Recipe – Tortilla Española

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.

Recipe!

4 white onions, halved and thinly sliced

2 medium potatoes, sliced about 0.5 cm thick

5 eggs

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.

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.

Enjoy!

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Apple Pie Chia Overnight Oats

It’s getting too hot in Budapest to eat warm porridge every-day, so I have turned to my trusty Pinterest for solutions. Mainly to prevent me getting a croissant from the bakery every day, which while magnificent in every way, is arguably not the best way to keep healthy. Arguably.

Pinterest did not disappoint! Hipster-tastic as it may be, I’ve made overnight oats with great success in the past and I love them. Not only are they super easy to put together, since you just mix everything in a large jar or Tupperware box, but in the summer, they’re so refreshing and delicious since they’re cold. It’s also great for the non-morning types out there, like me, since you just spoon it into a bowl and devour in your zombified state. The added bonus of being able to add your favourite fruit, nuts and seeds and make it as healthy as you can ain’t too shabby either!

I found this recipe, which I amended to suit my own taste and made lactose-free. I’ve heard mixed reviews about cutting out lactose altogether, and while milk is going to be easy for me to drop since I’m not so keen on the taste, I can’t abandon dairy products. Just can’t do it. Even the thought of a grilled cheese is making my mouth go dry. But where possible, cutting down on your lactose intake or substituting for other products can be beneficial for your health, especially if like me, you’re trying to be more healthy without giving up the food you love.

It just so happens that a health food shop near the office is closing down and having a half-price sale, so I took the chance to clear out their stock of almond milk, calendula flowers and cane sugar!

For the first time ever, I bought and tried chia seeds. They’re widely praised as a superfood, high in fibre, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, potassium and Vitamins B1, 2 and 3. They’re high in anti-oxidants, low in carbs and high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are difficult to come by in fish-deprived, landlocked Hungary. Alongside all of that, they’re grown organically and are gluten free. So far, so fantastic!

The only catch is its price – a tiny 200g packet costs the same as an incredible taco lunch! But I’d read so much about how beneficial chia seeds are, I decided to skip tacos and go for something healthy. Just this once.

They’re available in all health-food shops, and since Hungary’s a bit organic food-obsessed (always a good thing!), there are lots of different brands and options you can go for.

Overnight oats are very simple – basically mix equal parts of oats (not instant; for this we need the old-fashioned variety) with liquid. This can be either milk, almond/soy/rice milk, yoghurt or water – or any combination of these. Alongside this, you can add whatever nuts, dried fruits, seeds or spices you like. The only tip I would give here is to be careful when using fresh fruit with dairy products, since leaving them together overnight may make the oats curdle and become too sour, because of the acidity from the fruit. If you prepare small amounts and eat it quickly though, there should be no problem.

This recipe involved more bowls and steps than I could be bothered with, and at 9:30pm when all I could think of was my lovely warm bed, I wanted to make the process as quick as possible.

I peeled and grated one large apple (feel free to keep the peel. I like to, but this one was getting a little brown so I composted the peels instead), to which I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon, some nutmeg and a pinch of allspice.

It’s easiest to just mix everything together in the airtight container they will come together in, so to a large Kilner jar, I added a cup of oats, a cup of almond milk and two tablespoons of chia seeds. Add the apples, any seeds or nuts (I added pumpkin seeds and raisins) and mix it all together well. Add a little extra liquid to allow for the oats to expand a bit more.

Close your container and leave it in the fridge overnight. I think this jar will last me about 3-4 breakfasts.

Disclaimer: I was tired and not focussing on the image quality!

 

The next morning, take out as much as you’d like, adding a bit more almond milk to loosen up the mixture, and honey if you’d like, and enjoy! That’s it! The spices give everything a wonderful apple pie flavour so even though what you’re eating is fantastic for your health, it doesn’t taste like it!

Enjoy, tell me how yours turned out!

 

 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Spiced Strawberry Coulis

We had some friends over for brunch this weekend so I took the chance to push the boat out while making something surprisingly easy – ricotta pancakes! I made a spiced coulis to go with it, which took more time than I thought but was so worth it! The ricotta helps keep the pancakes light and fluffy while also providing bags of flavour – which the lemon zest and juice added to. Combined with a star anise-cinnamon strawberry coulis, this was a surprising hit! It took about an hour from start to finish but that included frequent breaks to chat and make tea, so here’s the recipe.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

1.5 cups (192g) flour – I used a combination of wholemeal and plain white

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1 cup (250ml) milk

3/4 cup (250g) ricotta

3 large eggs

2 tbsp butter, melted

zest and juice of one lemon – roughly 1/4 cup (60ml)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. At this point you can also add any powdered spices like nutmeg or cinnamon, which is delicious in the winter.

In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients except for the lemon (easiest with an electric whisk.) The more air bubbles you get in, the fluffier your pancakes will be.

Mix the lemon juice and zest in with the wet ingredients and stir in to the dry ingredients to combine. Don’t over-mix. Leave to sit for about 10-15 mins.

Heat a heavy-based skillet to medium-high heat and melt a little butter. The batter should be quite thick, but liquid enough to pour from a ladle to the pan with ease, so add a splash of milk if it’s too gloopy (a highly technical term, gloopy).

When air bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom turns a beautiful golden brown, turn it over and cook for a further few minutes. Serve warm with a berry coulis or maple syrup (or hell, serve with both!)

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Spiced Strawberry Coulis 

1 cup (250ml) water

1 cup (128g) sugar

2 cups (400g) strawberries, quartered

2 star anise

1-2 sticks cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, water and spices together until the sugar dissolves. Continue heating until it bubbles gently, then reduce the heat to let the spices infuse. Remove them once the syrup is flavoured to your taste – it took me ten minutes – then add your strawberries. Cook on a high heat until the berries break down a little, then reduce the heat and keep stirring it at a simmer. It will slowly thicken as the berries become softer and softer. Once it’s reached the thickness you like, remove from the heat and strain into a jug or pour into a jug with the berries – which I did, to make life easier. Serve at any temperature because this is delicious!

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