Tortilla without tears
by Simon Newman
Here’s a tortilla recipe (Spanish omelette) a friend from Navarra gave me that delivers top results every time – as long as you follow it to the letter. And the first letter is R, for Rioja.
Now you may ask the obvious question “what’s Rioja doing in a recipe for tortilla?” But don’t. Just have faith and follow the instructions.
Open bottle of Rioja, red or white, pour a glass, waft it under your nose then take a generous sip. And relax. Now then, you’re half way to your perfect tortilla already by dint of the quintessential essence of Spain now firmly resident in your consciousness. Keep the wine close to hand – you’ll be needing it again later. Or sooner.
Right, here we go. Whisk 8 eggs with half a cup of milk and a good pinch of salt. Put aside to stand.
Finely chop 2 medium sized onions, a clove of garlic and a green or red pepper (or half and half, this gives a nice colour combo.)
Peel 4 medium sized non-floury potatoes, e.g. russets, slice to the dimensions of a 2€ coin.
Use a frying pan with a good condition non-stick surface (essential otherwise it’ll end up a dog’s dinner. I have been there.)
Using 3 cups of veg oil (yes, that much) gently cook the potatoes, onions, garlic and pepper on a low heat (lid on) for 15 mins, stirring every 3 mins. You do NOT want anything to brown, just soften.
Take off the heat and drain all the oil (you can re-use it another time).
Stir in the egg mixture to the cooked vegetables in the frying pan, return to a low heat (no lid.)
Draw a wooden spatula across the base of the pan a half a dozen times over the next 2 minutes.
Replace lid and continue to cook on gentle heat for a further 5 to 7 minutes (or until set) during which time you should gently agitate the pan every minute to encourage the bottom of the tortilla to break its connection with the base.
Now ease a veg-oiled plastic slice under the tortilla all the way round until it’s entirely free. Turn the heat up to medium for 2 mins – keep gently agitating the pan.
And now ……. the moment of truth, the turning point as it were. Another sip of Rioja – just a sip mind, you need a clear head. A deep breath and steel yourself. You can do it.
Take a plate large enough to cover (and a bit more) the circumference of the tortilla. Lubricate the plate’s surface with some of the veg oil used earlier. Place it oiled side down over the tortilla and press gently but firmly down with one hand. Take the pan handle in the other hand and turn the whole caboodle upside down.
You should now have a nearly ready tortilla (with a slightly browned side uppermost) sitting on the plate. You’re almost there.
Add about two tablespoons of the oil used earlier to the pan (make sure the whole of the base is covered) and slide the tortilla gently back to cook the other side (low heat, lid on) for another 2 minutes. Keep agitating the pan. Turn off the heat and gently slide the tortilla out on to a dish and leave to stand for at least an hour before serving at room temperature.
Take a deep glug of that Rioja and congratulate yourself. You’ve walked through fire, crossed that burning bridge, tasted cold steel and looked destiny firmly in the navel. You are a Tortillista.
If on the other hand your kitchen floor is now covered in scrambled egg and broken china, well, have a glug or three of Rioja anyway and turn to your husband/wife/partner/cat/other saying “Stupid ****ing recipe. Can you believe it, it said to oil the frying pan handle? No wonder the ****ing thing slipped out my hand. Would you mind clearing up darling? I think I need to lie down.”
Cut the tortilla into six wedges, slice horizontally and fill with a little smoked salmon topped with a squish of lemon juice and a dash of ground black pepper. Serve with, what else? Rioja.