If you’re the kind of cook who enjoys taking your time, slice the onions and potatoes precisely. Photograph: Jill Mead for The Guardian.
Whether you can whip up a feast for 50 in a jiffy or you aspire to haute cuisine, try to develop your own way of cooking. This tortilla is a perfect canvas with which to start.
The singer-songwriter Tom Waits once said in an interview: “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”
Granted, it sounds like the sort of cheesy internet meme you’d find Photoshopped over a stock photo of cloud-puffed sky. But it’s actually a useful motto for life. We use it at Leon to remind ourselves that every little detail matters. If you want your restaurants to be spotless, even that sign that says “Caution – wet floor” better be so clean you would happily use it as a clothes horse for your whites.
Personally, it’s also a useful reminder that I’m more likely to be successful at things that lend themselves to my way of working. In the kitchen, for example, I’m good with big generous flavours and lots of time pressure. I’ll cheerily produce a Chinese banquet for 12 at a few hours’ notice. But give me a recipe that requires patience or dexterity and I’ll soon be a sweaty, juddering heap of failure.
Today’s recipe is the perfect example of this. I was not made to cook tortillas – or Spanish omelettes, as we admiring Brits know them. I can, and quite often do, have a go. It’s a quick, easy supper, great for when we’re running low on ingredients, and popular with my children. But I’m too slapdash to make it the thing of beauty it ought to be.
Jane’s tortilla recipe, below, is super-simple and guaranteed to produce delicious results – whatever your culinary temperament. But we have added lots of detail to the recipe for the benefit of perfectionists. If you’re the kind of cook who enjoys taking your time and making everything just so, slice the onions and potatoes precisely, choose exactly the right pan, cook it and turn it carefully – then your tortilla will be elevated into something sublime.
The size of the pan is important. In Spain tortillas are invariably made in smaller pans.
It is hard to make a tortilla that is a nice colour on the outside, but not burnt, and just the right texture in the middle, not runny or overdone, using a large pan. It is also hard to turn a large tortilla over without breaking it.
This recipe is for a nonstick frying pan 20cm in diameter – you could stretch that to 22cm. If you only have a larger pan the recipe can be increased (for every extra egg used increase the potatoes by 100g). For bigger pans, you might find it easier to cook the top under a grill, rather than attempting to turn the tortilla over.
Serves 2-4 400g waxy potatoes 1 onion 50ml olive oil 4 eggs Salt and blackpepper
1 Thinly slice the potatoes to about 5mm thickness and dry well with kitchen roll. The skins can be left on if you are using salad potatoes. Peel and finely slice the onion. It is worth taking the care to slice the potatoes and onions finely as, with a recipe this simple, the details count. It makes a real difference to the final dish.
2 Heat the oil in the pan over a medium heat and add the potatoes. Allow the oil to bubble away gently. Season well. Cover the pan. If you find your potatoes browning, you can use more oil (in Spain they often use prodigious quantities and reuse it after the potatoes are done).
3 Cook for 10 minutes before stirring in the sliced onion. Cook slowly for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
4 Place a sieve or colander over a bowl and tip the potato mix into it to drain off the oil. Allow it to stand for a few minutes while you beat together the eggs in a bowl with a fork. Add the drained potatoes and onions to the egg mix while they are still warm. Season.
At this point, if you have time, let the mixture sit for 10 minutes so that the flavours of the egg and potatoes mingle.
5 Wipe out your frying pan and add 2 tbsp drained oil. Heat until quite hot before pouring in your tortilla mix. Shake the pan to allow the mix to distribute well and settle. Run a spatula (preferably a soft rubber one) around the outside of the mix and cook for a minute. Turn the heat right down and cook gently for about 6-8 minutes until the tortilla is starting to set.
6 Run the spatula round the edges again and give the pan a good shake. Remove it from the heat and slide the cooked side of the tortilla on to a plate. Invert the pan and place it over the tortilla. Quickly invert the plate so that the tortilla lands back in the pan cooked-side up. Place back on the heat and cook slowly for another 5 minutes. (If you find the thought of turning over the tortilla this way is a little daunting you can flash the pan under a pre-heated grill for a few minutes until the tortilla sets.)
7 Slide the cooked tortilla on to a serving plate and allow it to cool. Best served lukewarm or at room temperature.
Other possible additions to your egg mix:
Cooked, drained and chopped seasoned spinach.
Chopped spring onions and herbs such as parsley, chives , basil and tarragon.
Sliced serrano ham.
Chopped prawns and piquillo peppers.
Recipe by Jane Baxter. Henry Dimbleby is co-founder of the natural fast-food restaurant chain Leon (@henry_leon). Get your kids cooking at cook5.co.uk