Tequila, Pinatas and Fajitas. Perhaps not the definitive cultural list of reasons to go to Mexico, but they were enough to convince me to go this summer. I was lucky enough to spend five weeks travelling there and found that not only the country itself was beautiful but that its food was utterly delicious. Perfect comfort food with its lashings of cheese, refried beans and tortilla bases, yet also vibrant and fresh; aided predominantly by the extensive use of chilli’s that varied as much in taste as in size, shape and colour.
In my post-travel depression and in a bid to chase away the descending winter weather I’ve been cooking up some Mexican-themed dishes, so here they are for you to try too. Go forth and, in the immortal wisdom of the Spice Girls, spice up your life.
Mash, Mushy Peas, Guacamole; how, by simply mashing something, does it magically taste so much better than the original I will never understand. I imagine it’s probably something deeply psychological about going back to our pre-teeth infanthood. Science aside, Mexico’s famous green mush certainly didn’t disappoint. Below is my classic guacamole recipe; brilliantly quick to make, it’s perfect as a healthy snack or part of lunch spread on toasted pitta.
One thing to watch out for- once peeled avocado goes brown fairly quickly, the lemon juice helps with this, but this isn’t something that can be made too far in advance.
x1 ripe avocado, halved and peeled
x1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
x1 small red onion, finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely sliced (optional)
small handful of coriander, roughly chopped
Simply mash up your avocado and all the other ingrediants together, it’s entirely up to you how smooth or chunkyyou want it. If you like a creamier dip, mix in a spoonful of crème fraiche. Season.
This is my twist on just a classic faijita. I like to see it as a sort of Mexican version of a toastie; a perfect quick lunch, easy to do for friends and a great way of using up leftovers- such as cooked chicken from a roast as I used below. If you’re not a fan of spice scrape out the seeds from the chilli.
Chicken, cheddar and caramelised spiced Onion Frying-Pan Fajita
x2 flour tortillas (wholemeal tortillas are available in most supermarkets if you want to be healthier)
x1 onion, finely sliced
½ red and yellow pepper, sliced
½ fresh red chilli
tbsp sugar/ tbsp balsamic vinegar
a handful of cooked chicken
large handful of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
large handful of grated chedder
Begin with caramelising the onions and peppers. Gently heat a spoonful of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onions with the sugar/balsamic vinegar. After 5 minutes of gentle cooking turn up the heat and add the peppers and chilli. Watch it doesn’t burn and stir occasionally until the onions are well cooked and a deep golden brown.
Slowly heat up a frying-pan that has been wiped with a little olive oil. Place one tortilla flat in the pan and add fillings: Start with half the cheese, then the onion mixture, cooked chicken, spinach and finally the rest of the chedder.
Place the other tortilla firmly on top like a lid. After 5 minutes, carefully flip over the ‘toastie’; an easy way is to hold a plate firmly over the pan with one hand, then flip the pan over. The tortilla will be flipped onto the plate, slide it back into the pan so the other side gets cooked. Give it another 5 minutes to heat the contents through and brown the tortilla. Slice and serve! Great served with the guacamole and salad.
Other good fillings:
Ham, cheese and chutney
Tuna mayonnaise with finely sliced red onion, black olives and cheese
Stir-fried vegetables, pesto and mozzerella
Pan-fried leeks and spinach with chedder or feta