The “Spanish omelette” that looked like a cheese tower

Deceptive "Spanish omelette"

A Certain Caterer (let’s leave the criminals unnamed) just does not get Spanish food, but insists in trying, often with terrible results.

I mean, just look at that.

I initially thought this was cheese. Like maybe red cheddar mixed with manchego? But why would they be displayed like this?, I wondered…

Well, because they are not cheese, but a “Spanish omelette”.

Except they seem to have missed the memo that said “omelettes are a dish of beaten eggs”. So there are just a few streaks of egg scattered around, instead of warmly hugging the potatoes in a snuggly embrace.

And the potatoes look desperately uncooked, more like they tried to bake them, so they could get a bunch of portions with just one tray, but gave up half way because it was taking too much time and they were late for the delivery, so they just took them out and served them raw. Who is going to notice, right?

And that’s how you end with this abomination 😱

  • Grossness level: 8/10. This is extremely disgusting.
  • Offense amount: High. You’re insulting such a Spanish staple with this subpar attempt.
  • Would I give it a go? NO. FREAKING. WAY. 🤐

Courghetti with tomato and onion sauce

Courghetti with tomato and onion sauce

This is fun to make (spiralising things is so much fun), and fairly quick to prepare. Plus it’s quite filling AND lightweight – courgettes are basically water!

You will need a spiraliser, or you can buy pre-made courghetti, although I’ve never tried those and I’ve no idea how bad or good they are!

Ingredients (for two people)

  • Two medium sized courgettes (about 15 cm length)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • One 400g tomato tin
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese and butter (leave out if vegan)

Preparation

  1. Start by washing and spiralising the courgettes. I make one pile per courgette, as it makes it easier to separate the portions later
  2. Peel and chop the onion and garlic cloves
  3. Put oil on a pan, and start frying the onion and garlic
  4. In parallel, wash and chop the parsley, and add it to the pan as well
  5. Once the onion is pretty soft, move everything to one side, like in the picture
  6. Add some more oil, and set to a very high heat
  7. When the pan is very hot, add the contents of the tomato tin to it, and fry on a very high heat for about 1-2 minutes or until you think things are going to burn! Stir frequently during this time. The goal is to get the tomato to lose its acidity
  8. Now reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes
  9. Optional: add a dash of butter now to get a deeper body. Mix it well until it dissolves.
  10. Slowly add about 200ml of warm water to compensate for the evaporation.
  11. Add a tablespoon of paprika, and mix well
  12. About 10 minutes in the simmering, try a bit of the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste, mix well and try the sauce again. It might still be a bit acidic, but don’t add sugar – just wait for longer!
  13. Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, you might need to wait for longer. It usually pays off to wait as the flavour gets more developed and interesting. So you might need more than 20 minutes.
  14. Once the sauce is ‘done’, turn the heat off.
  15. To cook the courghetti, add some oil to another pan, and set on a very high heat.
  16. When the pan is very hot, add a ‘pile’ of courghetti, and stir continuously. We don’t want anything to get stuck, and we want the cooking to be homogeneous. We also don’t want the courghettis to get too soft, so that’s why we need the heat to be very high, so they cook outside but not too much inside. If the heat is too low, they will start releasing water, and the result will be too “liquidy”.
  17. Once one pile is cooked, place on a deep bowl, and go to step 15 to cook the next, until all have been cooked.
  18. Pour the sauce on top of the cooked courghetti
  19. Optional: add a good dose of grated Parmesan cheese
  20. Add some pepper
  21. Optional: add a dash of the best olive oil you have

Tricks and tips

I used this smoked paprika my mum brought me from Extremadura, a region in West Spain, renowned by the quality of their paprika!

Smoked paprika

If you have the chance to shop at a Spanish grocers, “Pimentón de la Vera” is the type of paprika you want to look for.

Also, depending on your spiraliser, you might get very long ‘courghetti’ so it might be interesting to cut the piles a few times with scissors before cooking them, so they’re not like 3 meters long and impossible to eat with a fork.

Chickpea omelette

This morning, I was wondering what to have for breakfast when I remembered I had a bunch of chickpeas leftover from yesterday’s dish: rice with Swiss chard. And I had an idea: why not have a chickpea omelette?

Like that dish, this is also a very economical dish, and quite easy to make. The hardest skill required is to know how to flip the omelette without breaking it, although I gave some tips for that on the herb omelette recipe.

