Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Spanish Tortilla De Patata | The Tapas Stories - 1


Spanish omelette or Spanish tortilla is a traditional dish from Spain. Celebrated as a national dish by Spaniards, it is an essential part of the Spanish cuisine. It is an omelette made with eggs and a stuffing of potatoes and onion. It is often served at room temperature as a tapa.

It's going to be almost a year since my Spain trip but I haven't shared any photos or written a single word about it yet. The memories and food are all there in my heart and I can even see and taste them when I close my eyes, but I have not felt the need to share. 
However some weeks ago, we hosted a few friends for dinner and decided to make few of the dishes we had learned at our Spanish tapas cooking class during the trip. That is when I thought I need to write it down. For the sake of Tapas.
Last year, the husband-man and me went on a short trip to Barcelona and Madrid, sans the kids. This was the first time we were traveling together without kids in 19 years and that itself was a concern for both of us and the girls. The girls were sure that one of us would surely be murdered in international soil by the other. Yes, they do have a lot of faith in us!😂😂
However we survived the trip and enjoyed it a lot. We were both in love with Tapas and I am pretty sure that is what united us in our journey!💓

My first question to the taxi driver as we pulled out of the Barcelona Airport was, "So tell me about what you cook and eat at home?". The very nice elderly gentleman with sparse white hair on his head was a little taken aback by this question. He mumbled something about meat & potatoes, hands wavering on the steering wheel.
"No Tapas? You don't have Tapas at home?" said ignoramus me.
"No ma'am," he said. "It's not possible to have Tapas every day at home. Since Tapas involves small portions, you need a lot of items on the menu which is not possible at home."
He then added, "Also I am German and my wife is from Hungary, so we like a nice steak and mashed potatoes for dinner".
I was crestfallen. I had nurtured teeny-tiny bit of hope to get invited to his home and thus get a first-hand experience of local at-home Spanish cooking.

Seeing my despair, he quickly added, "But there are many many excellent Tapas places in Barcelona. Traditionally you know, Tapas was a bar food, catering to workers who wanted to grab a quick bite after wrapping up work. So you went to a bar and picked up drinks and a  variety of single bite food with toothpicks.  At the end of evening, you paid by the count of your toothpicks."
This sounded very exciting. I am not a big meal person and always prefer variety of small plates to a big sit down dinner. Tapas was therefore right up my alley.

Day 1

After being dropped off at the hotel, we were lucky to get an early check-in. The room was beautiful and spacious compared to European and even American standards and had a lovely view expanding over the rooftops of Barcelona.

Our first stop for Day 1 were the Gothic Quarters in old Barcelona and the Barcelona cathedral. Walking through the narrow lanes of Gothic Quarters, every turn would surprise us with a building of intricate façade and cornices. I think I have millions of photos of building facades and balustrades each prettier than the other.

Next stop was the public market, Mercado de La Boqueria. I have this penchant for local markets and grocery stores and make it a point to visit them wherever I go. Granted these are more touristy but I think they somewhat give a taste of the local flavor. 

The market did not disappoint. It was colorful and bustling with people, the warm air thick with fragrance of of fried food. The unique thing about this marketplace was that the stores and stalls here were all selling cooked food in small containers. From small fried fish & shrimp  in paper bags to Empanadas, from grilled octopus to squares of tortilla de patata, Iberian ham to fruit juice, you could pick anything to eat and walk around. In contrast there were very few stalls selling fresh produce!
Still not used to Tapas concept, we opted for a restaurant situated in the market periphery. That wasn't the best choice as it was clearly very touristy and our Gambas al ajillo was not the best. We had that and grilled octopus and then the husband-man ordered his Spanish omelets. The food was underwhelming.
We were full already but decided to try some Empanadas from the stalls in the market and boy the flavor hit all the right spots. The kind of place where you eat makes all the difference.

Next stop was FC Barcelona- Barca stadium and the stadium tour which I had already booked. There's nothing much to write about it as everyone probably knows about these hallowed grounds. It was definitely exciting to walk through the player's dressing room (very sparse by the way) and then on to the field where the magic of Messi and Maradona happened.
We then came back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for our evening itinerary. On my list was the next thing that attracted me to Spain, other than Tapas. This was Gaudi, the famous architect.

