Saturday, August 06, 2011

Saved by Tortilla: 50 years a vegetarian

Being vegetarian most of my life, there are numerous stories that illustrate the problems associated with not eating meat or fish in a world where meat and fish dominates people's daily food. Having travelled extensively in the past it now seems quite strange that I choose to settle in the one country where being vegetarian is akin to being an alien.

I must say that we have found one or two vegetarian restaurants in Spain that are excellent but on the whole, especially in Asturias, vegetarians are not catered for. The dialogue usually goes along the following lines when ordering food in a bar or restaurant:

Me: I am vegetarian, I do not eat meat or fish, what can you serve me?
Waiter: We have lovely liver.
Me: No meat, fish or offal.
Waiter: We have seafood, lovely seafood.
Me: No meat, fish, offal or seafood.
Waiter: Ah, we have vegetable soup.
Me: Does it have ham or a ham bone in it?
Waiter: Yes, but that is only for flavour...
Me: Can you do scrambled eggs?
Waiter: Yes but they have sea urchin eggs in.
Me: Can you ask if they can do the eggs without sea urchin eggs?

At this point, the waiter usually slopes off into the kitchen and after a few minutes, the cook (granny), assistant cook (daughter), the washer up (grand daughter) and whoever else happens to be in the kitchen, appear with their heads peering around a half open door trying to spot this strange alien  - mind you, he is English....

Some restaurants in the past have refused to cook anything other than what appears in the menu whilst others offer a simple egg dish or plain salad. In the majority of cases, the one life saver that can always be relied upon for sustenance is Tortilla - even then you have to be careful that it is a plain tortilla and not cooked with chorizo, ham or tuna fish. Here is our recipe for a life saving Tortilla.

Tortilla de patatas

Peel and dice enough potato to fill a non-stick frying pan, add one finely chopped onion. Sauté in olive oil until the potato and onion is cooked and slightly browned and caramalised. A lid can be used to speed up the frying and reduce the amount of oil used. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, whisk about 6 eggs (for an average sized frying pan) and add any herbs you fancy. Thyme or sage work well but are not traditionally used.

Add the cooked potato and onion to the egg mixture and mix carefully - a thickish creamy consistency is required. Add a touch more oil to the pan, bring to heat then add the mixture to the pan. Cook for several minutes until browned and partially set (steam vents come out of the mixture). Turning at this stage can be problematic but here in Spain we use a special plate with a handle on but a dinner plate could be used if need be. Put the plate on the tortilla over the pan, lift and quickly turn the pan and plate. Add a touch more oil to the pan and bring to heat, carefully slide the tortilla back into the pan until cooked to taste.

Remove from the pan by turning with the plate and pan again, leave to cool and serve with fresh salad. A life saver!


  1. The normal response that we found in Galicia was Ah, you do not like to our food!
    Imagine what response you would get if you were a vegan.

  2. A plate with a handle? Wow, you guys are high-tech! V likes his with red and green peppers and a touch of garlic.

  3. Simple yet good. I'll have to try this soon!
    I remember travelling in Germany and the Nederlands in the 60s, it was an eye opener to see good veggie restaurants!!


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