Chilaquiles is a traditionally Mexican dish. Chilaquiles are all about spices and flavours. I get excited when I think about chilaquiles. I have very fond memories of eating chilaquiles with special people and as such, associate it with breakfasts made for people I love. I first learned about chilaquiles from my parents. I had it a few times in Mexico City, and again when visiting my best friend in Visalia, California. This is one of those recipes where everyone has a slightly different method of making it and none of them are wrong! What I’m going to share with you is my recipe, altered based on ingredients I can easily find in Melbourne.
If you use corn tortillas, often times you find yourself opening a pack, not wanting to use them all and sometimes, they’ll dry out.
Have you ever done this and thrown them out? Don’t! I have a delicious recipe for you to use. Save those dried out corn tortillas!
Ingredients you’ll need
Old corn tortillas, but you can use fresh as well!
Red, brown or white onion, whatever you have in your pantry
2 nice, big aussie garlic cloves
1 blanched and skinned tomato OR
2 tablespoons tomato paste and 1/4 cup water
salt to taste
2-3 beaten eggs for every 4 tortillas (optional: see note)
feta cheese OR
romano cheese if you don’t like feta
a paper bag
a comal or cast iron skillet you can toast your jalapeños on
Start by heating up your comal or hot plate and begin toasting the jalapeños. Make sure you rotate them frequently to get all sides nice and even until they look like the photo on the right or you can even go a little longer depending on how much flavour you want.
Pop them into a paper bag and let them steam in there for about 10 minutes. Have a special cutting board set aside just for prepping hot chillies or you risk adding a bit of spice to anything you cut on that board in the future. There shouldn’t be too much risk as jalapeños are relatively mild, but if you have a delicate palette, be warned! If you want to be extra careful, use gloves when handling the chillies so you don’t risk cross contamination the next time you touch your eye or … well I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. I’ve had it all happen. Milk on standby.
Once the jalapeños are done in their sauna, take them out and with a sharp paring knife, cut a circle into the skin around near the stem at the top. This will make it easier for you to grasp the thin membranous skin that should now peel off very easily. What you should be left with is a clean, naked jalapeño. Repeat this process for all the jalapeños you’re preparing. When done, cut off the stems and discard along with the skins. Make a slice down the body of the pepper and de-seed and de-vein. If you like more heat, though, leave them in! My grandfather used to insist on whoever was making his salsas to grind the seeds and add them in for extra heat!
Toss the prepared jalapeños into your blender with the garlic and small/medium sized onion and your skinned tomato. If you don’t have one on hand, you can used some tomato paste and a little water. Blend well! If it’s not blending well, put in a splash of more water. Add a pinch of salt.
A warning, if you’re not sure how much heat you can take, start with blending one jalapeño and taste and take it from there. If you’ve added one and it’s just too much, add more tomato to make it milder. You may have to adjust your other ingredients accordingly. If you know how much heat you can take, ignore this!
Once your salsa is made, set aside. Break or tear your tortillas up into quarters or sixths. You don’t want them too much smaller than what’s shown. Tortilla chip/bite size is what you’re after. Heat a large cast iron skillet and add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Once it’s hot, add the tortilla chips and toast until they’re golden brown. This should take several minutes. Keep turning them to ensure an even browning. If you’ve decided to use fresh corn tortillas, fry them in oil until golden, but not browned.
This next step is optional, but I really like the addition. Add your beaten eggs and coat the tortillas. Once the egg is coated and cooked, add your salsa and combine well.
This part smells AMAZING.
Once they’re cooked to your satisfaction, turn off the heat and serve.
Top with a very dry and crumbly feta or romano if you’re not a fan of feta, cilantro/coriander and sliced avocados. Drizzle some crème fraîche on top. Or lime juice. Usual sides include refried beans and fried eggs. It is a breakfast food, but you don’t have to follow those rules. I don’t. I’m an adult now. I can make these decisions. So can you.
