The way it’s folded
“In Mexico, everything on the menu is the same dish. The only difference is the way it’s folded.”
Ah, Billy Connolly, you comedy genius you!
This one-liner has always made me laugh, but with Cinco de Mayo approaching, funnily enough on 5th May, do you know your taco from a burrito?
One thing is for certain, it all starts with a simple corn tortilla. Mix some masa harina (finely ground cornmeal) in a bowl with some salt. Add water and olive oil and mix until you get a smooth dough. Cover and rest in the fridge for ten minutes before flattening the mixture so each tortilla is around 3mm thick. Then, lightly oil a griddle pan and place over a hot heat before cooking the tortillas for no more than a minute on either side.
So, you have your tortilla, now here’s just some of the ways it can be used (Are you listening Big Yin?):
• Taco – a small tortilla, generally folded and with a simple filling.
• Tostada – a crisp grilled corn tortilla, generally with a topping.
• Totopos – fried corn tortillas, usually cut into triangles – we know them as tortilla chips over here.
• Taquito – a slender rolled taco usually stuffed with potato, but sometimes chicken, beef or mutton, and deep-fried.
• Burrito – tortilla, rolled around a filling with one end folded over to close it.
• Enchiladas – small corn tortillas, filled generally with meat, rolled up and then covered with a salsa and cheese before being baked.
So, as you can see, Billy’s right, it is all in the fold!
Like many worlds foods that find their way over here, they become bastardised over time. Think Chicken Tikka Masala, for example. You won’t find that eaten anywhere in India, and it’s similar with Mexican food.
Take chilli con carne. Food historians agree that chili con carne is an American dish with Mexican roots, but Mexicans are said to indignantly deny any association with the dish. And even if you accept it does originate in Mexico, it’s not supposed to be made with ground beef, but rather beef chuck or brisket. There’s also an argument on whether you should use beans, but let’s save that for another day…..
Hard shell tacos are also not authentic Mexican, neither are nachos. They come from America, hence why we now get so many Tex Mex variations, although you can’t argue that the food is still very darn good!
Did you know that along with Japanese, Mexican food is the only national cuisine singled out by
Unesco as of Intangible Cultural Heritage?
I will leave it there…… other than to provide this week’s authentic(ish) Cinco de Mayo-inspired recipe:
Tomato, lime and chicken fajitas with Nacho cheese dip and crispy avocado
Ingredients (for the chicken fajitas):
- 450 g diced chicken breast
- 10 flour tortillas
- 2 red pepper diced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 red onion diced
- 1 diced chili pepper
- 50g tomato paste
- Bunch chopped coriander
- 200g Passata
- Juice of 1 lime
- 50g cheddar cheese
- 100g red kidney beans
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a pan heat up the oil, season the chicken and fry till golden brown and cooked.
- Take out the chicken leaving in the oil to fry the red onion, pepper, garlic till tender then add the kidney beans, tomato paste, passata and lime juice.
- Add the chicken back in, bring to the boil reduce slightly and finish with chopped coriander and cheese.
For the cheese dip:
- 200g grated mature cheddar
- 200g grated Red Leicester
- 1 tbsp. cornflour
- 3 tbsp. water
- 400g double cream
- 100g semi skimmed milk
- 2 bags or tortillas chips
- 1 chopped red chili
- In a pan, heat up the double cream and milk and chili, then add the cheeses mix till smooth then mix the water and cornflour to make a slurry then mix in and cook out till thick.
For the avocado:
- 2 ripe avocado
- Plain flour
- 5 eggs blended
- Panko style breadcrumbs
- Set fryer to 180oc. Using a sharp knife cut the avocados in half and take the stone out.
Cut the avocados into 8 segments. Toss the segments in plain flour then into the egg and finally into the breadcrumbs. Deep fry till golden and crispy.
- To finish add the sweetcorn, chopped spring onion, sour cream and warmed tortillas