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My store cupboard saviour – Tortilla or Spanish omelette

September 23, 2013

Like many Brits, the first place I ever went ‘abroad’ was Spain. A friend asked me to come with her to Menorca and when I mentioned that I didn’t have a passport she was gobsmacked. ‘Weston-super-mud’ was our nearest bit of beach (on the estuary of the Bristol channel hence our nickname for it) and the farthest place my cash-strapped family had ever visited was Guernsey by ferry.

I can remember being quite bewildered by the lack of a promenade or a pier. The beach was at the end of a narrow country lane which ended abruptly letting you enter miles of white sand fringing turquoise sea. There was a bar on the beach for cones of chips, ice creams served in hollowed out shells of fruit and long glasses of the local drink, gin and lemon.

On one evening we went to a fiesta – held by different towns throughout the summer. A brass band played rousing music and the square was filled with men and foolish English teenagers (that would be me). Women, children and old people looked down from crowded balconies. The mayor and the dignitaries of the town rode glossy black horses through the throng, they were adorned with coloured bridles and decorations. The crowd surged forward and tried to make the horses rear, including throwing firecrackers under their hooves. Utter madness but terribly exciting.

My own first taste of the Spanish classic tortilla de patatas was in a wooden panelled bar in Mahon. Small chunky slices as well as other morsels in little terracotta dishes were tapas with our drinks.

Memories of Spain - My Custard Pie

Tortilla or Spanish omelette has many things to recommend it. Only three ingredients are required (that you probably have in your kitchen right now). It’s really simple to make. It’s really economical – even if, like me, you use free-range eggs. And finally, it tastes even better at room temperature or cold than straight out of the pan.

Could this be the perfect packed lunch recipe? I certainly think so and make this at least once a fortnight for supper with a couple of slices left over for lunch the next day. This is the basic recipe, in Spain even the addition of onions is debated, but you can add other things to ring the changes (see below). If you’ve never tried it, make the original recipe first. It shows that you don’t need complicated ingredients or spices to make delicious food.

Tortilla or Spanish omelette


8 eggs, free range preferred
900g potatoes, waxy if possible, peeled
1 large onion, chopped medium dice
approx 150ml olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Serves 4


  1. Cut the potatoes into quarters and slice thinly into triangular pieces. Rinse the potatoes, drain and pat dry with kitchen towel.
  2. Heat most of the olive oil (reserve 1 tablespoon) in a large frying pan and put in the potatoes and onions. There should be enough oil to coat the ingredients thoroughly with a little left over. Lower the heat, stir occasionally and cook gently until the potatoes are soft and transparent.
  3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. *Turn up the heat, pour the eggs into the pan and stir gently to combine. Flatten the mixture with a spatula. Let the omelette cook for a minute or two, then reduce the heat and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the omelette starts to set around the edges and on top.
  4. Run a knife or spatula round the edge of the pan to loosen, put a large plate over the frying pan and turn the whole thing upside down. Return the empty pan to the heat and add the remaining olive oil if necessary. When the oil is hot, slide the tortilla back into the pan, with the cooked side uppermost. Alternatively, you can put the whole pan under a preheated grill to cook the top (gives a drier texture).
  5. Cook until set all the way through but not too firm. Turn out, flipping it upside down once more. Leave to rest for a few minutes before cutting into wedges.

*You can cook the potatoes and onions ahead of time and, when slightly cooled, add to the egg mixture. This adds flavour to the egg.


Although not authentic, delicious variations can be made by adding additional ingredients with the egg. Try roasted red peppers with diced chorizo (use smoked salt too); peas and a little fresh mint; chopped fried pancetta and parmesan; or replace the onion with some thinly sliced leek and add some chopped chives plus a little Cheddar to the mix.

UAE Saves Week 2013

I’m posting recipes and ideas that are great for packed lunches this week – some are already up on the site if you want to plan ahead. If you can only spare one day to participate, make it today on Pack your lunch Monday. There are other non-food related, practical activities every single day, find out what’s on here and don’t forget to use #UAEsaves on your pics, posts and tweets.

Meet the blogger event

As someone who is much more at home behind a keyboard and screen, I mustered all my courage and demonstrated how to cook a Spanish omelette at Lafeyette Gourmet, Dubai. It was part of a ‘Meet the blogger’ event by Lootah Premium Foods and great fun. Massive thanks to Adrian the chef, the LG and LPF teams and everyone for coming along. Congratulations to all the Fooderati Arabia who took the plunge. These lovely pics are from Sarah of The Hedonista.

