This week’s summer special blog by Georgina Day
It’s been a stupendous week, full of parties, celebrations, family gatherings, the odd toy octopus ritual (we have some rather quirky friends!) and generally enjoying the start of the summer (verano), my favourite time of the year. I embrace this season (estación), enjoying every moment of it, never moaning about the heat and generally living life to the full.
For me, it passes too quickly, for others, they can’t wait for September to arrive. But what most people agree on is the warm summer nights are the best part about it. Time to relax with family and friends, picnics by the beach and staying up till the early hours talking and laughing are all the things that make the summer worthwhile.
When you have your own “huerta”, the hottest season entails harvesting all the delicious summertime vegetables that lend their flavours to the typical Mediterranean diet. Peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, etc, all come in to their own from July onwards, except for courgettes which have been around for a couple of months by now. Paired with summery herbs like basil (albahaca) and parsley (perejil), I can’t think of a better way to fuel your body this time of year.
I’ll soon be posting recipes for two different cooling soups that use up some of our produce. Recipes that require a couple of kilos of tomatoes are certainly necessary at the moment and I couldn’t be without them in these rather warm months, when it’s so hot I find I can’t eat very much at lunchtime and these two recipes are just right to keep me satiated until we have our main meal after the sun has gone down.
But back to picnics by the beach and evening meals with family and friends. One of the most used recipes in Spanish homes for these purposes is the “Tortilla De Patata”, or what us brits call Spanish Omelette. It’s simple, easy to transport if you decide to wander down to the seaside and utterly devourable (I’m hoping that’s a word). Everyone has their own way of making it, often saying that their mum’s is the best. To me, it tastes like summer and for some reason I don’t make it that often during the other seasons, much to Pep’s dismay.
The main ingredients are obviously potatoes and eggs and that will make you a perfectly good “tortilla”, but there are a variety of ingredients that people add to it to make it more interesting. I like to add chopped onion (this adds a delicious sweetness) and, if we have them at the time, a small amount of chopped red pepper, though this isn’t obligatory. I’ve seen it made with chorizo (not my scene), asparagus and even our beloved courgette. In Córdoba they make them almost a foot high (I’m serious) and I think it was in Salamanca where we saw it served cut in half with various different fillings (think mayo, ham and cheese), definitely not to be eaten if you’re on a diet.
Seeing as we have our own chickens which give us an almost endless supply of eggs, plus about 140 kilos of potatoes (Pep harvested the last few plants the other morning), making “tortillas” is the norm this time of year. I change the recipe slightly making it a tad less calorie dense. The great thing is, no one has yet noticed this alteration, always complementing me on the finished omelette. I’m sure if a lot of them knew my method they would tell me what I’m doing is a sin, that this very important stage of the recipe shouldn’t be tampered with. But seeing as they haven’t as yet noticed I’ll keep doing it this way!
In the traditional recipe the potatoes get slowly fried in quite a lot of olive oil until completely cooked through, before being added to the whisked eggs. To avoid using this amount of oil I boil my potatoes (I can feel people cringe while reading this, some probably unsubscribing from my blog!). Once they’re boiled they get chopped up quite finely (I do this in the saucepan they were cooked in with a knife. They won’t be even pieces but it doesn’t matter). While they’re boiling I fry off the chopped onion and red pepper if using with a pinch of salt. For the recipe I’m posting on here, seeing as our red peppers aren’t ready yet, I used up the last of our “cudols”, the garlic scape I’ve mentioned in a previous post.
Once everything is cooked I whisk the eggs in a metal or glass bowl, add in the cooked onion, potatoes and whatever else I’m using, add a couple of generous pinches of salt, stir it all together and pour into the heated pan. It then gets cooked on a low to medium heat until the top side isn’t quite as wobbly. This can take a good few minutes, hence why you don’t want your heat that high, the bottom would burn before the middle gets chance to set slightly.
Then comes the tricky part, turning it over. They make “tortilla” pans for this purpose, two pans hinged together at the end opposite the handle, making the process much easier. I don’t have one of these, preferring the common method of putting a plate on top of the pan, carefully turning it over so the omelette ends up on the plate, then sliding it back into the pan for the top (now bottom) to cook through. I often turn the heat off at this stage as there is enough warmth in my pan for this to happen. I don’t like the “tortilla” to get too dry.
Everyone has their preference, some people like a slightly soggy centre and cook on a higher heat before turning it over and turning the heat off, so that when you cut into the omelette the middle is still quite moist and almost runny. And often I play around with this too, never having a strict time that I adhere too and basically just using my eyes to see when it should be turned over.
The recipe I’m posting here is for 2 people, consisting of 4 eggs and 2 medium potatoes. I used a medium sized pan so the resulting omelette wasn’t that thick. For the meal I made last week for my uncle I used the same pan, this time using 7 eggs and I think 4 medium potatoes. As you can imagine it was quite a bit thicker which I prefer. For the 4 egg one it would be better to use a small frying pan if you like a thicker omelette, around 20cm diameter.
So that’s how I make my Spanish omelette. It basically goes with whatever you want, I love it with a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumber and anything else I have at the time. But what I really love to pair it with is “aspencat”, a dish consisting of roasted red peppers, aubergines which are then covered with about a bottle of olive oil!! More on this recipe when our red peppers are ready, hopefully won’t be too long now.
I’m off to soak up some of the evening sun, got to make the most of it while it’s here, before we know it it’ll be time to light the fire again (what an awful thought). As always, any questions, suggestions or you just want to say a few words, feel free to get in touch. Take care and see you very soon. Love Georgie and Pep xxx
“Tortilla De Patata” (Spanish omelette)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion
- A few “cudols” (optional)
- 1/4 red pepper, chopped (optional)
- 2 medium potatoes
- salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a small frying pan and cook the onion over a low/medium heat with a pinch of salt. After a few minutes add the “cudols” or red pepper if using. Cook until soft.
- In the meantime boil the potatoes until tender. Once tender, chop them up with a knife until you have fairly small pieces.
- In a large metal or glass bowl whisk the eggs with a couple of pinches of salt, the amount you use depends on your taste.
- Add the cooked chopped potatoes, onions and cudols or peppers if using to the whisked eggs. Stir to incorporate everything
- Add about a teaspoon of oil to the pan you cooked the onion in and heat over a low to medium heat. Poor in the egg mixture
- Cook for a few minutes until the centre isn’t quite as runny and the bottom is browning, I use my sense of smell for this part!!
- Place the plate on top of the frying pan and, keeping a firm pressure on it with your hand, turn over the frying pan so the omelette comes out on to the plate.
- Slide the omelette back into the frying pan. Turn off the heat and allow to heat through until set, around 2 minutes. Serve.