¡Madre mía! UK’s ambassador to Madrid cooks ‘British’ tortilla on TV | World news

With Boris Johnson busy comparing traditional Māori greetings to Glaswegian pub fights and Liam Fox venturing into the chlorinated henhouse, the task of restoring the reputation of Britain’s diplomacy and cuisine fell to the UK’s ambassador to Madrid.

Simon Manley hit on a novel solution: why not build bridges by meddling with that most sacred of Spanish dishes, the tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette), on Spanish TV?

After all, things had not gone so badly for Jamie Oliver that time he decided to add chorizo to paella, had they?

Appearing on the late-night Spanish cooking programme El Comidista, Manley, 49, boldly dismissed suggestions that some formulas should never be messed with.

The show’s host, Mikel Iturriaga, who had entered the ambassador’s residence “on a diplomatic mission to defend Spanish omelette”, was having none of it.

“You do some pretty awful things with Spanish omelette over there,” he said. “And it’s an emblematic dish for us.”

Not for the first time, the worst transgressors were deemed to be Oliver and those who “commit atrocities” by adding chorizo, cheese, raw onion and, perhaps most egregiously, coriander.

To settle the matter, Iturriaga offered to cook Manley a tortilla in the ambassador’s kitchen. Before he could get through the door, however, he was politely force-fed a selection of premium cheddars washed down with beer from Cornwall and Suffolk.

Simon Manley
(@SimonManleyFCO)

Enhorabuena a @ElComidista y @albertochicote por #ElComidistaTVTortilla 🍽 Sois bienvenidos cuando queráis para disfrutar de 🍺🥂y 🧀🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/aYybMF7Kv8


July 27, 2017

“Don’t worry,” said the ambassador, “the beers aren’t really warm”.

In what only a cynic could imagine was a scripted remark, Iturriaga posited that beer was being served because there was no decent wine in the UK.

Al contrario, replied the ambassador, without missing a beat. “Thanks to climate change and some important investment, we’ve got some really great wines right now, especially sparkling wines,” he said.

Had Manley been an Italian diplomat, he would have been juggling Ferrero Rocher and well into the second verse of O Sole Mio by now.

Once finally in the kitchen and issued with a regulation union flag apron – “revenge for the Spanish Armada?” wondered Iturriaga – the demonstration began.

Potatoes were sliced, eggs gently cracked into a bowl and a terrifying quantity of extra virgin olive oil decanted into a frying pan. A few minutes later, Iturriaga turned out a perfect, pale golden tortilla.

Tortillas



Simon Manley’s tortilla, left, was deemed inauthentic. Photograph: British embassy, Spain

And then, out of nowhere, came the bombshell. “I’ve made a tortilla too,” declared Manley. “A British tortilla using the recipe from our famous Jamie Oliver.”

The Spaniard’s eyes fell on the edible interloper with all the enthusiasm of a foreign visitor being pressed to try Marmite for the first time. Iturriaga’s hand flew, reflexively, to his brow.

“¡Madre mía! That really doesn’t look like a Spanish tortilla,” he said.

“Looks good, though, doesn’t it?” asked Manley.

“I’m not prejudiced. Let’s try it. Man, it’s got chorizo in it. How weird,” the host commented.

“Tasty, no?” said Manley.

Iturriaga glanced at the camera to deliver an extraordinarily non-committal “very tasty”.

With that, they adjourned to the dining room to solicit the opinion of a Spanish chef who managed to spot the difference between the two men’s efforts in a millisecond: “One’s a cake and one’s a Spanish omelette.”

The only truly awkward moment in the episode had come moments earlier when Iturriaga stressed the importance of slicing some of the potatoes more thinly than others.

“That’s easier if you have a mandolin,” said the Spaniard. “I bet the French embassy has a mandolin.”

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