P.S. The last day to enter Monthly Wine Writing Challenge 3 is Monday 23rd September 2013; that’s TODAY!

Fiesta Menorca

I thought my memories might have been exaggerated, then I found this on

Ever made a Spanish omelette? What’s the first taste of travel you remember?

  1. September 23, 2013 8:40 am

    Bravo Sally for making it to the Meet the blogger at Lafeyette Gourmet:))

    • September 23, 2013 8:58 am

      Bravo to everyone who did it Shy – wish I could have sat in on all.

  2. sarahhedonista permalink
    September 23, 2013 8:48 am

    Fantastic – loved your work yesterday. Cool, calm and collected, and yummy tortilla. I saw your input in 7days today too! well done.

    • September 23, 2013 8:59 am

      Eeek – I hadn’t seen it. ‘UAE food guru’! Who’s that then?!! Thanks for the support.

  3. September 23, 2013 8:56 am

    The omelette was delicious Sally 🙂 Totally enjoyed your demo and have to say love those old pics you posted up there looks like so much fun :))

    • September 23, 2013 9:01 am

      Nervous about doing a demo for a professional like you Dima – so glad you came along…really touched. They really are very old pics!

  4. September 23, 2013 9:03 am

    Love the pictures! 🙂 That first experience abroad is special, isn’t it? thanks for reminding me about tortilla as a lunch option.

    • September 23, 2013 9:50 am

      Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday…..sadly far from it!

  5. September 23, 2013 9:48 am

    Shall be trying this one out, thanks Sally 🙂

    • September 23, 2013 9:50 am

      Love to know how you get on. I thought everyone made it – it’s a staple in our house….but hardly anyone had tried when I asked at the demo.

  6. September 23, 2013 9:52 am

    A delicious dish and lovely memories.



    • September 23, 2013 9:58 am

      I like eating and reminiscing!

  7. September 23, 2013 12:06 pm

    I haven’t made that for ages – thanks for the reminder.
    My first taste of travel is Spanish doughnuts eaten in a bar while we waited for the coach to take us back to the airport. They were heavenly.

    • September 23, 2013 3:06 pm

      Foreign doughnuts seem to taste nicer don’t they!

  8. September 23, 2013 3:03 pm

    Frittata is a staple in our house, but tonight I made a simplified Turkish gozleme – so easy and great for lunch too.

    • September 23, 2013 3:07 pm

      I had to Google gozleme – one to try soon.

  9. September 23, 2013 3:07 pm

    i make frittata or tortilla regularly with whatever veg/herbs are plentiful in the garden and totally agree with you that even if you buy the best free-range eggs, they make such a frugal meal. But thanks for the reminder that sometimes it’s best to keep it really simple – really keen to make an onion and potato tortilla now soon. Love your memories of first exoeriences abroad and well done on the demo, I would be so scared!

    • October 10, 2013 7:58 am

      I don’t think I’d ever make a Nigella Andrea. I try to buy the best eggs – but suspect they are nowhere near as good as your ones.

  10. September 23, 2013 5:48 pm

    Oh how I wish I had the opportunity to travel when I was younger. Maybe we can do some travelling when we retire.
    Delicious looking Spanish Omelette Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • October 10, 2013 7:59 am

      I started late – as a child the farthest we got to was Cornwall – actually I lie…a very exciting trip to Guernsey!

  11. September 24, 2013 12:38 am

    Congrats for you showing your skills in public! Xx Thanks for the lovely recap about your holidays in Spain too! 😉

  12. glamorous glutton permalink
    September 24, 2013 1:19 am

    Great picture of you looking the full professional chef all micced up for your demo. Congratulations!! I also love those retro pics, I’ve got a few like that. Fabulous memories and Spain hasn’t changed that much since despite all the building and development. GG

    • October 10, 2013 8:00 am

      I’d love to return to Menorca – was amazed when I googled ‘Menorca fiesta’ that it seems not to have changed one iota.

