I’m always amazed at how my French friends are able to rustle up a pot of onion soup complete with cheesy croutons, or a perfect spinach quiche in the mere twinkling of an eye. Or the Italians’ flair for putting pasta with a sauce unknown outside their village under your nose in little more than time it takes to boil a kettle.
The gift of the Spaniard is for the tortilla. We can make tortilla out of anything – if you can eat it, we can tortilla it.
A tortilla is not really an omelette, Spanish or otherwise. It’s an eggy gateau, not unlike the Italian frittata: golden, softly crisp outside and very moist in the centre. Herein lies the art of tortilla making.
Restaurants both in Spain and abroad would have you believe tortilla is made essentially with potatoes. Not so!
As children we ate spinach and chard tortilla during lent and cauliflower tortilla at any time of year. You’ll find carrot, courgette or aubergine tortilla in many a bar in Barcelona, all claiming regional authenticity.
In Extremadura our specialty tortilla is made with edible thistle (cardillo or tagarnina). They grow wild and are highly prized by the locals who forage for them in early spring. Preparing them takes time and skill. If you’re lucky you’ll chance upon a street seller, basket overflowing, offering thistles ready for the pot
Here are a couple of recipes to get you started. The first uses black cabbage (cavolo nero), a variety of Kale which has been grown in Tuscany for centuries and has a long tradition in Italian food. I could have made it of anything, but out shopping in our local organic grocer, I fancied the look of it.
In the next post we’ll talk about classic potato and onion tortilla. The moist sort. Let’s get cooking
- 1 big bunch cavolo nero
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 bunch scallions or spring onions
- 6 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- olive oil for frying
cook the filling
- Cavolo Nero has a rather fibrous central spine which is best removed and used for a stock as it's full of flavour
- tear away the soft leaves from the central stalk with your hands. If you prefer you can use a sharp knife. Wash the leaves and chop them into large pieces
- cook the cavolo nero in a little water until just tender but still firm and bright in colour (3-5 mins). Cover the pan while cooking to keep in the steam.
- chop the garlic and spring onions and saute in some good olive oil on a gentle heat until softened. Add the cavolo nero and saute for a few minutes
- if you want to use the caraway toast the whole seeds in a skillet until they give off their aroma. Grind in a mortar and pestle and add to the pan
- make sure there's plenty of oil in the pan, If you'e not sure, add a little more and heat it to just short of smoking
- whisk the eggs and add them to the pan at fairly high heat until they cook underneath. Free the base of the tortilla from the pan with a wooden spatula. You can afford to break it up a bit at this stage
- shake the pan until the tortilla slides freely. Now turn the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid to allow the eggs to cook for a couple of minutes. Check the underside with a spatula. When it's nicely browned turn the tortilla over:
- place a plate over the tortilla, place your hand over the plate and flip over. Now slide the tortilla back into the pan for another 2-3 minutes. If the eggs are very fresh you can make the tortilla a little runny and thus moist
- slide onto a serving plate and eat hot or cold