There is nothing quite like fresh eggs in the morning especially when you can go and collect them yourself. I remember as a child having chickens on the farm where we used to live in northern England and being charged with collecting the daily ‘scoop’, the warmth of the hay on which the eggs lay seems like yesterday and with free range hens the eggs simply did not get better. Now living in rural Spain we buy our eggs from the local green grocer or the butcher however on occasion we do get given fresh eggs from the locals or perhaps as a reward for doing someone a small favour – there is no knocking the Spanish generosity for offering foodstuffs when showing their appreciation (we have even had full chicken in the past but that is another story…)
Eggs in Spain are not usually eaten at breakfast time, compared to the great British bacon and egg breakfast you may find a hard boiled egg or two being enjoyed in Spain at around about 10.00am which is when workers generally down tools and take a mid morning break, a cultural difference perhaps in eating habits but when the Spanish do use eggs they create something rather special, it takes practice to make perfect, what is a very popular tapa and probably the most famous of all Spanish egg dishes and that is – the tortilla. The ‘tortilla de patatas’ is a meal in itself, the word tortilla literally means omelette but don’t mistake the tortilla as being anything like the English version or something you may find folded over in a restaurant, the Spanish tortilla is entirely different through both size and flavour. If you fancy giving a Spanish tortilla a go make sure you only cater for a hungry and understanding family member as the first attempt is almost guaranteed to be a disaster especially if you intend to ‘flip’ it, I remember making our first Spanish tortillas and it took quite a few attempts to get them right (or at least to our local village standard!). There are of course many other Spanish recipes that use eggs, some traditional and some more modern:
Classic Tortilla – The traditional Spanish omelette that uses sliced potatoes and onions along with olive oil for cooking. The classic tortilla can be served as a main meal or as tapas, most good tapas bars serve tortilla de patatas and as the omelette is also delicious served cold the typical ‘bar food’ version will be sliced into bite sized blocks and served with cocktail sticks. The classic tortilla is tremendously filling and is usually cooked in a frying pan, there are two ways to finish the tortilla 1) under the grill and 2) by flipping the tortilla in its entirety, the latter requiring a degree of skill where the tortilla is transferred into a second frying pan (or plate) then transferred back to cook for another few minutes. As a rough guide 8 eggs will make a classic tortilla large enough to feed 4 persons.
Tortilla Variations – Steering away from the classic tortilla there are also quite a few other variations of the dish which over the years have sprung up and offered a different take on the traditional dish. Asparagus tortilla is a good example, with eggs and omelettes lending themselves well to such a variation of flavours, it is easy to see why other vegetables have made their way into the classic tortilla. Seafood is another variation where prawns go very well and for meat a little Serrano ham always adds its own unique influence on cooked egg recipes. Similarly to the Spanish paella you can choose the original ‘authentic’ version or you can experiment and create something non traditional – if it tastes good than that’s great, just remember when it comes to a good Spanish tortilla practice makes perfect!
Huevos Revueltos (Scrambled Eggs) – Scrambled eggs is a dish served in Spain usually in the evening, in Spain the main meal tends to be much later in the afternoon and while for example the English may be having a mid afternoon snack to keep the hunger pangs at bay until early evening the Spaniards are enjoying their main meal of the day. Scrambled eggs can be served at suppertime and offer up a whole world of possibilities in the ingredients stakes. Some of the more popular accompaniments to scrambled eggs are asparagus, Serrano ham, iberico ham, prawns and spinach to name but a few.
Huevos a la Cazuela (Cazuela Eggs) – Cazuela eggs are named so as they are cooked in a terracotta cazuela and offer a new way in serving your Spanish egg recipes! Cazuela eggs can be a light lunch or a main meal depending on the size of the cazuela you choose to use and cazuela eggs are also great for the kids as a quick snack at any time of day. As a general rule a 10cm terracotta cazuela will hold one large fresh egg and one the best ways to serve is to simply crack the egg into the cazuela, sprinkle with cheese, season and then bake in the oven for a few minutes. The same basic principle to this tapas sized recipe applies to larger cazuela egg dishes and the bigger cazuela you use the more ingredients you can include such as sliced chorizo, cured pancetta, black pudding, potatoes, onions and more.
Huevos Fritos (Fried Eggs) – Fresh fried eggs through their sheer simplicity and flavour go exceptionally well with two Spanish favourites, both are cured meats but could not be more different. Morcilla (black pudding) is a blood sausage and in Spain morcilla is readily available quite fresh making it ideal for frying, each Spanish butcher has their own recipe, our own uses cinnamon, almonds and a mix of other herbs and spices. Lightly fried in olive oil and served with a fresh fried egg you will discover a match made in heaven! Serrano ham also works particularly well with fried egg, again lightly fried and in strips the saltiness of the ham really comes through, similar to the classic bacon and eggs but very, very Spanish.
Huevos Escalfados (Poached Eggs) – Poached eggs are probably the one version of cooking a fresh egg that is not that popular in Spain, there are however lots of ways to involve a poached egg with other Spanish ingredients. As with fried eggs Serrano ham and morcilla are a delight to serve with a perfectly ‘poached’ egg and eggs cooked this way also make a great topper – lay on top of a warm bean and potato salad or for a little indulgence on top of salmon on potato cakes. Other great ideas for poached eggs are with fried chorizo sausage and also on top of a tostada which will transform your breakfast!
Egg Tapas – Tapas using eggs are delicious, in fact the humble egg is pretty much the perfect size for a tapas sized serving and there dozens of ways to ‘top’ and egg… The classic combination is with mayonnaise with a light sprinkling of smoked paprika however marinated anchovies also work well with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Eggs can also be devilled or stuffed using the hard boiled yolk as a base this can be mixed with all sorts of ingredients from prawns and capers to olives and diced cured meats – simple and quick to make tapas which can also be pre prepared and refrigerated for later.