  13. September 24, 2013 8:43 am

    Love your blog and Love tortilla, but it’s so tricky to flip it over! So far, my greatest flipping success was when I did it with someone else (each of us holding one side of the pan and plate).
    Another great omelette recipe you should try is Iranian kuku – herb omelette (delicious).
    My first food memory while travelling was when I was 9 and going to Nice with my parents. So many delicious things still linger from that trip: divine pizza near place Massena, great croissants, and cassis ice cream (didn’t have that in north america where I grew up)…Years later I went on to marry a Nicois and live in Nice – I wonder if those memories have anything to do with that!!

    • October 10, 2013 8:01 am

      I will seek out Iranian kuku – love Persian food with a passion. Love your memories – yes I’m sure it had something to do with falling in love… 🙂

  14. September 24, 2013 8:48 am

    Fantastic recipe Sally for emergencies 🙂

  15. September 24, 2013 9:52 am

    Just mouthwatering…looks delicious!

  16. September 24, 2013 10:59 am

    Hi Sally!

    Thanks for posting this post, it as wonderful reading about your experience. I missed your demo since it was a work week and kept checking Twitter to keep an eye on the on-goings. It was a classic case of heart and mind being elsewhere. How I wish I could have seen all the sessions at the “Meet the blogger” event.

    My husband loves Spanish Omlette as breakfast with his watermelon juice, it’s a staple breakfast for him on weekends. I would pass on the recipe to him 🙂


    • October 10, 2013 8:02 am

      I wish I could have attended them all too Saloni. Great breakfast….

  17. September 25, 2013 1:06 pm

    I quite regularly make spanish omlettes at home. But smaller portions. I am the only one who likes them. It was wonderful reading about your travel experience. i hope to visit Spain in 2014. Inshallah! 🙂

    The blogger event seems like a wonderful event. Kudos to you for demonstrating how to cook the spanish omlette. I would imagine myself to be a bundle of nerves and get even all the basics wrong. Well done!

    • October 10, 2013 8:02 am

      I tried making an individual one in a tiny skillet – worked brilliantly.

  18. September 25, 2013 7:18 pm

    Yes! I’m going to make mini tortillas to take to our picnic with my friend from Australia. The bonus is that it’s gluten free.

    • October 10, 2013 8:03 am

      Hadn’t thought of the gluten-free angle. Not important to me but I know this concerns many.
      I tried making a little one and it works well – in a tiny skillet.

  19. September 30, 2013 3:28 am

    Sally, I was inspired to try and make my first tortilla after reading your post. I followed it faithfully (usually I adapt like a fanatic). I can say it turned out delicious but I think my organic eggs were not as large as yours because it did not hold together. Either that, or my cast iron cookware coated in a porcelain enamel glaze caused havoc. For example, it took 15 minutes for the eggs to firm up prior to flipping.

    Would love to know if you have any suggestions for fixing my errors.

    Oh, and it was a very humid evening when I was making it (around 80%).

    • October 2, 2013 9:03 am

      It can take a while for the eggs to set – there is a fine balance between having the heat high enough to cook through and burning the bottom. When I’m in a hurry I put it under a hot grill. It is slightly drier in texture but takes away the slightly tricky part. Egg content is another thing that comes with practice – you need enough to seep between all the layers but not enough to form a egg with no filling. I’m sure it tasted delicious anyway – and I cooked in high humidity too btw. Although Dubai weather is now cooling down deliciously. Thanks so much for cooking along.

  20. October 7, 2013 12:58 am

    Wonderful – the tortilla, but also the ‘event’. Courage only needs 10 second bursts to make it mark. I love Spanish tortillas,….but my kids don’t like them so I can’t make them as often as I want!

    • October 10, 2013 8:04 am

      Love that quote about courage…

  21. October 9, 2013 10:18 pm

    Thank you for your feedback. I tried again! I added four more eggs and the result was, obviously, a lot more egg vs. potato and onion. I realized my struggles were not with your recipe. I can report both times it came out delicious and I even preferred my first attempt (when I followed your advice exactly). My troubles resulted from my electric stove not regulating heat consistently and the walls of my pan were 4 inches tall. The pan literally made it impossible to get the spatula down under the tortilla without turning it into a scramble.

    Again, thank you for your recipe and feedback!

    • October 10, 2013 8:05 am

      So glad you are persevering and appreciate you sharing the experience. The Spanish seem to make in a very deep pan but mine is a cast-iron Le Cruset skillet which gives a much shallower result – and much easier to flip I think.


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