One of the most beloved Spanish dishes is the Spanish Omelette. A simple delicacy that only requires 3 or 4 ingredients, a staple in tapas restaurants all over the world and always a hit with vegetarians. How to cook a Spanish Omelette is easy enough but how to make the perfect Spanish Omelette is a different matter.
They say that there are as many Spanish omelette recipes as there are households in Spain. Each has their own style and preferences. With onions or without? With olive oil or sunflower oil? Runny, dry or anything in between? Well, my recipe has a personal guarantee: my grandmother passed it to my mother and then she passed it to me. So here is how to cook a Spanish omelette from a granny’s recipe. You just can’t go wrong.
Tips to make a Spanish Omelet like a master
If you have travelled around Spain, I am sure that you have tried Spanish omelette, or tortilla de patatas as it is called over here. Some visitors love the dish but it is true that others hate it. If you are in this second group, chances are that you haven’t tried a good Spanish omelette but a mediocre one. Who knows? Maybe they have even served you a supermarket pre-cooked tortilla. Yes! I have seen that.
Don’t despair. To cook a Spanish omelette is easier than what you might think. If you follow this recipe and you don’t like your own tortilla de patata, maybe it is true that you don’t like the dish. But I still have to find a Spanish person that doesn’t like a good Spanish omelette. I am sure that you won’t be any different.
The simplicity is shocking. There are only 4 ingredients: potatoes, eggs, onions and oil. But how to use them is what makes the difference between a good and a bad Spanish omelette.
First thing is chopping the potatoes. I use the Agria variety but any type of starchy potato will do. If you are limited by choice, just use an all-purpose type like monalisa or kennebec. The way to chop them is very important as we want to poach them in the oil, not to fry them. After peeling them, cut them in half lengthwise and then slice them in pieces around 0.5 cm thick.
For the oil, I use a light olive oil. Some people prefer sunflower oil as they say that the olive oil gives it a strong taste. But my grandmother was very strict about using exclusively olive oil and I am nobody to tell her she was wrong. I understand that olive oil can be very expensive outside Spain so using sunflower oil is not the end of the world. I have cooked many a Spanish omelette with sunflower oil while living in Ireland and the UK and they were delicious.
Please, please, don’t be scabby with the amount of oil. We want the potatoes to be completely covered so they cook evenly. Remember that you can filter the oil and reuse it a few times. That is what Spanish households have been doing for generations. The potatoes have to be cooked on a medium-low fire so they poach rather than fry.
With or without onions. This is the “to be or not to be” of Spanish gastronomy. I have witnessed countless discussions over this issue. If you are not a big fan of onions, don’t add them and you will still have a Spanish omelette. But if, like me, you love onions, there is no discussion here: with onions, ALWAYS with onions! Ah, cook them separately on a different pan so you don’t under cook them or, even worse, burn them.
You’ll know the potatoes are ready when they feel soft on the inside and start changing to a beautiful light golden colour. It is time to beat the eggs. There are very few ingredients and the egg is not going to be coked through so I only use the best I can find. Buy organic free-range grade 0 eggs and your palate will thank you.
To beat the eggs, I use a spoon rather than a fork or a whisk as we don’t want too much air going inside. Don’t overbeat them. Just enough so you can get a beautiful creamy texture in your tortilla.
When the potatoes are still slightly hot, mix them with the whisked eggs so everything turns into a beautiful homogeneous mix. Now you can add the salt. I like to leave it resting for 10 minutes so the potatoes soak a bit of the egg and all flavours mix well.
It is time to cook the tortilla. I keep a good non-stick pan exclusively to for omelettes (Spanish or any other type). That way you ensure that the egg won’t stick to the pan. This is a very common problem that can ruin all that precious effort and care that you took while preparing it. And please, fry it, don’t bake it as I see on many recipes online. We are cooking a tortilla here, not a quiche.
Always add a little bit of olive oil just to moisture the pan and put it on high heat first. After you add the mix, lower it down to low or medium low to cook the omelette evenly. Two or three minutes on each side is enough to achieve that beautiful moist interior. A dry Spanish omelette might be good as a construction block but we want a tasty moist one.
A dish is not a classic with a bit of a show. And in the case of the Spanish omelette the show is definitely the turning of the omelette. Don’t panic! Using the right utensils, turning an omelette is child’s play. All you need is a bigger plate than the pan that you are cooking in. Cover the pan with the plate, turn it around and let the omelette slide back into the pan. Voilà! Not that difficult.
The real Spanish Omelet recipe
- 750 gr / 26 oz potatoes (“agria” variety or an all-purpose one)
- 1 medium brown onion
- 6 organic free-range medium eggs
- Plenty of light olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Peel the potatoes and slice them in half lenghtwise. Then, slice them into 0.5 cm thin slices. If the potatoes are very big, you can quarter them lenghtwise.
- Heat enough olive oil in a pan to cover all the potatoes and poach them on a medium-low fire until the potatoes are cooked (about 30 minutes).
- While cooking the potatoes, chop the onions finely and fry them on a separate pan on a low fire until they are slightly caramelised (about 20 minutes).
- Drain both the potatoes and the onions and save the oil from cooking the potatoes for another time.
- Beat the eggs lightly with a spoon and add the potatoes and beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly and add salt to taste. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
- Heat a little bit of olive oil on a non-stick pan on high fire. When hot, add the potato, onion and egg mixture and, immediately, lower the fire to low or medium-low.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes and turn the omelette. Cook for an extra 2 minutes, leave to rest for 10 minutes and serve.
Spanish omelette can be served hot or cold and is good at any time of the day. I like to pair a good Spanish omelette with a homemade salad and the best accompaniment to any Catalan meal: Pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato). But that is another story for another post. Bon profit!
Did you follow this recipe? I would love to know how your Spanish omelette turned out. Please post photos on our Facebook page and let me know if you have any questions on the comments below.