Sometimes our evenings are rounded off with half an hour of food based tv.
I don’t know why we do it, because then we start craving things we can’t have. We ponder if we have the wherewithal to create what we’ve seen out of the dregs in the fridge. Usually the answer is no. No, we cannot create a whole smoked pork shoulder out of half a piece of dried up pastrami and 4 sprouts.
We often end the evening hankering for Mexican food. It just seems so tasty, fresh and easy-going. Can food be easy-going? That’s how it seems to me.
With this in mind, for my birthday Ed got me a whole host of Mexican ingredients and food based paraphernalia to play with. So far we have experimented with tamales, hominy, adobo chillies and salsa verde, and had all sorts of issues with the ‘magical’ self heating tortilla warmer.
The things we have made most often are corn tortillas.
True corn tortillas would be made from fresh masa but you’re not going to find that in Derbyshire, so we buy masa harina flour online.
Also in my Mexican bag of tricks was a traditional imported tortilla press. I love this cronky looking thing with its rough edges and simple construction.
After you’ve made the simple flour and hot water dough it’s just a case of squashing ping-pong ball sized balls of dough between a couple of sheets of plastic. Actually you need to half squash one, then spin it around and complete the pressing, otherwise you end up with an uneven thickness. Be careful to peel them off the plastic slowly so they don’t tear.
Preparing these is a family affair, George is particularly good at sizing, shaping and pressing the tortillas, whilst I do the cooking. We let Ed chop things to make a fresh pico de gallo.
You need a flat, heavy based pan to cook them in. Get it as hot as you dare, then dry fry the tortilla until hot, flip it and heat again, then flip it once more until a little singed on the edge. It is the miraculous ‘third side cooking’ that slightly puffs up the tortilla and let’s you know that it is properly cooked.
I’ll be honest, we didn’t manage this the first few times, and it’s not the end of the world if they don’t, but they are much lighter if this puffing up business happens.
We’ve had these at Christmas with spiced up leftover turkey and as a weekend dinner with crispy chicken. George’s favourites are ‘fish tacos’ with crispy cod and pica de gallo.
This week’s version was roast chicken with Mexican salsa verde and avocado…plus some cottage cheese masquerading as queso fresco.
We plan to make our own cheese soon as I have just got hold of this soft cheese making kit.
Freshly made corn tortillas are whole different ball game to the large, doughy flour tortillas that you buy in the shops. I can see why they are such a popular street food. It’s not often there are any leftover, but when there are we cut them into 6, brush with a little oil and bake them into tortilla chips
As soon as I replenish my stocks of masa harina I shall make a double batch, with plenty of leftovers.
15 Corn Tortillas
225g Masa Harina
A good pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
325ml hand hot water (approximately)
Mix the ingredients together with a fork.
Let it stand for a few minutes then knead for 5 minutes.
Add more water if it’s needed to get it to a soft dough.
Cover with cling film and leave for half an hour.
Shape up balls of dough, a little bigger than a golf ball.
Press a dough ball between 2 sheets of plastic (I use zip lock bag plastic), flip it and press again.
Cook in a very hot dry pan, turning twice.
Wrap them up and keep them warm until you eat them.