Tostada literally means “toasted” in Spanish. It’s a corn tortilla that’s fried until crisp, drained and then used as a base for toppings. It’s a nice little twist on a crunchy taco because it’s more versatile and you can fit more toppings on it! The best part about tostadas is they’re quick and great with leftovers. If you’ve made a big batch of frijoles, make these and use up some of that pinto beany goodness.
Can I also just say that these are amazing when made fresh? They’ve got nothing on those stale-grease pre-made shells from that old-company-that-shall-not-be-named.
Ingredients you’ll need
Corn tortillas (I get the 10pk Woolies home brand and they’re fine.)
A cast iron pan for frying
Your choice of topping
Have all your toppings ready and set aside. Get your pan nice and hot, then add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom, maybe 1cm deep.
Add your first tortilla to the hot pan with some heat-proof tongs and flip immediately, then back. Keep turning occasionally after this, and carefully, until it’s golden brown evenly on both sides. As long as your pan is hot enough, they should only take a couple of minutes until golden. Pick them up with your tongs delicately, as they should be crisp and prone to cracking now and place on a plate prepared with paper towels to drain. Set aside and repeat process until you have enough shells for your guests.
Once they’re all done and are cool enough to handle, spread a thin layer of refried beans to the base. You want to do this because this will act as a tasty adhesive for more toppings. After this is done, get creative! Add your favourite crumbly or shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream and hot sauce. Try them with shredded chicken, carnitas, seasoned beef mince, avocado, onions, salsa, prawns, the possibilities are endless!
How easy was that? The only thing left to do, is eat and enjoy your delicious tostadas.
(Pictured: hubby @wombat1974)
My long awaited tamales recipe, I hope, is worth the wait. It’s been quite a ride trying to source ingredients and hone techniques — and I’m still learning, but hopefully this effort will prove worthy.
For those who don’t know, tamales are a a whole package dish. Usually made with a savoury filling inside a corn-based dough, inside a leaf wrapper and steamed until tender yet firm. They can be made sweet with sultanas throughout and the dough can be coloured with food dyes. They can be served with sides in a meal or eaten alone. The wrapper is not eaten.
Tamales are a food as old as civilisation and as such, there are many recipes and varieties. The version I’m going to share with you, I can honestly, unbiasedly (maybe) say (as I have sampled MANY over my lifetime) are one of the best out there. Growing up, I remember begging mom to make these each winter holiday every year and waiting eagerly and impatiently for them to be ready. I know mine aren’t nearly as good as hers are, but someday I hope they will be close.
Traditionally, the masa (dough) is made with a special, granular corn flour (not the kind you can easily get at the grocery store) and lard. However, as lard isn’t health-friendly, my mom would make these with vegetable oil and they came out DELICIOUSLY and even better than the lardy ones.
These aren’t a “I feel like tamales, let me whip them up quickly” dish. These are usually planned ahead of time. Sometimes portions, like the meat and mole, are prepared a day ahead of time and then made in large batches with the whole family participating in the prep work.
For the filling, slow cooked beef with ancho mole is what I recommend. Slow cook the meat and prep the sauce the previous day if it’s easier, and refrigerate until ready to use. Also, save the beef broth from the meat and use it to give the masa a really rich flavour.
tall stock pot with deep steamer insert
If using corn husks, begin by soaking them now in warm water to rehydrate them so they’re pliable for folding later on. They should soak for at least 20 minutes. Put some water into your tall steamer, making sure no water is coming through and get that boiling.
The ratio for masa is 1 part corn flour, 1 part vegetable oil and about 3/4 parts broth with salt to taste. It may seem like too much liquid to dry part, but given time to soak, the flour will absorb it all until you get the desired consistency. I used 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oil and broth for the ones in these photos and it made about a dozen large tamales. Begin with all the flour in a large mixing bowl and slowly add the oil. Mix and begin adding your broth. Once it starts to get thick, continue mixing with your hand. You’re looking for a toothpaste consistency. Add oil, broth and salt until consistency and flavour is achieved. Nothing is worse than a dry, gritty tamale!
Once you have the consistency right, spoon some across your drained, softened corn husks and flatten. Spoon a small portion of your meat and mole mixture into the center and fold the two corners in so that the masa is touching itself forming a seal, enveloping the meat and mole and then fold the bottom, pointy end of the husk up and pinch the top closed. Store flipped with the heaviest part keeping the pointy flap down until ready for steaming. It’s okay if they’re a bit leaky. Still with me?
Once they’re wrapped, carefully place into the steamer with the open ends facing up. Some people like to tie either end with twine like an old fashioned candy, but I’m lazy, that’s more work and this works just as well. Depending on how many you’ve done, you may need to steam them in batches. They should sit comfortably without crowding each other or some might not steam properly and might not set in time.
