The Humble Spud and Making Spanish Tortilla

The Humble Spud & Making Spanish Tortilla
by Perry Estelle

Imagine two thirds of the Irish population leaving their homeland for lack of potatoes? As we all know this happened in Ireland mid 18c. A blight that blackened the crop paralysed every facet of Irish life, causing mass migration within a short few weeks, to flee famine to the Americas and other parts of the world. Scary!

Could it happen again? This historic tragedy spurred me to learn more

Let’s never underestimate the power of potatoes, and we are here today to celebrate our plentiful ‘tattie’, to indulge ourselves in its cooking versatility.

I live in the Fens the heartland of Spuddies! Many varieties, grow in the rich black earth here. In fact my daughter has Rocki her horse at a stable, that is a potato growers and its claim to fame, is to test for the very best ‘chip-taste’ type potato and then send the latest crop to selected fish & chip shops across the UK ….and guess where else? To the Irish shores!

Its small world…but I wouldn’t want to paint it, eh?

Let’s make Spanish Tortilla! It’s very easy to get any omelette wrong, so please follow the instructions carefully. Undercooked, and its runny inside. Overcooked and it becomes dry and tasteless. So a keen eye, more than scheduled cooking times, is most important. Potatoes are vital to keep the omelette construct, but if sliced too thickly, it will risk rawness, and too starchy. Too thinly and they will just get ‘smushed’ in your mixture when you ‘agitate’ the mixture as it cooks.

I prefer to cook jacket potatoes the night before, in their skins, with a wipe of extra virgin, and some sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper and then popped in the oven for 40 minutes on 175 degrees. Just one large jacket potato can supply enough crispy carb. They need to be just shy of fully baked, rather than burned and over dry with wrinkled jackets. Slicing them up the next day.

All set?

So, let’s get on with the dish.

Spanish Tortilla

2 dessert spoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil

6-8 eggs

2 average sized prebaked potatos (optional: 4 Maris piper as a variety are great and you can boil the 1 cm wide slices for 10 minutes, wooah! Watch they don’t overboil and break up)

One chopped Spanish Onion

1 cup if grated cheese or Parmesan

Juice of one lemon or lime

Half a cup of milk

Half a cup of water

Cracked pepper and seasalt

Cayenne pepper/paprika


Boil the potatoes slices until translucent keeping them intact by slightly under boiling,  then lift and drain and allow to steam dry in the colander

Heat half the olive oil (1 dessert spoon only) in your best non-stick pan and fry the potato slices with the onion, until a light golden brown either side, lift and leave on kitchen roll to one side

Beat the eggs with the water and milk and lemon/lime juice and add seasalt and pepper. Use a whisk to add air and froth the mixture

Heat the pan on a moderate heat and add just half the mixture whisking as you go.

Very Important! When safely in pan, agitate the mixture with a flat spatula to the point of the mixture wanting to solidify, like lightly  scrambled eggs and then add the rest repeating the process adjusting the heat as you go.

The mixture should ‘build’ at this point, now, add the potato and onion, and keep agitating the mixture until all the ‘runny’ mixture is now has a more solid consistency. Don’t worry, the aim is to make sure the mixture is all gently cooked

Use your spatula to free the side and bottom of the mixture. In the meantime put your grill on full power

Add the cheese on top of the mixture

When you feel the bottom of the mixture is no longer runny place the pan under you grill.

The omelette should rise and the cheese melt

Don’t let the top scorch!

Remove and serve with rocket and tomato salad with dressing.

Enjoy! Spanish Tortilla

Need a nice dressing? Please click here.

It certainly is a poor man or woman who cannot find a few eggs, a couple of potatoes and an onion in their store cupboard! The ever-practical Spaniard realized this and thus created their marvellous “tortilla” – an easy-to-make dish that could be savoured by rich and poor alike.

Not only cheap to make the tortilla, or Spanish omelette, is immenseley adaptable: you can eat it hot or cold, depending on the weather and your mood; you can enjoy a small slice as a “tapa” (snack) in between meals; or, accompanied by a multi-coloured mixed salad and crusty, fresh Spanish bread, you have a marvellous main meal! Should unexpected guests come knocking at your door … just whip out the ever-adaptable toritilla, pour them a glass of smooth, Spanish wine and they are bound to be delighted!

Unlike the better-known French omelette which should be made quickly and over a high heat, the Spanish omelette needs to be cooked more gently, so that the middle is not too runny. The French omelette is best eaten straight away and always hot. Its Spanish counterpart, on the other hand, improves if left to rest for at least five minutes before eating, keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge, and can easily be re-heated in the microwave, unless you prefer it cold. As with the French omelette, the Spanish tortilla is made in a frying pan (preferably non-stick) but, unlike the French version, both sides need to be cooked. For this reason, it is possible to buy special tortilla frying pans – a sort of double pan which allows you to just swish it over and cook the other side!

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I have to say, I prefer the traditional method of placing a plate on top of the pan, turning the tortilla out and then returning to the pan to cook the underside. But, perhaps the simplest method is to just place the frying pan under the grill to brown the tortilla.

Whichever way you choose to prepare it, once cooked, leave it to cool a little, cover with a large plate, then gently ease the omelette out. It should be circular, about an inch-and-a-half thick, and it is usual to cut it in slices or wedges. Having said that, you can divide it into small cubes, pop a cocktail stick on top, and serve along with other “bits and pieces” as apéritifs. Spanish recipes for tortilla vary slightly from region to region – also what you have in the fridge and what you fancy! You can replace the potato with, say, spinach, leave out the onion, add a bit more garlic, etc, etc. Just use your imagination!

Below is a recipe for a traditional potato-and-onion tortilla.

TORTILLA – Spanish Omelette


* Olive oil

* 1 large onion, chopped

* 1 clove garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon salt

* 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced

* Black pepper

* 6 eggs, beaten


1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan.

2. Add onion, garlic, pepper and potatoes.

3. Gently fry until golden-brown and potatoes slightly softened.

4. Tip potato-and-onion mixture into bowl containing the beaten eggs.

5. Stir and transfer to a large frying pan containing clean oil.

6. Cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes.

7. Transfer pan to a preheated hot grill until top is browned.

8. Alternatively, turn upside down onto a plate and return to pan to brown underside.

9. Carefully tip onto plate and slice as you would a cake.