June 9, 2021 —

Tortilla Tapas and Spicy Fried Chickpeas

  • 1 hour
  • 6 PEOPLE
  • medium

This makes a satisfying and easy tapas – or if the portions are increased and served with a salad, will also make a good lunch or light supper.

The proper Spanish way with tortilla and a neat trick for moreish chickpeas.

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What you need

1kg Charlotte potatoes, peeled

1lt sunflower oil

1 medium onion

6 large eggs

500g dried chickpeas (Mulino Murino Italian organic are very good)


Sweet or hot smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)


Dad's Recipe Tales

We were entertaining family and friends the other day. One of the guests is only able to eat small amounts of food, so I knew I would need to allow for an individual special requirement for lunch. Serendipitously, I started to plan a ‘small plate’ menu.

In fact, I called it a tapas, but tapas come in many forms. There’s the tapas you get at Meson Don Felipe in The Cut, London, where they squeeze and cram a multitude of tapas dishes onto the very small tables. This kind of tapas is similar to many, where in effect you order most of the courses of a meal all at once. There is the tapas of Barrafina, in Dean Street, London (and in three other London locations), where you drink at a bar and order small plates as and when you like (which can be as much about drinking as eating a meal – at least when there are not queues outside…). There are also stories of busy, smoky restaurants in Spain, where waiters ply their tapas through the noisy crowds for guests to hail and select as they fancy. Pix Pintxos in Seven Dials London, serves Basque style tapas called pintxos (or pinchos), where you walk up to the display of tapas and choose what you want, when you want.

It would seem that with so many forms of tapas it is still possible to overwhelm guests with a large amount of food – even if it is on small plates. Therefore, I decided my tapas would be more like a Spanish tasting menu; each dish would follow the last with a break in between. The menu:

Gazpacho with Gordal olives with orange, black olives, caper berries, croutons with a cucumber and celery garnish

Fino del Puerto sherry

Green and white British asparagus with lemon mayonnaise

Potato and onion tortilla with spicy fried chickpeas

Cune Barrel-Fermented Rioja

Smoked salmon croquetas with little gem salad canapes

Sam Miguel cerveza

Gambas al ajillo, crusty bread, spinach salad wilted with raisins, pine nuts, and mint

Anciano Tempranillo Gran Reserva Valdepeñas

Fried goat’s cheese balls with red onion marmalade

Mini Madeira panna cottas with berries and coulis

Lustau Moscatel de Alejandría

The idea – and execution – was a success. Particularly as it was a Friday and no meat featured on the menu. Despite exerting a lot of time and effort into the meal, the actual hosting and cooking felt far more manageable than my usual full-on affairs. There were fewer guests – which helped – but since I had prepped well in advance, the most complicated real-time cooking was just a bit of quick frying. With less stress and less intense cooking, I was also able to join in and fully enjoy the proceedings.

Sometimes, less really can be more…

How Dad Cooked It

This method for making a tortilla is authentic, and differs from other solid forms of omelettes as the potatoes cook in a deep pan of oil before adding eggs. This is the method used by Nestor’s Sports Bar in San Sebastian, Spain. My method differs slightly – I cook the onion separately, omit green peppers (though they would be a good addition), and cook the centre until firm (whereas Nesor’s is runny). I prefer a firmer middle to the omelette so it can be cut cleanly into a neat squares and is therefore more practical to manage – and to eat. It keeps well for a day in the fridge, but is best eaten on the day it is cooked.

Strain the oil and separate any liquid for using elsewhere. Nestor’s recycle half of the oil from the day before and presumably re-uses the rest in other dishes. As I was making a large tapas meal with several fried elements, I kept the oil and re-used it for frying croquetas, cheese balls and the initial frying of gambas.

Cooking the onions separately ensures the onions and potatoes are both evenly cooked.

  1. Chop the onion and put in a small pan with a little olive oil and butter. Cook over medium heat until soft and transparent. Drain and set aside.
  2. Chop the potatoes into 1cm sections. Pour enough oil to cover the potatoes into a deep wide pan and bring up to temperature – about 165C. (Not so hot that they start to go brown and crisp before being cooked). Carefully put the potatoes into the oil and cook until they are just cooked through but still quite firm. Drain the potatoes well.
  3. Prepare your omelette pan. It is best to use a heavy non-stick 23cm frying pan, or well-seasoned cast iron pan of similar size. Heat the pan before adding the omelette.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, then add the onions, and beat again. Add the potatoes and quickly stir with a spatula. Season with salt and pepper and stir again.
  5. Cover the bottom of the hot omelette pan with a thin layer of oil. Then carefully add the egg mixture so that eggs and potatoes are evenly distributed. Cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the omelette appears to be cooked and firm at the bottom and is beginning to set just under the top.
  6. Turn the omelette using a large plate face-side-down on the top of the pan and carefully, holding both tightly together, turn upside-down. Quickly clean the pan of any sticking omelette and add another thin layer of oil. Carefully slide the omelette back int the pan and cook until firm. Cook the omelette so it is lightly brown on both sides; turn up the heat, if necessary, to create an attractive crust.
  7. Serve warm or room temperature with the chickpeas below or increase the portions and serve for lunch or supper with a salad.

For the chickpeas

Use tinned chickpeas if preferred. Make sure they are small and have some firmness – i.e. not soft…

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight, drain, rinse, and place in a large saucepan. Fill the pan three-quarters full with cold water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, turn down the heat to low and part cover with a lid. Cook until the peas are tender. The time depends on the freshness of the peas. It might take less than an hour or more than two… Take off the heat and cool in the cooking water.
  2. Strain out a small handful of chickpeas for each portion. Fry in a saucepan on medium high heat. When they just start to brown, strain the chickpeas and wipe the pan clean with a kitchen towel. Put the chickpeas back in the pan and season with salt and pepper and either sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton) and a pinch of oregano. Give the pan a good shake and serve immediately.
  3. NB: Keep the left over chickpeas in their cooking water in the fridge. They will add interest to salads, braises, or just about anything you might want to cook or eat. After a night in the fridge, the cooking water will thicken and look gelatinous. This is ‘aquafaba’ and is a very useful substance. Use it instead of eggs for frying and many types of baking.
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