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FOOD & DRINK

Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas

This is how to make a perfect, and utterly delicious, Spanish torilla.

Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Photo: Federico Galarraga/Flickr

For many, lockdown is proving the perfect opportunity to improve culinary skills and what better dish to start with than the simple and yet utterly delicious Spanish classic, the tortilla de patatas.

The Local  asked food blogger and expat chef Carla Bigio to explain the secret to making a delicious tortilla de patatas.

The simple yet hugely satisfying potato omelette is the staple of practically every Spanish menu, from the hole in the wall bars to the fanciest of restaurants. 

But it is also a dish that divides opinion like no other – onions or no onions? and runny or dry? being the two most debated questions when it comes to the popular dish.

 The Local asked American expat chef Carla Bigio, who lives in Barcelona, to share her recipe with us. 

Bigio lives and works in Barcelona, where in 2004 she opened her own restaurant. These days, she teaches people to cook mouth-watering Spanish recipes both from home and from a cooking school in the city. 

Tortilla de patatas (serves four) 

Ingredients 

Six eggs

Two potatoes, peeled, cut in half, and sliced horizontally

One large onion, sliced

Salt

One litre of olive oil (trust me on this)

The process 

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, add 3/4 litres of olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the potatoes and onions. Lower heat to medium. Cook, poaching the potatoes and onions until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, crack your eggs and beat. Add salt. At this time, get all the things you are going to need for the tortilla. A large plate, two frying pans, one medium, one smaller (optional). IMPORTANT NOTE:  THEY MUST BE NON-STICK FRYING PANS. If not, your tortilla will stick and the whole process is ruined.

When your potatoes and onions are done, strain them, reserving two tbsp of oil. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes. When your potatoes are cool enough to touch, then mix them in with your scrambled eggs.

In a medium frying pan, add one tbsp of your reserved oil. Heat over medium heat until almost smoking.

Now add your egg and potato mixture, and as soon as it hits the pan, start stirring the eggs so that they coagulate and the uncooked part goes to the bottom, and you get some cooked egg on top……like this:

Simultaneously, as you are stirring the centre, with your wooden spoon, drag it along the edges to make sure that it is drying up.

This enables you to make sure that the tortilla is not sticking on the edges, so it will flip loosely onto your large plate. Keep doing these movements until you see little runniness in the middle, and it seems like it is drying up.

When you feel that there won’t be enough egg mix lost when you do “The Flip”, then place your large plate (it must be larger than the circumference of your frying pan) on top of the pan,

And with a flick of your wrist, flip the tortilla onto the plate, and then slide back into the frying pan.

At this point, you can choose if you want to place it into a smaller frying pan. I learned this tip from a proper Catalan, who said always move your tortilla into a smaller frying pan to get that nice rounded shape.

If you do switch to a smaller frying pan, then add the remaining one tbsp of olive oil, and heat over a low flame. Either way, if you do or you don’t, you have to start to tuck in the edges of the tortilla, to give it a nice round shape on the edges. And, now the key is if you want it a bit runny, or “JUICY” as they would say here, you either cook it for two more minutes, or seven more minutes. Since I like mine in between, I cook it for five more minutes.

Slide it back on a clean plate, let rest for at least five minutes, and serve warm with nice crusty tomato bread.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 Carla can be found blogging at Expatchef where she shares her favourite recipes from Spain.

We also love this video from Robert L Strauss and his daughter, who learnt how to cook a tortilla (with onions) while studying Spanish in Barcelona.

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FOOD & DRINK

Meet the Spanish twin chefs who earned a third Michelin star

When they were just eight years old, Spanish twins Sergio and Javier Torres set a goal: they wanted to become chefs who were among the top in their field.

Meet the Spanish twin chefs who earned a third Michelin star

To achieve this they strategically split up to get training in different esteemed kitchens around the world, published books on cooking and presented a popular TV show.

The plan worked.

Over four decades after they surprised their family by saying they wanted to be chefs, Sergio and Javier’s Barcelona restaurant, Cocina Hermanos Torres, was awarded a third Michelin star last month.

“We developed a plan, that I think is a perfect plan,” a smiling Javier, 51, said at the restaurant, one of only 13 in Spain and Portugal with the top three-star ranking from the prestigious French guide.

“When we started to go out of Barcelona we thought that Sergio would take one path, I would take another, and we would never coincide until we were ready,” he added.

The journey took the twins – who grew up in a working-class Barcelona neighbourhood – to different elite restaurants in Spain, Switzerland and France.

Before moving to Paris where he worked with top French chef Alain Ducasse, Sergio spent two years at the award-winning Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier which is also run by twins – Jacques and Laurent Pourcel.

“We were separated but every month we met up in a restaurant, ate well, we spent the little money we had and developed the next steps of our strategy,” said Sergio as sat beside his brother.

READ ALSO: These are Spain’s new Michelin-starred restaurants

Grandmother influence

Each brother specialised in different areas – one learned to cook meat and vegetables, the other fish and bread, he added.

Both siblings credit their grandmother for their passion for cooking. She was part of a wave of people who moved from the southern region of Andalusia to the more industrialised Catalonia in the northeast in search of better life following Spain’s devastating 1936-39 civil war.

“Our grandmother looked after us, and since she was in the kitchen all day we literally grew up in a kitchen,” said Sergio.

After earning two Michelin stars with their previous project “Dos Cielos” and becoming familiar faces thanks to their participation in a cooking show, they decided to open Cocina Hermanos Torres in 2018.

The twins visited some 200 possible locations before settling on an industrial building near Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou football stadium.

They invested nearly €3 million to convert it into the restaurant, which seats a maximum of 50 people in tables with no wall separating them from the three work stations where staff prepare meals.

“We wanted to reflect what we experienced in our childhood, which was a kitchen and a table, and everyone around the table,” said Javier.

‘Difficult road’

The tasting menu costs €255, with another €160 if it is paired with wine, a stiff price in a country where the monthly minimum wage is around €1,000.

READ ALSO – REVEALED: Spain’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants

Praised for its creative and playful cuisine, among the dishes served is cured squid with poultry broth and an onion soup with Parmesan cheese and truffles.

“You will experience flavours that you have never experienced before, because you will discover a cuisine where you will like what you don’t like,” said Sergio.

On a recent visit at noon 50 staff members – many of them young – are busy at work finalising details before customers arrive.

“It seems like today a chef is like a ‘super star’. It’s a very difficult road, very difficult, with long hours and it’s very hard to make it, it takes tremendous perseverance,” said Sergio.

“You have to risk it, go for broke, give it your all, because if you don’t, you are not living,” he added with a smile.

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