Thursday, November 6, 2008

let them eat....Spanish tortilla

I dont know what it is about doing recipix of this Spanish classic but I have tried three times over the last year and each time something stops me from being able to complete it; visitors, failure of light and now yesteday's camera running out of batteries. Three times I have tried and three times I have failed.

Shame really cos it was a really good one - soft potatoes with a few bits of golden edge, sweet onion, the centre still moist and perfectly salted.

I have been in Spain now off and on for more than 20 years and the tortilla has been there by my side since day one. I arrived by train in Barcelona’s Paseo de Gracia and emerged from the darkness of the subterranean train station into the brilliant sunshine and swarming Plaza Catalunya. I sat down in Bar Zurich to await god knows what. I ordered a beer and a Spanish tortilla bocadillo (bocadillo meaning little bite, but it is invariably an enormous length of phat Spanish baguette, rubbed with tomatoes, drenched in olive oil and spinkled generously, perhaps overgenerously, with salt). And that was pretty much my diet for the first 9 months of my time there.

I cant remember who showed me how to make tortilla but I wish I could so as I could thank them. The recipes I have been shown since are all inferior and in many ways indicative of why spanish food is in decline in the domestic arena. The recipe is (and one day I will manage to recipix it) as follows:

You will need:
1k potatoes
1 large spanish onion
And a good frying pan that will hold all the ingredients and give you a nice thick tortilla at the end. A thin tortilla is a poor tortilla.
And a mixing bowl big enough to mix everything easily.

- Peel waxy or floury potatoes and slice them to the same thickness more or less as 3 euro coins placed together. You want them all to be roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

- Pour olive oil into a good frying pan, put the potatoes in and put on a medium heat.

- Whilst they are frying peel the onion, cut it in half and slice across the grain slightly thinner than the potatoes.

- Pour the potatoes out of the pan into a large bowl, add the onions and generous salt and mix them together adding a bit more oil if it looks dry.

- Use this method of mixing the potatoes and onions throughout and continue cooking until the potato is soft and slightly golden. If there are uncooked bits but the rest is done then put a lid on for a couple of minutes and this should finish them off.

- Break the eggs into the same mixing bowl and whisk with a fork. Pour in the potato and onion and mix it up good. Taste it for salt. THERE MUST BE ENOUGH. THIS IS A VERY SIMPLE DISH AND WITH VERY SOFT FLAVOUR SO THERE MUST BE ENOUGH SALT. ACHTUNG. ACHTUNG. ACHTUNG!!!!!!! ✪ ☁ ☠ ✖ ✪ ☁ ☠ ✖ ✪ ☁ ☠ ☢ ✖ ✪ ☁ ☠ The mixture must be decidedly wet with the potato and onion sitting in a puddle of egg.

- Put the pan back on the heat and coat with a bit more oil. When it is hot pour in the mixture. Let it cook on a medium heat for a minute or two and then send a palette knife all the way round the edge (paying particular attention to any handle rivets that there may be) to see that it is not sticking. (If it is sticking really badly I suggest you give up and just make a hashy mess).

- Place a large flat plate or saucepan lid over it , flip it over and slide it off back into the pan using the palette knife to tuck in the edges so him look nice at end. (This is reasonably easy BUT make sure you do it over a work surface, not the cooker, so if it slips off you don’t have to spend hours cleaning your cooker AND make sure you have cloths or can handle the heat - having to drop it midway would be annoying).

- Cook another couple of minutes and the flip the tortilla back onto a clean plate.


NB Don’t over cook the egg as a dry tortilla is not easily enjoyed. Keep him nice and moist