How to make a Spanish Tortilla
Serve warm straight off the frying pan ( yum yum ), or leave it in the fridge for a few days. Slice it, or cube it up when cold and it makes a great breakfast, snack or hors d’oeuvre too. The Spanish even love to put it in a sandwich ( and that’s Paul’s favourite too!).
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Ta-da… our first attempt and an amazing success, home-made, by Paul !
Tapas and Tortilla ( Spanish omelette) tasting are two of our favourite ways to pass time here in Spain. We find it hard to find tapas as great as in the North of Spain where the Tapas originated, but we do have a Tapas Thursday in our local capital city so we get to celebrate the very best there.
Tortilla however, is much more common, and you’ll find it everywhere. Some call it the national dish ( or is that paella ! ). You’ll see Spanish men in bars having a tranche, with a cortado coffee in the late morning. You’ll find it served in tapas bars, and even inside a Spanish bread roll as a sandwich ! I know you’re probably dropping your jaw at that but we’re used to a potato sandwich being a delicious thing since we started getting it at the main square in Marrakech. Later in the day , late afternoon / early evening, you’ll see it again perhaps as a pinchos served in chunks on a slice of bread… and finally it can come out again for dinner as a whole meal !
Haven’t you always wanted to serve one of these yourself?
We always wanted to try making one but really never thought we’d be able to make a great one ourselves… until Paul tried a recipe from seriouseats.com. We’ve adapted it, with tips, to show how it worked best for us. Let’s start!
The secret to making your own is simple…
it involves lots of OLIVE oil
and lots of potatoes… and onions!
So, being Irish, I know we’re onto a winner here. The potatoes have to be cooked perfectly for this recipe though… but keep the oil you cook them with because it will be a beautiful, tasty addition to any other dish or dressing you make later.
We should point out that we are using potatoes AND onions as the filling. It’s a bone of contention apparently, whether a classic Spanish tortilla should just have potatoes, or both. I have to say that we have only tasted potato filled OR onion (cebolla) tortillas here in the Canaries. But this recipe for both together is even better, so we’re sticking with that. I have to say one of my favourite tortillas here on the island is the cebolla tortilla. Perhaps it’s the onions that makes it incredible, or is it all that oil you have to use.
Make sure you have the right tools for the job here, it really does help. I don’t dare make this, it has become a special dish made only by Paul. I like that! So do go right to the bottom of the post to see the 7 tips he gave that make this a heavenly dish!
The long, easy, but involved recipe.
Serves 2-4 people as a main, 4-6 for a starter
It’s probably greedy to have half of this recipe each, but we do, maybe with a little crunchy iceberg lettuce. That’s a very filling meal for us, and we really never need the last slice so it’s perfect for 3 people, or 4 if you have a salad with it. It’s so yummy that we haven’t managed to be able to leave one in the fridge to cool yet. We’ll have to learn more about portion control !
- 4 large eggs
- A good (Kosher) sea salt (flakes are better than crystals)
- 1 cup (237ml or 16 tablespoons ) extra-virgin olive oil (Use a good oil because the flavour will impart to the potatoes, but it doesn’t have to your best extra virgin oil, because you need lot !)
- 3/4 lbs (350g) waxy potatoes, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced crosswise. (Serious eats recommends Yukon Gold. We use the local Canarian / Spanish potatoes which are yellow on the outside and more waxy than floury on the inside.)
- 3/8 lbs (175g) yellow onions, thinly sliced
To cook it better, you need 5 kitchen tools that you might already have in your kitchen. However, 2 years after making our first tortilla we came across this enormous version in our favourite Bar España in Palma de Mallorca.
On enquiring about how on earth you could make any size you want so perfectly… we learned the Spanish secret to the best tool… a tortilla sarten ( the word for frying pan in Spanish)
It’s only a flipping tortilla pan
How obvious is that!
It has the double advantage of giving you 2 frying pans the same size.
Now how often have you wished you had that when you have to wash up the same one again and again.
What else do you need?