Ingredients (for 2-3 portions)

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Parsley
  • Half a 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • Olive oil

Preparation

Takes about 45 minutes.

  1. Mash the chickpeas using a fork or a mashing accessory
  2. Peel and thinly chop the onion
  3. And the garlic clove
  4. Place some olive oil on a pan, set on a high heat and start frying the onion and garlic
  5. Crack the eggs and pour them on a bowl, and whisk them
  6. Wash and chop the parsley, add to the bowl
  7. Add a touch of salt
  8. Add the chickpeas to the bowl and mix everything vigorously so there are no lumps of chickpea paste – this is how it’d look like:Chickpea omelette mixture
  9. When the onion and garlic are fried (onion soft, garlic golden), add a touch more oil to the pan and then add the egg, chickpea and parsley mixture to the pan, and mix everything together
  10. Set to a high heat, and cook the first half
  11. Then using the tricks on this post, flip the omelette and cook the other side
  12. Serve and enjoy!

This is a dish which is often cooked with the leftovers of a popular stew called “cocido”, instead of using tinned chickpeas or specifically cooked chickpeas. That makes the omelette even tastier, as the veggies have all the flavour from the stew! Plus also the tinned chickpeas are a bit too hard for this dish and it takes longer to mash them.

When using stew leftover, you end up with a more colourful dish as it might contain all sorts of vegetables: potato, carrot, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage… and it’s fairly common to actually make vegetable croquettes with these.

It just occurred to me that this could also work very nicely with a touch of spice on it to add some ‘heat’ – perhaps some red chilli.

The other great thing about this dish is its versatility: you can have it for breakfast, or in your lunch box (as it keeps and warms up nicely), or even for dinner – it’s a very common Monday dinner (as you might have had the stew on Sunday).

Banana porridge

Banana porridge

After a dine out experience that gave us a sort of funny tummy, we were feeling in dire need of a soothing breakfast, so I figured that a porridge would be a good answer to that need!

Ingredients

  • 40-45 grams of oats per person
  • 250 ml of liquid (milk, coconut milk, or any type of “mylk” or “m*lk” you like) per person
  • Half a ripe banana per person
  • Cinnamon

Optional toppings:

  • Coconut
  • Hazelnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Dried cranberries
  • A dash of kefir
  • Sugar or syrup or sweetener

Preparation

This will take about 30 minutes, depending on how many people are you cooking for.

  1. Place the milk and oats on a pot, and turn the heat on to a high setting
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the oats are fairly ‘swollen’. Perhaps add more liquid during cooking if they have absorbed too much of it! Stir frequently so nothing gets stuck to the pot, and the result gets creamier.
  4. In parallel, you can peel and slice the banana(s)
  5. Place on deep bowls or dishes.
  6. Add sweetener to taste – I added a dash of agave syrup on top. Since you’re using cinnamon and banana, which is naturally sweet you don’t need to add a lot of sugar to the oatmeal
  7. Add cinnamon… and any other toppings you fancy!

Once you have the base, this is all about adding whatever you like (or have handy). For example, I added the sliced bananas, then a bunch of dried coconut, some hazelnuts, dried cranberries and chia seeds which look really cool and in theory have a lot of protein but there’s so few of them they can’t really make much of a difference 😜

I’ll admit I normally I cook porridge in the same bowl, with the microwave, but if you’re cooking for two (or more) it’s just easier to use the stove. Plus, it allows you to better control the dryness of the mixture and you can correct on the spot if it’s getting too dry 🙂

Arroz con acelgas (rice with Swiss chard)

This is an extremely cheap, easy to cook and comforting rice dish, very typical from the region I’m from. You can make it more “liquidy” or drier, depending on your tastes.

I used this Spanish recipe as reference, but altered a few things. Thanks, Kiko!

Ingredients

  • 140 g of round rice (paella or bomba varieties)
  • A bunch of Swiss chard
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium tomato (or a bunch of cherry tomatoes)
  • 100 g of cooked chickpeas (about half a 400g can, drained)
  • Paprika (not smoked)
  • Olive oil

This makes about 3 generous portions, or 4 if smaller. But it’s very easy to stretch it for more people by adding more water or rice.

Preparation

Takes about 45 minutes (15 min preparing, 30 min cooking).

