In this part of the world tortillitas can be made with different ingredients depending on where they originate and the time of year. For example here in Gibraltar they are made with Swiss chard, spinach, prawns, cod (typical at Easter time), and sweet ones with raisins are particularly popular. In nearby Cadiz however they are made with shrimp and they are flatter and crunchy. Being vegetarian only the Swiss chard ones and sweet ones are suitable though. What they all have in common is that they are a type of fritter and probably originated from a way to make cheap ingredients into a tasty meal in olden times.
Swiss chard is a very popular vegetable in the Mediterranean, it is also seasonal and ridiculously healthy. It can be easily replaced with spinach in a like for like amount since they taste quite similar and can be used in the same way. These fritters are served hot, they are fluffy and soft on the inside and absolutely delicious! This is a family recipe and is one of these that there are no exact measurements which means that the amount of milk you need for the batter will depend on it’s consistency. In general the batter (known as a gachuela) needs to be thick so it can be spooned into hot oil, but not too thick that it’s a paste or too thin that it is runny. So it is best to add the amount provided and increment in steps if need be. Also here we use yellow food colouring many times, which we call azafrán, or saffron, although it is not saffron at all. I’d rather use the real thing even if sparingly due to it’s cost, and since it is just for colour you could also replace with a pinch of turmeric (enough to colour, not enough to taste) if you can’t find saffron or colouring.
- 250g plain flour
- 300g fresh Swiss chard or fresh spinach leaves
- 4 eggs
- 150ml milk (semi skimmed or whole)
- 2-3 salad onions or 1 medium mild onion
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- pinch of saffron powder
- a good pinch of salt
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley
- 7-8 stems of fresh marjoram or 1 tsp of dry
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Add the flour, salt, baking powder and saffron into a bowl and mix well with a fork.
- Beat the eggs separately and add to the flour with the milk.
- Mix well until a soft and smooth batter forms. If the mixture is too thick and paste like add more milk, a bit at a time until you get to the desired consistency, and leave this to one side.
- Finely chop the Swiss chard although only the leaf portion should be used, not the stems. If you are using spinach you can use the whole leaves. It is imperative that these are raw and fresh, not cooked or frozen.
- Finely chop and dice the parsley, garlic, marjoram and salad onions.
- Add to the batter, mix all the ingredients well until uniform in the batter and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- Add about 500ml-750ml of olive oil (or frying oil) in a pan for frying and heat up to a medium-high heat. The oil needs to be hot but not smoking hot.
- Add the batter to the hot oil with a large spoon. One large spoonful makes one fritter. Do not add too many to the oil at once, four or five at a time is a good amount.
- When the fritters are golden on one side flip round and when done on the underside take them out and put them on a dish with some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
- Serve while still hot, they should be a but crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and if the oil is hot enough they shouldn’t be oily. They are seriously moreish, it’s impossible to have just the one!