You can never leave Spain without tasting one of the essential elements of Spanish cuisine: the famous Spanish omelette or Spanish fritatta also called tortilla española, tortilla de patatas or tortilla de papas).
What are the different versions of tortilla española?
Its name comes from its shape as tortilla means round cake or galette in Spanish. It’s a simple recipe based on eggs and potatoes. There are dozens of different versions. The most common being with onions.
There are several versions depending on the region. In the Sierra Nevada, they make Spanish potato omelette with diced Serrano ham. In Galicia, it is seafood that is added to tortilla española. In the south, vegetables are favored while in Catalonia, they mostly go with the traditional version with occasionally a few extra onions.
In Madrid, tortillas are served with bravas sauce similar to that of patatas bravas or even with chorizo. The list is too long! It is also one of the most versatile Spanish recipes because it can be served in different forms: tapas, ración, pinchos sandwich or main course, accompanied by a tomato salad.
What is the origin of the Spanish omelette?
Before the seventeenth century, tortillas were filled with any leftover you could find and as strange as it may sound, the garnished omelette was considered a poor man’s dish whereas the plain omelette was a dish for the rich.
It was only after several products were brought back by the great explorers, including potatoes, that tortilla became a dish “for all”.
The legend says that it is Basque General Tomás de Zumalacárregui who invented Spanish tortilla during the siege of Bilbao. This simple dish, quick and nutritious was used to feed the struggling Carlist armies.
Another version says that it’s a stay-at-home mom of Navarre who invented tortilla española. She had prepared scrambled eggs mixed with potatoes and onions. She then received a visit from General Zumalacárregui who spent the night with her. The general liked the potato tortilla so much that he quickly popularized it.
In both versions of the story, the common thread is that the Spanish tortilla spread over during the Carlist wars in Spain.
We were guests at a friend’s house and my Spanish omelette was served as the appetizer. It was a resounding success. I did not forget to mention that this recipe was a kitchen nightmare for me… Well that was a long time ago when I started cooking!
In those days, my Spanish tortilla often ended up as scrambled eggs with potatoes. Not to mention the catastrophic battlefield that my kitchen looked like after each try!
Indeed, the process of flipping a Spanish tortilla for the first time, and for someone as perfectionist as me, may be a source of trauma. Be sure to follow the advice in my Spanish omelette recipe!
- 8 eggs
- 5 potatoes (medium size)
- 1 large onion , julienned
- ½ cup olive oil + 3 tablespoons
- Peel the potatoes and wash them.
- Cut into four lengthwise and cut each quarter into thin slices.
In a deep nonstick skillet, heat ½ cup (120ml) of olive oil lightly over medium heat.
- Pour the potatoes and cook 5 minutes, stirring gently.
- Add the onion.
- Maintain medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Remove from heat, pour into a colander and drain well. Set aside.
- Separate the eggs.
- Beat the egg whites with a fork until light and fluffy.
- Beat the egg yolks and add them to the whites. Beating the egg whites and yolks separately helps obtaining a lighter omelette.
- Mix the potatoes and onion to the beaten eggs and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Gently heat three tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and pour the mixture.
- Cook until the mixture begins to boil.
- Flip the tortilla by covering the pan with a large plate. Press firmly on the plate and, with a quick gesture, turn it over.
- Gently slide the tortilla back in the pan to cook the other side for 4-5 minutes.