You’ll need a big pot; cast iron pots (‘le Creuset’ style) are a very good option, although in Spain it’s often cooked on earthenware, but it’s a bit hard to find good quality affordable earthenware implements in the UK.

  1. Peel the garlic cloves, but don’t slice them
  2. Peel and chop the onion, it doesn’t need to be very finely
  3. Wash and chop the tomato
  4. Carefully wash the chard and discard “ugly bits” (we’re not the only ones who like chard – worms love them too!), then chop it in pieces of about 2cm wide
  5. Add oil to the pot, set on a high heat and fry the garlic and onion on itChopped onion
  6. Add the chard and fry it until it starts to soften (you should be stirring everything so nothing gets stuck or burnt)
  7. Add the tomato and fry it too
  8. Add a tablespoon of paprika, mix everything together
  9. Add the chickpeas
  10. Add about 600 ml of water for a dry version, or more like 800ml for a soup finish. Add a pinch of salt.
  11. Bring to a boil
  12. Reduce the heat, place a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes. This will extract all the great flavours from the vegetables.
  13. Add the rice (you don’t need to wash it; the starch will help us give a good depth to the dish). Stir around to make sure it’s evenly distributed.
  14. Optional: add food colouring. You could add saffron, turmeric, or the classic cheap version that we use in Valencia often – a spices mix for paella (often called “Preparado para paella”).
  15. Cook on a low-medium heat for about 20 minutes, with the lid on and slightly ajar to let the steam off, but don’t leave the pot unattended because…
    1. There might be a burst of boiling water come up and you don’t want it to overflow, asphyxiate your stove and cause a gas spill
    2. Or the rice might absorb all the water and run dry
    3. So if need be, add more water (specially if you want it to be more like a soup)
  16. Towards the 15 minutes mark, you want to start checking that the rice is cooked, and if that’s the case, turn the heat off! We aren’t cooking congee here.
  17. Serve on deep dishes or bowls, if having soup. And enjoy the smugness of having cooked a cheap and comforting dish! 😏

How to tell when rice is cooked?

  1. If you take a grain and it’s soft, but you can still feel some ‘crunch’ inside when you bite it: it’s still raw. Check again in a couple of minutes.
  2. If the grain is still sort of cylindrical and keeping the original raw shape, but inflated, and you feel no ‘solid crunch’ when biting it: it’s cooked!
  3. If the grain is starting to expand like fluffy clouds and dissolving in the soup: TURN THE HEAT OFF IMMEDIATELY AND REPENT. You’ll do better next time.

This dish is quite forgiving if the rice is slightly overcooked and you’re aiming for a soup form; but under or overcooking would be Capital Sins when aiming for a dry form.

Alternatives

  • If you can’t find paella rice, replace it with risotto or arborio rice. Basically you want rice that can absorb liquid.
  • If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you could replace them with some tinned tomatoes, about half of a 400g tin.
  • If you can’t find Swiss chard you can use spinach (or maybe kale?!)
  • You can replace chickpeas with other legumes you have handy. It’s about the protein: imagine you’re a peasant and need energy to do your labour!
  • You could also use good vegetable stock instead of water, if you want extra flavour, although this dish doesn’t really need it. But maybe you have the stock there and do not know what to do with it.

As you can see, this is a very accommodating dish.

Trivia

This is often eaten during Lent, as it is vegan! Although we didn’t call it vegan at the time. We just said it did not have meat. When Lent falls in February, and a cold spell happens, it’s very nice to eat a comforting warm soupy rice dish.

It’s also meant to be “poor people’s food”, which is not quite surprising given the ingredients. Swiss chard grow very well in the region, and you can even find them growing semi-wildly in the borders of built up areas nowadays.

I distinctly remember a schooltrip to a chapel on top a little hill that overlooks my hometown. We heard the teachers squeaking  with excitement as they realised that one side of the hill was covered with sort of wild chard, and it just took them a few moments to cave in to temptation and start foraging for the prettiest leaves, declaring:

Esto, ¡para el hervido de esta noche!

Or “this, for tonight’s boiled dish”.

And we did what children do: imitate the adults. We started grabbing leaves too, thinking we were doing great. My grandmother was extremely bemused when I showed up with a random selection of weeds and worm-devoured Swiss chard leaves! 😂

For the curious in you, read an explanation of what this boiled dish is!