Unlike other Spanish recipes like paella or gazpacho, which have regional variants, Spanish omelette is made with the same recipe throughout the country. In Spain, it's obviously not referred to as a Spanish Omelette but rather "Tortilla de Patatas" or simply "Tortilla" for short. However, this dish has divided the nation into two irreconcilable teams... Team Onion and Team None-ion. They agree on one point though, that the best tortilla is the one that mum makes.
In Spanish, 'Torta' means cake, and 'Tortilla' means little cake. However, its origin is a bit confusing and there are different versions of how it was invented. We tried to put some order in its history
A little history
The first versions of the omelette date back to the sixteenth century both in Europe and in Latin America, where the Aztecs consumed a plate-shaped cake with scrambled eggs along with other ingredients. However, the Spanish omelette was not created until the Spanish discovered the potatoes via the Incas.
The first known document in which the Spanish omelette appears as we know it dates to 1817. It was from an anonymous letter addressed to the Parliament of Navarra explaining the conditions of scarcity of farmers faced in contrast to the people living in Pamplona and other areas of Navarra. After a long list of food eaten by the Highlanders the following quote appears: "... two or three eggs in a tortilla for five or six, because our women know how to make [us] big and fat with few eggs mixing potatoes, bread or something else ... "
However there are many theories that have pointed to the omelette being from the nineteenth century. Legend has it that it was the Basque General Thomas of Zumalacárregui who invented it during the siege of Bilbao as a simple side dish that was nutritious and easy to make in order to feed the Carlist troops who were hungry.
Some say it was a housewife who accidentally invented this dish and offered it to the General who stopped by her house for dinner.
A new study mentions the Aragonese chef Teodoro Bardají Mas as the creator of the Spanish tortilla. In theory Bardají published the original recipe in a weekly publication. In his version, potatoes are baked instead of frying them and he introduces the use of onion.
As there are so many different accounts, we'll probably never know the real origin of the Spanish omelette, but what is certain is that this delicious Spanish dish emerged from necessity between the late 18th and early 19th Century thanks to its sublime simplicity. It captivated the palate of poor and rich alike.
This dish experienced tremendous success in less than fifty years, from the most modest tavern to the royal tables in a remarkably short period of time. In 1854, we can find the first written recipe explained in a cookbook by Jose Lopez Camuñas. In 1867 it was part of the menu for a Spanish restaurant at the Universal Exhibition in Paris and to King Alfonso XII offered it to the Prince of Wales during a visit he made to Spain.
- Potatoes for frying, 800 grams
- 6 - 7 Large eggs,
- A pinch of salt
- Extra Virgen Olive Oil (Very important for authenticity. Sunflower/vegetable oil will not do)
Although the ingredients are few and preparation is not too complicated, each person will still produce a different taste and texture to it and you can never find two identical. The final result depends on the the type and quality of potatoes, the oil, and the method you employ to fry them and even the tools used to make them.
The Largest Spanish Omelette World Record Controversy
The world's largest Tortilla? It was cooked in Vitoria on 2 August, 2014, on Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, where the chef Senen Gonzalez coordinated the feat with 12 chefs using 1,600 kilos of potatoes, 16,000 eggs, 150 litres of oil, 26 kilos of onions and 15 kilos of salt. The Guinness Book of Records did not accept the mark because the omelette was cooked in portions and joined up like a puzzle and instead granted the honor to Japan. A year later two international organizations recognized that Vitoria made the world's largest tortilla, although Guinness continues to refute it.