Nasturtium: the lost cousin of potato omelette
This is the story of a poor man who was going to make a recipe, and without eating or drinking it he was involved in a historical investigation at the Da Vinci Code level. The poor man is me; the recipe, the nasturtium omelette; the investigation, my desperate attempts to know where it comes from, and the Da Vinci Code, an exaggeration to arouse your curiosity.
Lets start by the beginning. I was looking at cookbooks to copy ... sorry, to be inspired by some recipe when I came across the "nasturtium omelette" of The book of Spanish cuisine (1970), by Juan Perucho and Néstor Luján. It sounded to me to have seen it in the letter of the Flash Flash tortilleria of Barcelona, and according to the formula of Perucho and Luján it seemed a variant of the potato tortilla of a lifetime, with the addition of “four tablespoons of asparagus tips” - peculiar way to measure this ingredient-, bread and parsley.
My papillae immediately segregated imagining how the great reinforced classic would know in such a way, and when I prepared it there was no disappointment. Better or worse than the Spanish omelette of a lifetime? Simply different, with the crispy and toasted addition of fried bread and the negligible plus greengrocer green asparagus.
It was an easy start, because I saw no need for many changes in the recipe for The book… : a little more egg and some specifications to keep alive the best values of bread and asparagus until the tasting of the dish. The drama came later, when I set out to find out where the hell this Capuchin omelette came from, which the gourmets included in the chapter dedicated to the cuisine of Madrid and which they hardly said was "Castilian", without a drop of information. Did the Capuchin monks create it? Where in Spain was he born? When?
The recipe was also in my favorite old recipe book, Full kitchen (1940) of the Bilbao Marquesa de Parabere (1940. Its ingredients and preparation were quite similar to those of The book of Spanish cuisine, except for the addition of milk and the use of peas instead of asparagus as a green element. "Very on purpose for vigil," said Mrs. María Mestayer de Echagüe, without providing any further information on the historical or regional origin of the dish.
Then I opened a round of consultations with the great sages. Carlos Maribona, gastronomic critic of ABC, denied ever seeing her in Madrid. “The only reference I have is that of the book by Luján and Perucho (which are quite clueless about traditional dishes from each area). I have searched some old recipes that I have, and there is no mention of that tortilla. ” José Carlos Capel, critic of EL PAÍS, responded similarly: "I was born in Madrid and I have never seen the Capuchin tortilla in restaurants and bars."
Expert in potato tortilla, Capel sent me some more mail with his inquiries: “Dionisio Pérez (1929) refers to the cartujana tortilla (not nasturtium) but does not indicate its ingredients. Same case in the General Cooking Dictionary by Ángel Muro (1899) and the two of the Countess of Pardo Bazán, from the same period. Manuel Martínez Llopis, who was documentaryly a steamroller, was not the appointment either. In Madrid, he only gives two recipes for the usual potato tortilla and an 'economic tortilla' with breadcrumbs, but without asparagus or anything else. That is, a poor tortilla. ”
Finally, the critic raised the possibility that there would be a terminological crossing with the Capuchin cake, made with “hyperbatido, spongy eggs and curdled in the water bath”. “Isn't it that of Capuchin cake someone has written Capuchin tortilla by mistake? Or has he given that name by the fact of beating the eggs and riding them to the limit? I could ... but none of the recipes I had seen - neither Luján and Perucho's, nor that of the Parabere, nor the few on the Internet - spoke of a frantic egg shake.
Nor did the relatively recent Spanish cookbooks written in English that contain the recipe. Which, by the way, introduce some more confusion regarding their region of origin: A season in Spain (1992), by Ann and Larry Walker, awards the capuchin tortilla to Madrid but Cooking from the heart of Spain (2006), by Janet Mendel, places her in La Mancha. You don't have enough geographical mess? Well wait, because he ABC de Sevilla published a Capuchin tortilla as an Andalusian specialty in 1984, without asparagus or potatoes but with bread, a little "economic" style that Capel cited.
In full attack of geolocation despair, I asked about sightings of the dish to my followers on Twitter, and some cited Extremaduran and Andalusian grandmothers who prepared Capuchin tortilla with that denomination using asparagus and bread. What, added to the previous information, seemed to place the dish in the southern half of Spain. And the regional roots of Madrid? Zero potato, chulapos and chulapas.