A Spatula or spoon for working the edges
We take one of ours with us everywhere in our suitcase! I’ve seen wooden handled ones but have a thing about wet wood. I love the coolness of the steel handle and it feels so nice to hold.
The silicone part is strong and flexible and smooth. Perfect! And having the square corner allows you to get in under edges easily, and the slightly spoon-like front helps to flip.
It comes in other colours too. Click through here to see it on Amazon, obviously we can’t live without one – can you?
Measuring cups and bowls
Actually this is both a bowl and measuring cup set. We have the multicoloured set as they were given to us as a gift, but we love them in the new subtle colours like this cool charcoal grey.
It’s so useful, it’s more than bowls. It has a 4.5 Litre mixing bowl, 3 Litre colander, 1.65 Litre sieve, 0.5 Litre mixing bowl, and five measuring cups. Also a handy non slip base and carry handles.
Click through here to see it on Amazon.
A very sharp knife for slicing
,This is the one we use and obviously can’t live without, as we even bring the largest chef knife and smallest kitchen devil with us in our suitcase as we travel.
Click through here to see it on Amazon,
Or see the whole set we use. You’ll find them in restaurant kitchens too. They’re nicely balanced and are real workhorses, and, they don’t cost a fortune either! Paul discovered them first in the Raymond Blanc’s kitchens when he did some great cooking courses at Le Manoir aux Quatres Saisons. We love them, so much so that, like a ‘real’ chef, we had to bring them with us in our new simple life.
A chopping board… or 2 or 3!
We have the smallest one of these commercial style chopping boards in the Canaries and the large one in Mallorca, so we’re never without this style of simple white board.
In fact, every house we visit seems to have one. Do you?
Click through here to see it on Amazon.
Or see the whole colour coded set we love here. I love the colours for every different types of food use, to avoid contamination.
We never had the full set as they didn’t do all the colours way back when we bought them! We brought the red one with us, and the green one is waiting with family so we hope someone will bring it in their luggage when they visit!
Actually, it’s been too long though and I’d really like this new full set… I wish I had the stand too so that I could keep them separated easily. Instead, I used to store the different colours in different places so that they didn’t ever lie together.
Very good NON STICK fry pans
If you aren’t using a special double pan, then these are our favourite Anolon (20 and 28cm / 8 & 11inches) pans that we have always used. You can get them from Circulon too – we have used either and would recommend both.
Seriouseats recommends one large for cooking the potato/onion mix, one small / medium for the tortilla but actually Paul managed to use the same pan for both ( even it was a little full ! )
Click through to see it on Amazon.
Or if you need more than a frying pan, see the set we used most of our life here!
We started out with this set, and just added the wok style casserole pan and a small frying pan to our set. The glass lids are perfect to keep seeing how your food is cooking, and the little milk pan is so useful with it’s little lip.
Truly every day pans from cook to chef ! We always used either Circulon & Anolon as they are from the same manufacturer. We love them. The Circulon sets are a little cheaper and meant to be more a cooks pan, and the Anolon a chefs pan.
(or…10 steps to heaven and the way to a Spanish heart )
Peel and cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Then, with the flat side on the cutting surface, slice the potato into pieces approximately 1/8-inch thick. Try to get them all the same thickness. If you slice them thick, it will just take longer to cook. If you slice too thinly they will stick together and not cook so well. Do the same with the half onion, lay the flat side on the board and slice into approx. 1/4 inch thick slices.
Combine the potatoes and onions in a bowl , season with salt, and mix with your hands.
Put a large, heavy, nonstick frying pan on to med – high heat, and heat 3/4 cup of the olive oil. Carefully add the potatoes and onions making sure they are spread evenly and that the oil is pretty much covering the potatoes.
While cooking, keep an eye on the heat as every cooker varies so you may need to work at medium heat so that it is just simmering here, not boiling hard so as not to burn the potatoes. You want them to cook till they’re tender but not brown or burn.
When the potatoes are cooked, carefully take the mixture out of the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula that allows the oil to drain. Spread the mix out gently to let it cool.
