A couple of weeks ago, I realised I had been making Spanish omelettes wrong (or at least badly) for years. This mini epiphany came when playing Codenames (it’s brilliant, you need it) with a friend whose Spanish boyfriend had heard I liked food. He waxed lyrical about tortilla de patatas the way his gran showed him to make, and then proceeded to show us how it’s done.
The key revelation was small but delicious: about a pint of olive oil.
Yep, it’s basically potato confit. Which, I’m sure is old news to most of you. But (light your pitchforks!) I’d been boiling them first, or occasionally frying them to an exterior crisp. No wonder I could never get that gooey unctuous texture in the middle. Thanks David! You and your gran have massively upped my omelette game.
After tweeting about this over the long weekend, a few folks asked for my Spanish omelette recipe. “Oh, I checked and it’s basically just the Felicity Cloake one”, I said. But y’all wouldn’t be told, and now here I am making another of these. An omelette surplus – how ever will I cope.
So, just for you, Twitter Omelette Fans, just for you, here goes.
The key differences between what’s here and the Felicity Cloake one in the Guardian are the type of potatoes, and the alliums. She suggests onion and does not use garlic. I prefer it without the onion, but I do like a garlicky infusion throughout. It’s probably heretical, and it’s certainly optional.
Heck, my mother used to make this layered through with rings of red and yellow pepper, swearing blind it was the recipe she’d picked up from a Spanish chef she used to date in the sixties. I’ve omitted that too.
Where some recipes prefer a waxy potato, I’m going for a floury all-rounder. Maris Pipers will feel like they’re soaking up more oil, and will certainly fall apart more easily, but I feel that all contributes to the wonderful soft rich texture at the end.
- Potatoes (maris piper), 600g
- Eggs, 6 (I use large)
- Olive oil, light, 400-500ml (to cover)
- Garlic, 1 small clove (optional)
- Salt, a good pinch, probably 1/8tsp
Peel the potatoes, halve them, and slice them into 3-5mm slices. Crush the garlic.
In a roomy bowl, beat the eggs with plenty of salt and a little pepper if you fancy.
Slowly bring the olive oil to a hot-ish temperature in a pan. I use a robust nonstick saucepan. Add the potatoes, making sure they’re pretty much covered, and cook them at a medium high heat, stirring occasionally and carefully, so as not to have the ones on the bottom colour. Keep it at a decent sizzle without full-on deep-frying until they are soft and properly unctuous.
(notes on times and temperature at the end)
The potatoes will break up a bit as you stir, but don’t worry. If you’re using garlic, add it a minute or two before the potatoes are done, to gently flavour it all through without browning.
Carefully tip the potatoes out into a seive/colander, to drain off and cool. Keep the oil. You’ll get most of it back (try not to think about the difference) and can use it to make another couple of these.
Once the potatoes are cool enough not to cook the egg on contact (probably 10 mins), tip them into the egg mix, stir, and let is sit for as long as you’re comfortable, to let the flavours blend. Half an hour works well, but it’s not mad critical.
Get a sturdy frying pan to medium heat, and add a little of the olive oil. I use a hefty, steep sided 25cm nonstick, and this fills it nicely. Pour in the mixture, and cook, pulling it in from the sides a little with a spatula, for 7-8 mins, or until set on the bottom and browning a little, but still a bit sloppy on top.
Then we flip it.
Place a plate on top of the frying pan, and carefully flip it over so the omelette is done side up. Lift the pan off and return to the heat. Now, carefully slide the omelette back into the pan. It will be a bit sloppy and leave some egg and maybe a bit of potato on the plate. Don’t worry. Either pour it back and kind of tuck it back under with the spatula, or just forget about it. Work the sides away from the edge of the pan a little more, to help shape it into that lovely rounded puck shape, and cook for another couple of minutes to set the bottom. Then serve.
You may prefer it still moist in the middle. I do. In which case, trim the cooking time a little, maybe five on the underside, three or four after the flip. Some recipes flip multiple times, and some people flip by tossing the pan. Showboats. Looking for trouble if you ask me, but I guess it’s one less plate to wash. Or one extra whole stove top if it goes awry.
I like to serve this with a variety of other tapas-y bits. Some roasted peppers maybe, a little dish of those fruity/mineral Spanish olives, some chickpeas and spinach, or something fun with mackerel. But it also makes a great lunch just with a dollop of aioli.
Being super helpful, I’ve told you to cook the potatoes “until they’re soft”, and at a “medium high” heat. As a guide, I found this took about 13 minutes at what (when I bunged in a thermometer out of curiosity) was round about 100c. That said, the thermometer wasn’t fully submerged and I suspect the oil may have been a spot hotter.
I’m probably still doing it wrong (it should be runnier), and now it takes an hour to make a fucking omelette, but the results so far have been pretty special. If you can keep it soft in the middle it’s a delight.