck in the tomatoes and turn the heat down. The important thing here is to cook the whole to a jam like texture without liquid. Now the oil will probably retreat from the aubergines so what you can do is put the mixture in a sieve over the pan you are using to make the tortilla and drain the beautiful tasting, red oil into it. Now mix the mixture with the eggs and follow stage two from above.