Tortilla de Cebolla, Chorizo al Vino, Gambas Ajillo, Recipes
Weekend eggs in Barcelona? Well, the fact is that most people don’t eat eggs for breakfast here, and there is no particular egg dish or ‘signature’ Barcelona breakfast eggs as there is in other cities. But what people do eat here, from breakfast till dinner and typically for brunch, is tortilla.
Just to clear up any initial confusion, tortilla in Spain is different to tortilla in Mexico. In Spain, it’s generally a cooked, omelet-like, mix of eggs and potatoes, whereas a tortilla in Mexico and South America is generally a flat bread made of flour or corn. (One whiff of corn tortillas is all it takes to transport me back to Mexico City, but that’s another post!) To avoid confusion in restaurants, a tortilla will often be labelled here as a ‘Spanish tortilla’ or ‘tortilla de patatas’ (tortilla with potatoes).
While locals will sometimes have a slice of tortilla for a late breakfast or brunch, this edition of our Weekend Eggs is more than that…
In fact, you’re getting two meals for the price of one this week. You see, Spanish tortilla is also a tapas staple, so whatever you don’t eat for breakfast you can eat in the evening with a nice vino tinto.
A few locals have said to me that it’s too time consuming to make a tortilla and other tapas dishes at home (which is apparently why most Catalans and other Spaniards prefer to eat tapas out), but that’s not true at all. While the tortilla takes some watching, the other dishes we normally make for tapas are dead simple.
So my recommendation is to make a tortilla (it can be made the night before, so you can sip some wine while the dish comes together), some chorizo al vino (chorizo sausage in red wine), and gambas ajillo (prawns/shrimps with garlic), and buy some boquerones en vinagre (fresh anchovy fillets in vinegar) and some pimientos del piquillo asados (grilled ‘piquillo’ red peppers) to serve with them. All of this should be mopped up with some crusty bread.
If you’ve made the tortilla the night before, you can slap this together (with care, of course!) in around 15 minutes including cooking time for the chorizo and the prawns.
There are a gazillion recipes for tortilla and Lara used to be the one to make the tortilla in our house before she (conveniently) forgot how to cook. With her tortilla she used to par-boil her potatoes and cook the eggs with the potatoes, only flipping the tortilla after browning the top under the grill. It was delicious, but it cheats in a couple of ways I didn’t want to for this dish because I’m trying to keep it ‘real’. For an interesting take on the dish, though, check out this one from Barcelona’s favourite son and superstar chef, Ferran Adrià. It’s a wonder he wasn’t run out of town for using potato crisps!
Over and over again, I’ve been told that authentic recipes require the potato slices to be cooked in olive oil like they’re being par-boiled. While they mustn’t brown, they must still be cooked just enough so the slices can be handled carefully but shouldn’t fall apart. The first time I used this method, my potatoes cooked a little too brown, and it really affects the way the tortilla looks in the final product. Same goes for the onions, which I’m using in this recipe – they look best translucent; no colour.
Slow cooking the egg, potato and onion is best for achieving a golden colour to the exterior of the tortilla. I also flipped it using a plate to cover the pan. If you’re tortilla is cooked enough, this is no big challenge, but if it’s not, you’ll have slices of potato slipping out. Don’t ask me how I know, just don’t perform this step in front of others in the house. Just in case.
The version I make is with onions, and it’s called tortilla de cebolla (tortilla with onions), but some people put chorizo, peppers and anything leftover in the kitchen in the mix. Some people add garlic to this version (cook it with the onions), but I want to keep this pretty ‘clean’, as there’s plenty of garlic in my prawn dish, and we’re also having chorizo and peppers as our other dishes.
If you’re having this as brunch, lunch or an evening snack, break out some cava – the Spanish style ‘champagne’ goes well with tapas. (In fact, cava goes well with any meal, but more on that in another post!) The prawns/shrimps are the last dish you should cook before serving; you can keep the chorizo dish warm while that lovely garlicy aroma fills the room.
- 1 cup olive oil
- four large potatoes (peeled and cut into slices about 2mm thick and dried on kitchen towels)
- one large white onion, diced
- four large eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the olive oil into a large skillet, heat to medium, and place the potato slices in the pan, but do not let them overlap as they’ll stick together and not cook evenly. You’ll probably need to do these in two batches.
- You can cook the onions now, but I generally cook them in the same oil after cooking the potatoes. Cook the slices in olive oil over a low heat until translucent. Add some salt at the end of the cooking process – it really brings out the flavour.
- The potatoes are ready when they start to break apart a little when handled. Take them out of the pan and put them onto absorbent kitchen paper.
- Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly, then place the potatoes and onion into the mix, covering them with the egg mixture. Leave for 15 minutes.
- Place the mix in a 23cm (9-inch) skillet over low heat, making sure all the pieces of onion and potato are covered as much as possible.
- After 15-20 minutes check the bottom of the tortilla for doneness. If it’s done, it should be a golden colour and the top of the tortilla should be reasonably firm but still ‘wobble’ a little.
- Place a plate that fits the skillet over the top of the skillet and invert. The tortilla can now be carefully slid back into the skillet to cook the other side for around 5 minutes.
- You’re done! Rest it a little as tortilla is usually served warm, not hot.
- 200 grams (about ½ pound) ‘fresh’ chorizo (see this recipe post on chorizo) chopped into rounds – not too thin
- 1 glass quality dry red wine, preferably Spanish
- 1 handfull of parsley, if you wish, to pretty up the dish for serving
- Heat a medium-sized saucepan to med-high.
- Add the chorizo; you don’t need oil, there’s plenty in the chorizo!
- As the chorizo starts to cook and release its oil, add the wine – off the heat, please; no lawsuits for lost eyebrows!
- The chorizo will end up the same colour as the wine after a few minutes. When it does, it’s done.
- If you are not tempted to mop up the sauce with bread, you’ve done something wrong!
- 250 grams (around ½ pound) of raw prawns/shrimps, shelled
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely – no garlic crushers, please!
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 1 small dry hot red chili pepper (optional), crushed
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over med-high heat.
- Add the prawns/shrimps and chili.
- After a minute, add the garlic.
- When the prawns/shrimps take colour, you’re done and the garlic should not be browned or burnt.