The post this week is dedicated to a savoury dish that is both simple and delicious. It is probably one of the most cooked dishes in Spain, available in just about every bar and made regularly in households across the country. There is no tortilla like the one made at home, and not recognising the unsurpassable virtues of a spouse’s efforts can be a suitable reason for divorce. In spite of the risk to life and limb, my father-in-law puts his old college’s tortilla as beyond compare. I had to find out more……..
My father-in-law was sent off to a boarding school in Lecároz some 75 years ago. He always says that his parents thought he might be able to concentrate better on his studies closeted away from worldly distractions! Even today with modern roads and modes of transport it is quite a journey from his home, in those days it must have been quite an adventure. A little time ago now we visited the Batzan Valley in Navarre and as luck would have it Lecároz was a relatively good place to stop on route.
Before I go on I would like to take a moment to mention the college of Lecároz and thank them for giving me permission to reproduce their photographs here. In particular I would like to thank Joaquín Trecet who provided the photographs themselves.
The photographs show a picture of the college as it was, as sadly the building has now been demolished. All that remains of the college are photographs like these and the memories of those that studied there. As for the tortilla, I am told a similar one can still be found in the “Olari” bar in the village of Irurita.
For more information on the college I would recommend visiting their website at: colegiodelecaroz.com
So a word or two on the tortilla de patata. The ingredients are potatoes, eggs and optionally onion. That is it, no more, no less. There are many recipes out there that include additional ingredients, some of them even written by famous non-Spanish chefs. Do not be misled, the authentic recipe is just these three ingredients. The only trick is that the potatoes need to be firm and dry. Potatoes from wetter climes can be too watery and the resultant tortilla is not the same.
The other element to the tortilla is the olive oil, and lots of it. If you are going to make a tortilla don’t go half measures and add just a small amount of oil. The potatoes don’t have to be swimming in oil but please be generous with it. The oil should be drained off before adding the eggs to form the tortilla and can be reserved for a later use. Don’t forget we are being encouraged to eat a Mediterranean Diet, this is a diet rich in olives and olive oil!
So if you think that frying in generous quantities of oil can prejudice your health, the Lecároz version substitutes the olive oil with lard! As they say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs…….. Either way, the oil or in this case lard, is drained off before adding the eggs so most of the fat content is removed.
Tortilla de Patata
2 Large Potatoes
I was lucky enough to be able to purchase lard from the “jamón” pigs. These are a special breed that are fed on acorns. The more acorns they eat the better and the more expensive the jamón. As the secret of the tortilla is in the lard used, the better the lard the better the tortilla I guess!
Firstly peel and thinly slice the potatoes. I use a mandolin but they can also be cut with a knife. Bring the lard up to temperature and add in the potatoes. Season with salt and leave to fry whilst chopping the onion.
Chop the onion relatively fine and add into the pan with the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are soft. Both the potatoes and onion need to be ready at the same time. This is about the only difficulty to the recipe and just takes a little practice. Too fine a cut on the onion and they will be ready before the potatoes. Too thick a cut and they will still be a little on the raw side.
Beat the eggs. I always put a good pinch of salt in for each egg. Drain as much fat as possible from the potato mixture and add the eggs into the pan. Move the potatoes around to ensure the eggs are well mixed into the mixture. Leave until just starting to brown on the underside. I then cover the pan with a plate and turn the pan upside down so that the tortilla is now on the plate. I then slide it back into the pan to cook the other side. This is the typical way here of frying a tortilla. It needs a firm hand and a little care. An alternative is to finish the top of the tortilla off under the grill.
We tend to eat our tortillas warm rather than straight out of the pan and still hot.
I use a 29cm diameter frying pan to fry the potatoes before swapping to a 25cm diameter pan. The larger pan speeds up the frying of the potatoes whilst the smaller pan allows for a small more compact tortilla. Moving from one pan to another also helps to eliminate excess oils or fats from the finished tortilla.
As I mentioned at the start, this was a trip tho the Batzan valley in Navarre. Spain is a fantastic place to eat, both in terms of quality and variety. At the risk of alienating Spaniards from other regions, I have to say that Navarre is one of the better regions for food. This said, expect to see a couple more recipes from Navarre in the near future.
As always, please feel free to leave any comments, all are welcome and I will reply to them all.
2015 Lincoln W. Betteridge