The evening was dedicated to two of Gaudi's houses Casa Mila and Casa Batillo. 

It was late and I was getting hungry. After having the best Canoli and a very good Gelato, we took a guided night tour of Casa Mila(the tour included wine!) and visited Casa Batillo from the outside. The fact that La Sagrada Familia could be seen from Casa Mila's rooftop sealed the deal!

Casa Mila, also popularly known as La Pedrera,  was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí and was built between 1906 and 1912. The unconventional design with its undulating facade and twisted iron balconies drawing motifs from nature is very unique. Several structural innovations include a self-supporting stone façade, and a free-plan floor with no load bearing walls or pillars inside, underground garage and the spectacular terrace on the roof.

The night tour was truly amazing. Gaudi's  architecture itself is inimitable but with the guide explaining and pointing out the details plus the light and sound on the rooftop of Casa Mila, took the experience to another level. It was a beautiful night and you could feel the genius of the architect, looking around at that terrace.

It was 10:30 at night by the time we finished the tour. But in Barcelona night was still young.

As per a recommendation I had read in Rick Steve, I had zeroed in on for dinner at Cerveseria Catalana. It is a very popular beer bar (Cervesaria is beer in Catalan language) famous for its delicious tapas. They did not take reservations and the wait even at that time of the night was long here. Finally we got a table at 11 PM and we realized that the wait was indeed worth it. This was Tapas in Dada r Kirti, at its finest.

We came back here the second night too and I would go back again and again. Each of their dish was the finest in quality and taste. I totally understood what Tapas is and fell in love!

Tapas are basically small plates of food. They're essentially bar snacks served alongside beer or wine. However you can make a complete meal out of multiple of those small plates. Some of the items very common in Tapas are fried sardines, Gambas al Ajillo (shrom in a garlic wine sauce), Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish omelet stuffed with potatoes and onions), Croquetas de pollo y jamun (chicken & ham croquettes), Iberica Ham and cheese plates, grilled shrimp/octopus/clams, fried calamari, Patats bravas.

with potatoes and with or without onion, you decide!
Always Onion for me

Spanish omelette or Spanish tortilla is a traditional dish from Spain. Celebrated as a national dish by Spaniards, it is an essential part of the Spanish cuisine. It is an omelette made with eggs with a stuffing of potatoes and onion. It is often served at room temperature as a tapa.

Every meal that we had, the egg-loving husband-man insisted on ordering tortilla de patata. So he was very thrilled when he finally learned to make it in our cooking class. The potato and onion stuffing for the omelet can be made with little touches of your own and at one restaurant, it tasted very much like the aloo-peyaaj charchari that my mother makes with parota.

1 kg potatoes = approx 6-7 medium potatoes
1 onion
8 eggs
Olive oil


To make the tortilla, first peel and wash the potatoes well. Then cut them into thin, not
very large, slices and season with salt. Here our instructor had showed a cool way of how his grandmother would shave of large amount of potatoes with a blade or small paring knife

Chop the onion, but cut it into even smaller pieces, although you could also julienne it, as pieces of onion in the tortilla are most appreciated.

Heat a fairly generous amount of oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, put in the onion and fry them. When the onions begin to become tender, add the potatoes and leave to cook together. Use a slotted spoon to stir the potatoes from time to time as they should not stick to the pan nor burn at all. In about 15 to 18 minutes the potatoes will be ready, they should not brown much and they should be tender for the tortilla to turn out well.

When the potatoes and onion have been fried, remove them from the pan and drain off
the oil. Put them in a large bowl. Let it cool.

Beat the eggs in another dish, add salt, and pour over the potatoes, mixing the ingredients very well. 

Now, make the tortilla in the frying pan, and this is why you will need a large one. 
Put a few drops of oil in the bottom and when it is hot, add the potato and egg mixture. Give a slight stir at the center with your spatula as the eggs start setting on the side.

First, let the egg set over medium-high heat, but then lower the heat so that it does not burn and the tortilla cooks in the center. 

When the tortilla is golden on one side, use a flat plate to carefully flip it over. Now cook the other side and when it is ready, enjoy this delicious Spanish potato tortilla.

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