They have something called a tortilla francesa on café menus in Spain and anything less French I have yet to see. Flat like a pancake, usually cooked to complete dryness, it has none of the fluffy, yet rich lightness I would personally associate with an omelette in France. Similarly, with a Spanish omelette anywhere but Spain, you rarely end up with anything resembling a proper tortilla. They’re not thick enough, not cooked slowly enough and are usually just a normal omelette with some filling ingredients thrown in at the last minute. Like its French cousin, a tortilla is a bunch of eggs beaten with vegetables, but it requires not just a particular method but also a particular pan for it to be more than that: it should be cooked in a round, deep-ish (at least 3cm-deep) frying pan, preferably one with straightish sides and you need a plate that fits over the top to turn it. I have a pan that is about 20cm across which makes a tortilla for two people. Unlike a French omelette, a tortilla can be eaten cold, and in slices; unlike a French omelette a tortilla is sturdy and cooked all the way through and, unlike a French omelette, and how apt for the two territories, the tortilla is made in bulk for sharing, not as an individual dish.
The ability to be cooked longer and without too much faffing, to be eaten both hot and cold as starter, breakfast, lunch or snack, and to be shared amongst several makes the tortilla a really useful dish to have in your repertoire. It’s also a perfect Monday night store-cupboard meal. The following is the translation/adaptation of a recipe from the internet, not one from a Spanish madre and, though not part of some lauded family tradition, it’s still yum, especially with some chilli jam and salad.
For two you will need
Cupboard (things you may already have)
Olive oil (quite a bit, about 80-100ml)
Salt and pepper
2 spring onions
275g new potatoes
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices.
2. Beat the eggs in a bowl (one big enough to hold both the eggs and potatoes) with a little salt and pepper.
3. Top and tail the spring onions and cut both the white and green parts into small pieces.
4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan (in order to cook all the potatoes at once it needs to be bigger than the one you’re using for the tortilla): you want it to be warm enough to soften the potatoes not sizzle or colour them so a medium heat should be fine.
5. Add the potatoes to the oil. Ideally they should be covered in oil so add a bit more if need be (you can reuse it once drained off for frying something else). Cook the potatoes until soft. Depending on the thickness of your potato slices, this should take about 5-10 minutes.
6. When the potatoes have been cooking for a couple of minutes add the spring onions to the oil.
7. Once the potatoes and onions are soft, lift them out of the oil with a slotted spoon or drain them using a sieve or colander with a bowl underneath to catch the oil for reuse. Tip them straight into the bowl with the eggs and stir well.
8. Now add a tablespoon or so of the drained oil to the small frying pan and coat its base and sides with it. This is really important if you want to be able to turn the tortilla easily without it breaking.
9. Place over a medium heat, nothing too fierce, tip off any excess oil then tip in the mixture.
10. Leave to cook until the mixture is nearly set in the middle (about five-ten minutes) then place a plate over the top of the pan and turn it over so that the tortilla is on the plate, cooked side uppermost. Now slide it back into the pan to cook the other side for a few more minutes. Turn it again after a minute or two if you want to check that the bottom is properly cooked.
11. Once cooked, slide it onto a clean plate and serve, cut into pieces or quarters. It’s lovely cold for lunch too.