At this point, if I wanted to know something more solid about the history of the nasturtium omelette, I had no choice but to give the can to my favorite gastronomic library rats: the journalist Ana Vega Biscayenne and chef Xesco Bueno. Bisca He gave me two pearls that I do not know if they clarify the matter much, but that it is worth reviewing as extravagant. The first is Heaven's kitchen, contemporary book of conventual dishes by Carmela Micelli that includes a recipe very similar to that of Lujan and Perucho. "Loquísimamente" (Ana dixit) attributes his invention without much explanation to the Capuchins ... Italians.
The second is The domestic counselor, published in Santiago de Chile in 1880. “It is the only recipe I have found in old books,” said Ana. Prepared by the nuns of the order of the same name, the Great Capuchin Tortilla must have been very famous throughout the country, because according to Vega "it is mentioned in other works." Is this the origin of everything? Too beautiful to be true: just take a look at the very complicated formula to realize that we are not talking about the same dish, but rather something resembling a pie.
Xesco Bueno was also unable to enlighten me in excess: he found in Google Books the recipe for the nasturtium tortilla in a recipe book of regional dishes signed by Concepción Villa in 1955, but unfortunately you can not consult the content of it. The only thing you see is that the index appears next to other Castilian dishes. Almost on the verge of a daeneryesca madness, I wrote to the order of the Capuchins and the Flash Flash restaurant, and I only obtained silence by response.
When I was about to throw in the towel or strangle myself with it, it occurred to me to consult Vicky Hayward, responsible for the recent and wonderful edition of the New art of cooking, of the eighteenth-century Franciscan Juan de Altamiras. With it came the light: according to the Hispanic and gourmet, the Capuchin tortilla is a very little Capuchin invention of the twentieth century. “As part of their respect for the dependence on alms, this order did not tend to care for chickens, unlike the Carthusians, who were famous for their chicken coops and their tortillas. Nor for recycling the bread crumb, which was more typical of the Franciscans. ”
At the beginning of the 20th century, Hayward explains, the Lenten cookbooks became fashionable, full of preparations with expensive products such as lobster, but with names such as “al archpriest”, “Dominican” or “nasturtium”. "They were not monastic in any way, they simply used those denominations for recipe titles." This trend continued throughout the century - as the recipe and the comment of the Parabere prove - without the dishes monacales in question they had no historical foundation.
So, after so much research, was the nasturtium tortilla just a modern fantasy? Hayward says that it does not appear in any of his frailuna cookbooks, and the professor of Modern History at the University and a student of the Capuchin archives María Ángeles Pérez Samper, to whom Vicky sent me, has not found any trace either. Just one beaten in the manuscript of a Capuchin friar Fra Sever d'Olot, the Llibre de l'art de quynar (1787), which has eggs and bread ... but also mint, sugar, cloves and cinnamon, which makes it a dessert too far from our plate.
So as far as we know, everything points to someone, at some point in the first half of the twentieth century, decided to call a vigil "tortilla" with bread and vegetables, and the denomination made (relative ) fortune. End of the story, which I will close with some phrases of the humorous Juan de Altamiras as a moral: "The names of the stews are like the titles of comedies, which in the title takes little substance, and although it is very expressive, rarely give enough light to the ignorant: so, friend cook, even if you are a title chef, don't pay much attention to the titles. ”
Less to find out its origin.
For 4 people
- 10 eggs (if they are very large, 8)
- 1 large potato
- 100 g of green asparagus without the hard part of the stem
- 1 onion
- 80 g of breadcrumbs
- 200 ml of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Cut the asparagus yolks with a knife. Cook the stems in boiling water with salt for about 2 minutes. Then add the yolks and cook all one or two more minutes. They have to be made but firm, keeping the color vivid green. Go through cold water, drain, chop into medium pieces and set aside.
- Cut the potato into four or six pieces, and then on each piece into not very thin slices (about 2 or 3 millimeters. Chop the onion.
- Fry both things in a pan with the oil over medium heat, until the potato is done. Raise the heat so that they lightly brown about two minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon, salt and set aside.
- Crumble the bread crumbs into small pieces and fry them a few seconds in the hot oil, being very careful not to burn them. They just have to catch a golden color, without getting too roasted. Remove to a plate with paper towels.
- Beat the eggs and salt. Add asparagus, parsley and potatoes with onion.
- Heat a nonstick skillet with a splash of oil. When it is hot, add the fried bread to the egg, mix lightly and pour it into the pan quickly so that the bread does not completely lose the crunch.
- Let it set on one side for one to two minutes, turn it over with a plate, and repeat the process. It is important that it is creamy inside: if not, it will be a mazacote. Serve and eat immediately.