A TASTE OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY - THE TORTILLA
Every pintxos bar in the Basque country will have their own version of this classic dish, and every Basque person has their opinions on what is best: many are confined to the traditional onion, egg and potato mix, whereas others prefer the addition of ingredients such as spinach, salt cod, peppers or chorizo. Whilst not a traditionalist, I wanted to pay homage to my Basque friends and adopted family who always ensured that their daily task of tortilla-making involved nothing more than eggs, potatoes, onions and generous seasoning.
There are several key techniques for this dish, but the most important part of this recipe is taking time, and careful attention to the size of the potatoes when chopped. They should be equal in size, a similar thickness to a £1 coin. The other top tips to make best tortilla is to initially use hot oil to cook the potatoes, which prevents them becoming soggy, and allowing each ingredient to cool properly before the final cooking stage.
INGREDIENTS (for 1 large tortilla)
- 3 or 4 Large potatoes, peeled & chopped into equal sized pieces
- 1 Large white onion, sliced
- 4 Large eggs, mixed well
- Salt & pepper
- 500ml Olive oil
- Gently sweat the sliced onion in a little olive oil until soft. This should take 15-20 minutes, but can be helped along by placing a wet cartouche over the onions and covering with a lid.
- When softened, turn up the heat to add some colour to the onions. When lightly browned, transfer the onions to a separate bowl to cool.
- Heat the olive oil to a medium high heat and carefully add the potatoes. Immediately turn the heat down to low, gently cooking the potatoes through evenly.
- When the potatoes are just cooked (soft to the point of a knife), lift them from the oil and transfer to kitchen paper to soak the excess oil. Pour the cooking oil into a container for use later and allow the potatoes to cool.
- When the onions and potatoes are cool, combine well with the eggs and season well with plenty of salt and a little pepper. This is the stage where additional ingredients can be added, such as peppers, cooked chorizo, salt cod, spinach or perhaps a little cheese.
- Heat a little of the reserved olive oil in a non-stick pan and pour in the egg, potato and onion tortilla mixture.
- Cook the tortilla on a medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, and using a plate, flip the tortilla to cook the other side, again for another 10-15 minutes.
- This process will not fully cook the eggs in the tortilla, so transfer the tortilla to a sheet of tin foil and cover for at least 20 minutes.
- Serve hot or allow to cool and refrigerate.
Having lived with Basque people, I initially found the final stage of their tortilla-making a little strange, however the tortilla was always cooked for tomorrow’s lunch and rarely eaten directly from the pan. But if you can’t wait until tomorrow then just cook a little longer in the pan, but this will make the tortilla a bit tougher and dry – it is traditionally eaten when still moist with just-cooked egg.
Traditionally served on a slice of fresh baguette, held together with a small cocktail stick, I have also eaten this sliced up in a bocadillo, or just on it’s own in large wedges.
If you don’t fancy making this tortilla, check out Donostia restaurant just behind Marble Arch. Recently opened, they serve traditional and modern Basque food that is pretty hard to beat, anywhere. Their tortillas are particularly great, and best eaten with a cold glass of txakoli.