Carmen Aliberch, from Madrid, shows how to make a Spanish
omelette with zucchinis (courgettes).
Carmen Aliberch married a New Zealander and came to
live here in 1995. Although she was born in Madrid, she and
her sister grew up in Tarrega, a village in Catalonia.
Her grandmother, Conchita, taught her and her sister, Isabel,
to cook by treating them as apprentices, she said with a
She taught them how to use smell and sound as well as sight,
taste and touch to judge how something was cooking and when
it was done.
Grandma was queen of omelettes and could make one out of
anything, but always said her zucchini omelette was the best
in the world.
It is not quite as easy to make as a traditional potato
omelette, as it is softer because of the liquid in the
zucchini, but it is delicious, Carmen says.
With a salad and bread, this makes a good meal.
Grandma's tortilla de calabacin (zucchini
Carmen's tortilla de calabacin: Spanish omelette with
zucchini. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
50ml olive oil
5 zucchini (about 800g)
50ml sunflower or other oil
salt and pepper to taste
Put 50ml olive oil in a pan to heat.
Peel and chop the onions into small cubes. Put them in the
oil, stir and allow to cook and caramelise. You will be able
to tell from the aromas when the onions are caramelising, but
don't let them burn.
Wash and trim the ends off the zucchini. Slice thinly into
rounds and add to the onions. Season to taste, stir and
continue to cook until the vegetables have softened - this
may take 20-25 minutes. For the last five minutes, remove the
lid to allow the liquid that comes from the zucchini to
evaporate. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, either in a processor
or with a whisk, adding a pinch of salt for each egg.
When the vegetables are cooked and smell good, drain off any
liquid, or squeeze it out with your hands. Stir the
vegetables into the eggs.
Heat a non-stick frying pan, about 26cm or larger, with some
oil. Swirl the oil around to cover the base. It is important
that the omelette does not stick.
When the pan is hot, ladle in some or all of the egg mixture.
You do not want to make a zucchini omelette too thick, as it
is soft and delicate and may break. It is better to make two
thinner ones, she says.
With a wooden spoon, gently fold the mixture so the cooked
egg moves to the top, allowing uncooked egg to flow to the
bottom, to help it cook through evenly and so it does not
burn on the bottom. Listen to the frying pan when you stir,
as the egg will hiss as it cooks, she says.
Shake the pan from time to time to make sure the omelette is
not sticking. You may have to move the pan on the element so
it cooks evenly across the bottom.
When the top of the omelette is set and the bottom nicely
browned and it smells good, turn the omelette over.
For this you need a large plate, bigger than the pan. Shake
the omelette to make sure it is not sticking, put the plate
on top of the pan, then quickly but carefully invert them so
the omelette ends up on the plate.
Remove any bits of omelette stuck on the pan, and reoil it.
Reheat the pan, then gently slide the omelette back so the
side that is now on the bottom browns nicely.
When cooked, turn it on to the cleaned plate to serve.
Cut into seven wedges and serve hot or cold with a salad and
bread to make a whole meal.
• The size of your frying pan determines how big your
omelette is. This one should not be too thick, as it is soft,
unlike the firmer potato version. For that reason, it is not
common and seldom served in restaurants. It's better to make
two thin omelettes than one thick one that may fall apart
when you turn it over.
• This is best in summer when zucchini are in season and
cheap. Aubergines also make a delicious omelette.
• Some people like to use more eggs, but Conchita used to say
this was a good way to get children to eat vegetables, so she
used lots of vegetables and fewer eggs.
• You can prepare the vegetables the day before so you can
whip up the omelette quickly.
• If you are not confident you can turn the omelette over,
make two thinner ones.
• Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New