If you don’t have a steamer insert, you can use an inverted metal colander that will fit inside your tall stock pot. There should be about 5-6cm of water at the bottom for steaming.
Cover the tamales with a damp tea towel and lid. Steam for about an hour to two hours depending on the size of your batch, on a low boil. Check periodically to make sure there’s still water.
Once done, test the masa to see if it has set. When the tamale pulls away from the husk, they’re ready. They should be soft and firm and may need to rest for several minutes before serving. Unwrap and serve with your favourite sides. They will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge, if they last that long. Reheat in the microwave wrapped in a damp cloth or paper towel to prevent drying. I wouldn’t recommend freezing these.
Alternatives: Instead of corn husks, some people use banana leaves and form them in a square, tied with twine. I have yet to try them with dry banana leaves, only the wet, pre-packaged ones. My results were that they were difficult to wrap as they split very easily and steaming them took several batches.
I first tried making tamales here with banana leaves that we found vacuum packed at our local Chinese grocer. I can honestly say I wasn’t happy with the results and missed the days in the San Fran Bay Area of being able to go to the local mercado and buy a massive bag full of corn husks for under $5.
I eventually did find a source for dried corn husks in Sydney here, however you only get a handful for $5. If anyone knows of somewhere else I can purchase them, please let me know! I have tried drying my own, but the commercial corn, even when sold in husks at markets has most of the larger leaves, which are the best for tamales, already removed.
I’m sure some of you are asking what sort of trickery I’m going to present by suggesting a meatless beef burrito. I promise, no trickery is involved. Both my husband and I LOVE meat. That said, with the cost of premium mince (and you wouldn’t want to get anything less because you’d be paying for the fat that cooks away and isn’t consumed) on the rise and the recent reports from the export cattle industry, we wanted to look into perhaps not giving meat up entirely, but look into eating less meat-based meals during the week. Or, in this case, eating things we’d normally eat with meat, but with a substitute.
To those of you secretly groaning in your head, “Ugh, no, never.” give this a try! I promise my method of preparation won’t leave you hungry or dumping unfinished burritos in the bin. Have you ever spit out a Lord of the Fries burger? They’re pretty tasty, aren’t they? They’re also meatless. They use something called Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP. You can buy TVP in many different forms, canned and ready to use, dry slices, dry meatball-sized chunks or dry minced. This is what we’ll be using for this burrito.
You can get TVP from most Chinese grocers, or online from these guys.
The best part about TVP in mince form is the texture. It feels like meat unlike veggie burgers made from tofu, legumes and nuts. Add the right seasonings and some might not suspect it isn’t meat if they weren’t told.
(I’ve only tested the mince form so I can’t vouch for the quality of the “sliced” or “meatball” versions.)
Meatless Beef Burritos
Ingredients you’ll need:
1 cup dried TVP mince
tsp granulated garlic
salt and pepper to taste
cumin to taste
lime (or lemon) juice
1 tsp parisian browning essence
1 beef stock cube or beef styled cubes (optional)
shredded iceburg lettuce
shredded cheese (I like colby)
tapatio hot sauce to taste
extra light sour cream (optional)
Comal or equivalent (hot plate or large dry pan to heat the tortillas)
In a bowl, add 1 cup of the dried TVP mince and 1 cup boiled hot water. The hot water will reconstitute the TVP. If you want to add a beef stock cube, add it now and mix it in well. (Personally, I don’t feel it needs it, but some people may like a beefier flavour.) Add to this the garlic, salt, pepper and cumin all to taste. Normally I add around 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp each. Squeeze in a little lime juice and about 1tsp of the parisian browning essence. This makes it look more like cooked beef mince. (It’s a psychological thing, but it does make it feel more like the real thing.) Mix well. It should look something like this when it’s done:
Pretty convincing, isn’t it?
Have your shredded cheese and shredded lettuce ready and heat your tortillas. I prefer to heat them on a hot plate rather than in the microwave because the microwave will make them go stiff and hard very quickly. If you heat them on a hot plate, they stay pliable and soft through the burrito folding process and well into eating-time. If using the large Mission tortillas, this batch should yield enough for four tortillas. If using the smaller flour tortillas, you might get six or eight burritos.
Once warmed, stack the tortillas on a preparing plate and add a couple tablespoons of the TVP mince, sour cream if you’re using it, the shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and some tapatio sauce. Then fold into a burrito and place on dinner plates. Continue until all burritos are made.
That’s it! Did I mention it’s cheap to make and lasts much longer than even frozen mince would in your freezer? Great for those on a budget. Quick as well.
Variations: You can use different filling ingredients as well. If you’ve made frijoles or spanish rice, the leftovers can be used to make burritos the next night. Mix it up.
If you make this, let me know what you think!