Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bangla Tortilla Española

My last evening in Kolkata, at least until I'm back next, and despite the heat and humidity and the divebombing mosquitos, I'm sorry to go. Oddly enough, so are my New Yorker kids, who love the --- you guessed it --- food. My mother went into a frenzy of last-minute culinary magic and emerged with that old chestnut: prawns cooked in coconut milk. Superb. For India hands this is a common enough dish but just in case Julian B. tunes in --- or anyone else who wishes to transform the art of Western prawn cooking, I'm going to blog the recipe in my next post.

But Ma wanted a Spanish omelette for brunch, so I had to dip into my own relatively meagre resources. Out came the: 

Bangla Tortilla Española
(a.k.a. bengali spanish omelette)
Warning:
This seemingly innocuous recipe involves some serious physical gyrations in preparation.

Remarks:
1. I wrote this for a recipe book when my friends Garance and Shub got married. Reposted here with minor updates.

2. I took a cooking class in Barcelona. But the classical version (to the extent that a Catalan version can be classically Spanish, which may be limited given recent events) is nowhere as good.

To feed 3-4, unless you'e feeding my son Riyaaz, in which case it might only feed one.

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
3 small thin-skinned potatoes (more remarks on quantity below)
2-3 spring onions, v. finely chopped (If you're oniony, like me, I would add a small piece of finely-chopped red onion to that mix)
3/4 inch cube of ginger, finely chopped (don’t use paste, I just did and kind of regretted it)
Two ripe tomatos, chopped
Hari-mirch (green chillies), quantity personalized, finely chopped
Equivalent of 3-4 pre-packed slices of any neutral, melty cheese
Grated hard cheese, Parmesan will do fine
A proper handful of fresh coriander (objection from Julian B, but we must carry on)
Two fresh basil leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil (not extra-virgin, as my Barcelona cooking class emphasized), or butter. The Spaniard cries out for olive oil, the Bangali for butter or even ghee! It is all up to you.


Other Requirements:
A large, substantial, thick shallow pan
A plate that fits snugly upside down over the pan
Bloody Mary (already consumed in part before starting on this venture). I used Laphroaig today.
Oven mitts (no oven mitts here, but I used a well-worn kitchen jharan).
Kitchen cleaner and/or luck.


Method:
Yeggs at the ready! Beat 'em up, add salt and pepper.   No need to peel potatoes if they're thin-skinned. Slice them in very fine cross-sections.  Put a few tablespoons of olive oil so that bottom of pan is uniformly coated, heat pan to medium.

Once the pan heats up place the potato slices in the oil, tiling the pan completely (this may need a bit less or more than 3 potatoes depending on size).
  
You might think about interesting tiling theorems with discs as you are doing this, but if I were you (and certainly given I am me) I would concentrate on the task at hand.


On top sprinkle the onions, and hari-mirch and the optional basil leaves (chopped), and then the ginger. Do not entirely fry potatoes or onions, get them sizzling for a couple of minutes or so.   Then gently and uniformly pour some of the egg over this. Put the melty cheese in (I usually cut this up in small pieces and strew all over pan) as well as the chopped tomato.  Then the rest of the egg over that (the reason for having egg on top rather than cheese is because the tortilla must be turned over; see below; I get the heebie-jeebies even writing this).

Now this is the hard part. The damn thing must cook above and below but it is thick, and hard to turn over.   On the other hand if you don’t turn it over the potatoes will burn. So what you do is cook it for a while (covered if needed) until you can move the pan and have the entire omelette wobble in it. The top will still be uncooked (if it is cooked, I'm guessing the bottom is burnt).

Then (and here you must take a large swig of what's left of the Bloody Mary / Laphroaig and if you are married and male, remove spouse from kitchen) cover the pan with the snug plate, put on the oven mitts, and turn the whole contraption over until the omelette is on the plate.  Or at least, try turning it.  Do not forget the oven mitts as you will have to grab the bottom of the pan. Exhortations such as Allah ho AkbarJoy Ma Kali or milder (Hare Krishna!) or even secular variants, such as Bande Mataram, are useful here. Indeed, I encourage them.

You should have a delicious golden tortilla on the top but remember the bottom is still cheesy and gooey and at this point you should put the pan back, pick up the plate, and slide the omelette back into the pan.

 Congratulations! You are done after another 30 seconds (keep it soft inside).

Grate the hard cheese, smother the whole thing with chopped fresh coriander, and you have a  bangla tortilla española in your hot little hands. What is really Bengali about this? A lot (and not least the cooking method), but ultimately it’s the ginger.