The perfect Tortilla?

Like most things in Spain, even the simplest of things are a little more complicated they may seem. Take the humble “Tortilla”; the ever-popular Spanish potato omelette as an example. In the town council of Betanzos, the Galician municipality whose tortillas de patatas are regularly hailed as the finest in the land, they have recently told contestants entering the annual tortilla competition that onions are now totally forbidden in the recipe. The issue of whether cebollas belong in this emblematic dish is dividing families and communities and pitting concebollistas (with-onions) against sincebollistas (without-onions) and turning this issue into a long-festering confrontation. The rivalry has become so intense that it may even eclipse one of Spain’s bitterest battles between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona! I have to admit that I’m with the “concebolloistas” although I do respect the fact that in it’s purest form it should probably just be potatoes and eggs. What I’m certain of is that the Tortilla is a perfect example of simple comfort food par excellence, which transforms a couple of humble ingredients into a dish fit for “el rey”.

For the perfect Tortilla, firstly you’ll need a good non-stick frying pan. It is also essential to use the freshest, best quality eggs you can find. Ideally, that means free‑range, organic eggs with deep‑orange yolks.
Good, waxy potatoes are also best, so peel them, cut them into 4 and then finely slice them. Do not wash or place the potatoes in water. Heat a good amount of simple olive oil in the frying pan and cook the potatoes until they are soft but also slightly browned around the edges. If using onions, add them when the potatoes are half cooked. 
Making the perfect tortilla does take a little practice and flipping a runny tortilla is hard work and some recipes suggest sticking the omelette under a hot grill for a couple of minutes after it has browned underneath. This isn't a bad idea, especially if you're possessed of shaky hands, but I do think it gives a drier, more caramelised result, which I don't particularly like. If you make tortillas regularly, you can buy a special tool for the purpose, called a “gira tortilla” – they're sold in Spain, so it's not really cheating. 
Tortilla Espanola

6 whole eggs
4 large potatoes (peeled and finely sliced)
1 small Spanish onion (finely chopped)
1 small green pepper (finely chopped)
300ml olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed non-stick frying pan and fry the potatoes gently for 6-8 minutes until they start to soften. Add the chopped onion and green pepper and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.  Place a large sieve over a bowl and carefully strain the potatoes. Beat the eggs in a clean bowl and add the warm potatoes to the beaten eggs. Season to taste.
Heat a spoonful of the olive oil in the frying and add the egg mixture, stir with a wooden spoon and cook until golden brown on the bottom.  Place a large plate or saucepan lid over the mixture, carefully turn the tortilla over. Return to the frying pan and cook slowly until the tortilla is firm in the middle. Slide the tortilla onto a large plate and serve.


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