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)
Mole Poblano is a sauce. It’s spicy, it’s chocolatey, it can be mild or hot depending on how you prepare it. It’s also one of my hubby’s favourite dishes and the dish most associated with Mexico.
Mole Poblano comes in little glass jars.* I used to be scared of things that came in little glass jars because I thought there was too much effort and difficulty involved in making something out of them.
Let me demystify these little glass jars for you!
Mole Poblano Sauce
Ingredients you’ll need:
Jar of Mole
Chicken or vegetable stock cube
Cream or sour cream
1/4-1/2 cup raw sugar
Once you open this little jar of magic, you’ll notice there’s a layer of oil coating the top. This doesn’t go in your sauce, though if a little gets in, it’s fine. It’s there to act as a preservative and to keep the paste, well, pasty. It’s sort of like adding olive oil to the top of opened containers of tomato paste so mould doesn’t grow on it. (I just learned that, how cool is that trick?!) Anyway, it may take a bit of effort to get a spoon in there and gouge some out. The oil is messy, btw. Don’t wear white while making this.
Pop some in a saucepan. The amount I have shown will make enough for 2 dishes and then some, depending on how much of it you want smothering your food. I like it suffocating.
Put it on the range with the smallest flame and set it to low. Add enough water to cover the bottom of your saucepan and add a chicken or vegetable stock cube. Massel brand is great and gluten-free. With a wooden spoon, as the saucepan heats, mash the mole paste so it starts to dissolve and incorporates the water. Add more water if it’s too thick or you think it’s going to burn. Once the water and stock is incorporated, you should have a nicely thick paste. From here, you’ll add the sour cream. Add anywhere between half a cup to a cup or more, depending on your taste. I’ve added about 3/4 of a cup of sour cream to mine. Then add about 1/3rd a cup of raw sugar and keep stirring until everything has dissolved. Taste. Is it too spicy? Add more cream. Not sweet enough? Add more sugar a tablespoon at a time.
What you should have now is a rich smelling, nicely thick, chocolatey, spicy yet mild and delicious mole poblano sauce. Serve it on top of cooked chicken, either breast or pieces and/or by itself on top of refried beans and Spanish rice for a vegetarian delight (with the vegetable stock instead of chicken stock cubes.) Top with sesame seeds, avocado slices, fresh cilantro (coriander) and thin slices of onion. You can top it with even more sour cream as well should you desire to. Stir it around. Combine flavours. Experiment. Live a little.
*Note: Okay, Mole Poblano doesn’t ALWAYS come in glass jars, but there are over a dozen ingredients that need to be roasted, prepped, ground together in a molcajete that it’s easier to buy the glass jar that has everything in perfect proportions already.
Tacos in general are traditionally made with corn tortillas. One nice thing about the corn tortilla is it’s naturally gluten free. Please check your labels to be sure. Some companies put weird ingredients in everything.
If you’ve tried corn tortillas and haven’t liked them before, like my mother-in-law, try using them in different ways. I’ll show you how and hopefully convert you! If my mother-in-law can be converted, anyone can. I take this as proof that miracles can happen.
A pack of corn tortillas found in the “ethnic” food aisle at your local major grocery store or at the specialty stores located on my Where to Buy page. Please, don’t get the Old El Paso brand, the home brand is actually better.
Actually, while I’m at it, please don’t buy Old El Paso anything. Have I mentioned how much I loathe baked enchiladas? No wait, I take that back. The only thing you may buy from Old El Paso are their jarred, sliced jalapeños. Ha-la-pen-yoes. Say it with me.
Chicken breast chunks seasoned in granulated garlic, cumin and pepper and “dry fried” in lemon juice (instead of oil.)
Light sour cream and cheese optional, but tasty.
1. Cut your chicken breasts into small to medium sized chunks and dry fry in your preferred seasonings and lemon juice. It doesn’t need to be fried in oil because it doesn’t need the extra fat. Like my hips. I like granulated garlic, it’s different from garlic powder which is awful, ground cumin and pepper. When just cooked, put in a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat a large cast iron fry pan on medium-high heat and coat the bottom liberally with vegetable oil. Please don’t skimp on this part or your tacos will not be crispy, only toasted.
