I had my family over for brunch this weekend, for my dad’s birthday (I’m more than a little obsessed with brunch) and I put out a Spanish-themed spread. The key feature was a Spanish tortilla. We had a rather disappointing one about a month ago, without any potatoes so it was basically an omelette with nice things in it. Nothing wrong with that, but it made me really crave the Real Deal.
One of my favourite parts about brunch, besides having people over obviously, is preparing and planning the menu for it. I did as much preparation the night before so I could just roll out of bed, tidy the flat and get the last bits together. I learned this recipe from the head chef of the hotel we stayed in during a staff retreat to Spain a few years ago. We all took a sangria-fuelled tapas cooking class, which was as amazing as it sounds.
The key, I discovered, was in the onions – cooked extremely slowly, in minimal oil or butter, and for a long time, so they release their own juices and become an incredibly soft, sweet, caramel brown. And, as the chef taught us, ‘no fear’ when it comes to the flipping. Let it be known that I cannot even flip a crepe to save my life, so this was going to be a challenge.
The potatoes should be slightly cooked, just enough that when they’re assembled in the tortilla and cook further, the end result is layers of thinly-sliced, cooked potatoes which still hold their shape.
And to prevent the tortilla from getting too heavy, move the egg mixture around a little before it sets, allowing more air into it. We were also taught that there’s no sense in keeping it neat and clean – no need to layer the potatoes and onions either. Mix it all up, cook it in a pan, abandon fear and keep flipping it. Easy. Ahem.
4 white onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, sliced about 0.5 cm thick
200ml milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste
Slowly cook the onions for as long as you can, in a frying pan or the oven, in just about enough oil to prevent them sticking, and with the tiniest pinch of salt to encourage the juices to come out and cook the onions. When they’re a beautiful caramel and almost jam-like, remove and allow to cool. You could do this the night before, as I did.
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, and heat a frying pan with a little olive oil and butter. When it’s medium-hot, add the mixture and shake the pan to make sure the potatoes are flat.
Here’s another ‘secret trick’: use a spatula to move the mixture around a little, creating swirls and whirls at the bottom of the pan. This gets air into the tortilla and helps keep it nice and light.
When the bottom is cooked and the top starts to cook, it’s time to flip. No fear. No fear.
Stop hyperventilating, you’re going to be fine.
Invert a plate over the pan, and quickly and with a fluid and confident flick – DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EYES – flip the tortilla over. It may be messy, but just roll with it. Apparently it’s all part of the fun, and you can reshape the thing anyway. Don’t wince. It’s going to be OK.
Use your spatula to make sure all the tortilla is actually in the pan, and round out the edges for the trademark tortilla look. When both sides are a beautiful golden brown, it’s ready to eat.
One of the great things about a good tortilla is that it’s great hot or cold. I served it with a green salad and tangy citrus vinaigrette, which cut through the creamy richness of the tortilla.