Spanish Tortilla

I have a soft spot for anything Spanish having lived in Madrid for a number of years and this Tortilla Espanola was one of my favourite ‘tapas’. Cut up into squares and served with cocktail sticks it is served to accompany a drink. Many bars serve a selection of tapas: slices of salty Serrano ham, cubes of Manchego cheese, hot and garlicky prawns and…….I’m right back there now. Little tapas were originally served free but nowadays you are likely to be charged for them. You can also ask for larger portions and go from bar to bar ordering their speciality tapa. There is even a verb ‘tapear’ which means to have tapas!

This tortilla is a simple peasant dish of potatoes and eggs, quick to prepare and very cheap to make -it is a good standby meal as you will probably have all the ingredients already. I apologise to my Spanish friends in advance but I usually don’t make it in the traditional way but in a microwave -yikes, that’s almost committing treason tampering with a national dish.

Also, I have a nifty trick for turning the tortilla over using two plates rather than the precarious putting the plate on top of it and inverting the frying pan -it can end up with a clatter of pan and plate and …..a mess of tortilla on the worktop or worse. You be the judge you may enjoy the drama of the traditional method -you could even exclaim a flamboyant  ‘ole’! as you do it!

Spanish Tortilla


A simple, peasant dish that is lovely for a  light meal  and for picnics  and can be eaten warm or cold.  As with many dishes it is even better the next day.

Serves 5/6

For this you need a heavy-based small frying pan about 20cm (8 inches) in diam.

5 small potatoes, about 500g in total

1 med onion

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 3-4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil (more may be necessary)

3 lge lightly beaten eggs


  1. Peel and cut the potato into slices about the width of a pound coin. Peel and cut up the onion the same way. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat about 4 tablespoons of the oil in the pan.   Add the potatoes and the onions.  Cook over a low heat turning them every now to stop them sticking.  Try to avoid them getting too brown or breaking up.  Aim for slow, even cooking. (About 40 minutes) until they are soft. NB I now find this much easier in a microwave and the result is very good. You don’t run the risk of over-browning or burning the potatoes:  Put the olive oil in a roomy microwave bowl or jug.  Add the potatoes and onions and microwave in 5-minute bursts (about 15 minutes in total)-stirring gently between each cooking.  Cook until the potatoes are soft but have not lost shape.
  3.  Beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Drain off any excess oil from the potatoes (you can use this in the pan later to cook the tortilla) and add them to the egg mix.  Stir gently without breaking up the potatoes.
  4.  In a small, heavy frying pan heat up a little olive oil (or any excess from earlier). Add the potato, onion and egg mix and cook gently. Shake the pan every now and then so that it doesn’t stick. Don’t let the underneath get too brown. 
  5. When more or less cooked (it should still be a bit wet in the middle)) slide the tortilla onto a lightly oiled plate. Turn this upside down onto another plate (‘tuck in the edges if it looks a bit messy) and then slide back into the frying pan to cook the other side.  This is cheating a little bit as traditionally the frying pan would be inverted onto a plate and then the tortilla would be slid into the pan.  I find this difficult hence the much ‘safer’ step of turning onto a plate. Cook for about 10 minutes. 
  6.  Now you can gently slide the finished tortilla onto a clean serving plate. It should be still soft in the middle.Serve warm with other tapas in slices or cut into squares and serve on cocktail sticks.

To prepare ahead: The tortilla has a better flavour if prepared and then left for a few hours before eating.  Serve warm or at room temperature








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