The tortilla de patatas at Armando Blanco’s La Casa de las Tortillas, in the village of Cacheiras just outside Santiago de Compostela, is nationally famous. The many-roomed restaurant is hung throughout with photos of Armando shaking the hands of almost everyone famous in Spain, including the King and Queen, and from further afield, such as the Pope. What I loved about the restaurant was its ordinariness. I recall sitting eating my tortilla surrounded by a large party of parents and screaming children, with the parents smoking furiously in front of the children and all over the food. A fog of smoke, but who cares when the tortillas are so exquisitely good? Normally tortillas come thick and well cooked, but these are like a really good French omelette, soft and slightly runny in the middle, what the French call ‘baveuse’. Traditionally, Spanish omelettes are made just with eggs, potatoes, olive oil and salt, but they do sometimes add onions too, which I rather like. It’s quite hard to achieve a satisfactorily shaped omelette that also allows for a soft centre. The trick is to start with the cooked potatoes, onions and olive oil in the pan, then pour over the whisked and seasoned eggs on the heat and cook while very gently cutting through the ever-thickening egg to allow some of the still runny mixture to sink to the bottom of the pan and set. Only when the surface texture is just slightly sticky do you slide it onto a plate, invert it back into the pan, and cook for a minute or two more. Eat while still warm or at room temperature but never cold straight from the fridge.
- 600 g Evenly sized main-crop potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edwards
- 150ml olive oil
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 12 large free-range eggs
Peel the potatoes, halve them lengthways and then cut them across into roughly 6–7mm thick slices.
Heat the 150ml of olive oil in a shallow 26–28cm reliably non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the potatoes and ¾ teaspoon of salt and leave them to cook, stirring every now and then, for about 10 minutes or until very tender but not browned.
Spoon onto a plate, leaving behind as much of the oil as you can, and set to one side. Add the onion and 2 tablespoons more of oil if necessary to the pan and fry for 7 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid caramelizing the onions, until they are soft and sweet. Return the potatoes to the pan and, using a fork, mix together well with the onions, then arrange the ingredients in an even layer over the base of the pan. Break the eggs into a bowl, season with ¾ teaspoon of salt and whisk together well to slightly aerate them. Pour them over the potatoes and onions and cook over a medium-low heat, lifting the mixture here and there every now and then to allow the loose egg to run underneath, for 6–7 minutes or until almost set but still slightly soft on top. Release the omelette from the sides of the pan with a knife and carefully slide it out onto a large plate.
Brush the base of the pan with a little more oil, then turn the pan over and cover the omelette with it. Holding the pan and the plate together, quickly turn them over again so the omelette is back in the pan, cooked side up. Return it to the heat for just 1 minute then slide once more onto a largewarmed plate and serve straight away, with a green lettuce salad.