Spanish Omelette

Free Trip to Spain!

The Spanish omelette, also known as tortilla espagnola or tortilla de patatas, is a humble dish, relying on little more than potatoes, eggs and onions. It is a meal in itself, or a tasty addition to a tapas spread. The dish is a signature of Spanish cuisine, showing how a few basic ingredients can turn into a culinary experience with the proper technique and details.

Tortilla, in European Spanish, means omelette, and is the diminutive form of torta, which means cake. This ‘little cake’ is not at all like the Latin American version of the word, which refers to the thin outer wrapper we all know for burritos and tacos.  This Spanish tortilla has legendary, bellicose origins, depending on which you believe. During the Carlist civil wars of the 19th century, a general is said to have invented it as a fast and nutritious way to keep his army fed. It’s also attributed all the way back to 1668, when the Spanish and Portuguese were at war and thousands of Spaniards were held captive for years. After their release, the soldiers brought back to Spain recipes from Portugal’s Alentejo region, including the “potato egg pie,” which evolved into the tortilla. In its modern form, the tortilla continues to be a source of quarrel, as adding an onion to the potato mixture can be controversial depending on the region, and may signal an inferior potato variety.

One of our long-time volunteers, and Spanish native, Mar, shared her tortilla dish with us at the arch on several occasions. We knew she had something special with the thick set, yet gooey and delicious interior of her version. For Mar, this dish evokes summer holidays from her childhood. She remembers a time when the roads in Spain were not as wide and much more winding, making a day trip to the mountains or visit to the coast a much longer journey. Petrol stations with cafes and large shops attached didn’t exist back then, so drivers would pull over to a shady spot along the road and bring out a quick picnic. The tortilla was easy to transport, simple and cheap to make, and could feed a crowd, making it an ideal roadside lunch. Although Mar used to call Madrid home, her family hails from the south, known for many locations of Spaghetti Westerns, and the tortilla taps into her sense of travel and adventure.

Mar has shared this step-by-step guide to making a classic Spanish omelette. She stresses that this basic recipe can be taken wherever your kitchen imagination would like to wander. Courgettes are a beautiful summertime addition, and throwing in tuna or ham makes for a fuller meal. Her full recipe is here, and a full photo tutorial is available on this site.