Crack your eggs into another bowl and beat or whisk them with a fork or hand blender. Then, pour the whisked eggs into the cooled potato and egg bowl. Carefully mix everything together with a large spoon, then let it rest for about 5mins.
Pour a tablespoon of the remaining olive oil into a small, non-stick frying pan (ours was perfect at 9 inches / 23cm in diameter) and heat on medium heat. When it’s hot, give your potato/onion mixture a final stir, and pour it carefully into the pan. Make sure it’s spread out evenly. The egg will start cooking all around the edges. Work the sides to get your omelette into a nice tortilla shape. Once the sides start cooking, carefully lift up one side of the omelet to check if the egg has slightly browned. At this point, the inside of the mixture should not be cooked through, and the egg will still look loose and uncooked on top – that’s all good.
When you see that the omelette has browned on the bottom, it’s time to turn it over ! Here’s what you do. Take the frying pan to a clear surface and place your largest plate over it ( it should be at least a few inches bigger than the pan and the upper part of the plate is facing the tortilla in the pan). Then with one hand on the frying pan handle and the other on top of the plate, quickly turn the pan / plate over so that you now have the tortilla browned side up, served on the plate !
Put your frying pan back on the stove/hob and put just enough of the remaining oil to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Let it warm up for about 30seconds. Now slide the omelette back into the frying pan, brown side up. This is why Paul says to put a little oil on the plate – if you don’t it can be tricky sliding the omelette off again. Use your spatula ( by the way we use our can’t live without silicone spatula ( you can use a ´scoopatula´ like this for everything! ) Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Sneak a peek to see how well it is browning on the bottom, and when you’re satisfied, turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for a few more minutes. Then slide it off onto a plate, slice, and serve.
Well I suppose these 7 tips are what get you to tortilla heaven!
1. I can’t remember where we heard it, but if you put the seasoning (the salt) in your egg now, rather than in the mixture in the pan, then it tastes better! So we do it that way of course.
2. You’ll know your potatoes are ready when you poke into a potato and it easily breaks in two (step 4).
3. At step 5, Paul admitted to me that he doesn’t always spread the mix out ! He just puts it back in the bowl and waits for it to cool. The main point here is to let the oil cool so that when you add the raw egg next, it doesn’t start to cook too early in the hot oil.
4. Seriouseats recommend this same size pan for twice the quantity (see step 7) but we found this size made the perfect thickness for a beginner. Maybe as you get more advanced at this you could make a super thick one in the same size pan and this would get the inside even more moist?
5. Be careful not to get the pan too hot so as not to burn the oil or the omelette.
6. Paul recommends popping a little oil on the plate first (step8) … so that it will slide off easily.
7. When you’re done, save the oil in a jar for your next tortilla-making session, or use it for other cooking, or even in a simple salad dressing! It’s extra tasty after being cooked with the potatoes and onions, so I use it when I want to use very little oil in a dish to maximise the flavour with the minimum oil.
This is the latest one we made. With spicy Spanish chorizo in it.
The best tortilla we’ve found on our travels
At a bar, café, or restaurant, it’s hard to get a bad tortilla. Home-made by the Spanish is the best !
Hands down the best tortillas we ever had were served in the old tapas cafés in Bilbao. Since we had these, we became very ‘judgy’ about the quality of our tortillas very quickly and found it so difficult to buy a good one, even if it was wrapped simply and looked homemade, on the deli counter at a supermarket.
It has to be unctuously rich, thick, full (of potato, or whatever else), a little warm is best, and most of all it has to be nice and moist in the inside.
When we first lived in Palma de Mallorca we were really excited to see a little restaurant totally devoted to tortillas – yes, a tortilla restaurant ! We tried it, and were sadly disappointed so we won’t share the name with you here. The best tortillas we found here are in the “la Rosa Vermuteria” and “Bar España” . Now we are back for springtime 2022 and have tried both out again. They’re both getting bigger and bigger in size – really it’s all I needed for lunch.
Bar España wins as the best we’ve had here so far!