The tortilla de patatas or Spanish tortilla is a quintessentially Spanish dish. It’s origins have been traced to a housewife and a hungry general at war. During the Carlist wars of the 19th century, a general called Tomás de Zumalacárregui stopped at a local home in Bilbao and demanded food. The farmer’s wife prepared an omelet with the few eggs, potatoes and onions she had left. Her simple creation so impressed Zumalacárregui that he took the recipe with him to help feed his army when food provisions were scarce. Today it is practically the national dish, and is eaten throughout Spain. From Pamplona to Madrid it can be eaten as a tapa (snack) or as a full course meal. The traditional Spanish Tortilla recipe is made with carefully selected potatoes, eggs and good quality olive oil. Sometimes chopped onions are added. In non-traditional preparations many other ingredients may be added including green peppers, Chorizo, aubergine, diced ham, and mushrooms. A key difference between the Spanish Tortilla and the Mexican Tortilla is it uses potatoes in place of the maize or wheat used by Mexican tortillas.
Ingredients for a Spanish omelet:
The ingredients for an authentic Spanish omelet include eggs, a good quality olive oil, potatoes and optionally onions. The potatoes should be a low to medium starch variety such as the Red Bliss or New potatoes. Lower starch potatoes will hold their shape better than high starch varieties. High quality eggs (free ranging if possible) and some recipes call for extra virgin olive oil. Below is an authentic Spanish tortilla recipe that is not only delicious but is quick to prepare.
1 pound or 500g Potatoes(New potatoes or Red Bliss)
5 ounces (150 ml) Olive oil
1 Onion (preferably white)
Preparation of the Spanish omelet
- Peel and wash the potatoes. Slice the potatoes into thin sections.
- Cut the onion into strips.
- In a frying pan add the olive oil and bring to medium heat.
- Add the potatoes and onions, maintain at medium heat until they turn golden brown.
- Remove the potatoes and onions from heat, strain through a colander.
- In a bowl whisk 6 eggs until they foam, add potatoes and onions. Let soak 10-15 minutes.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a nonstick frying pan and return the potato, egg and onion mixture. Heat until boiling.
- Use a large spatula to shape the omelet when it becomes firm enough.
- Place a large plate over the frying pan and flip the tortilla, returning it to the frying pan on the other side after 2 to 4 minutes.
- Plate and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.
Slice the omelet into triangles and serve alongside a Mediterranean chick pea salad, fattoush salad or a simple arugula salad. Spanish tortillas are also commonly served as a bocadillo or sandwich. Slice open a baguette and use the omelet as a filling for a delicious variation.