3. With frying tongs, put in your first corn tortilla and coat in oil.
4. Flip after a few seconds, when soft. This is so that they’re pliable enough to fold without breaking.
5. Add some of the cooked chicken in a row, just off center so there’s room to fold.
6. Fold and repeat until your pan can’t hold anymore.
7. When one side is crisp, flip with your tongs and fry the other side until also crisp.
8. When both sides are adequately crispy, remove with tongs onto a serving plate with a few paper towels spread over it to drain the excess oil away. Be careful when flipping or removing, the juices from the chicken, when dripped into the oil in the pan can bubble and splash hot oil onto your hands. You’ll probably need to give your stove a wipe down after as well. I never promised they wouldn’t be messy, just easy. Like Al’s mum.
9. Repeat until you’ve made as many tacos as you need for dinner. Two medium chicken breasts should make 10-12 tacos.
When they’re all done, add cheese and sour cream if using, add your shredded lettuce and douse with Tapatio or your favourite hot sauce. But really, you should be using Tapatio. They’ll stay crisp through dinner, but should be eaten straight away.
Other topping ideas: If you don’t want to go the cheese and sour cream route, you can add a fresh tomato salsa, a salsa verde, black beans or pinto beans, diced radishes, jalapeños, cilantro/coriander with fresh onion and lime juice or any combination of these so they never get boring. If you want to use something else besides chicken, try some mince beef with the same seasoning or make some carnitas.
That’s it! Invite some friends over, crack open your favourite dark ale and enjoy!
I’ve seen and tasted some absolutely SHOCKING salsas in Melbourne. There’s no need for it to be difficult or tinned or jarred EVER. It’s so simple and is one of the freshest recipes I know.
I’ve had local friends repeatedly tell me this is the best salsa they have ever tasted. Once you try this, you will NEVER buy that salt and preservative riddled awfulness available in stores and food chains.
4 tomatoes of your choice (I like roma for this salsa)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 medium white onion, finely diced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp granulated garlic
juice from 2 fresh limes (or equivalent amount from a lemon if you don’t have limes)
1/2 bunch cilantro (coriander), fresh, chopped coarsely
3 tbsp white vinegar
however many diced pickled jalapeño slices depending on desired heat
salt to taste
Blanch and peel skins off tomatoes. (Place in boiling water for a few minutes, then immerse in an ice water bath to shock the tomatoes making the skin easy to peel off.) Dice tomatoes into chunks and place in your bowl. Finely mince half a medium white onion and add to bowl. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, a few shakes of cumin and granulated garlic. Add the juice from two fresh limes or lemons. Coarsely chop some fresh cilantro (coriander) and add. Add about 3 tablespoons white vinegar, and dice as many jalapeños as you want for the amount of heat you’re aiming for. (Add 3 diced jalapeño slices for mild.) Salt to taste.
Other elements can be added for depth of flavour. If you find something you absolutely love, I’d love to hear what it is!
Good by itself with tortilla chips. (Not Doritos! Mission have a really good salted tortilla chip that’s excellent with this salsa.) Also good as an ingredient in burritos, tacos or with rice and beans.
Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish and is a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine. They’re usually cooked and rendered in their own fat. They’re also delicious and so easy!
1.5 kg pork shoulder or rump
cold water to just cover
2 teaspoons salt and cumin to taste
A large cast iron pan or heavy pot
Choose a piece of pork that has a decent amount of fat on it so that it will brown properly on its own. If the piece you have is lean, you can put a little bit of vegetable oil into the pan (as opposed to lard.)
If there is skin, remove that. Cut the meat fat and all, into slightly larger than bite-sized chunks. Cover the meat with water (not too much to start, just enough to cover) in a seasoned deep cast iron pan (making this dish a few times will season a new cast iron pan well.) Add the salt and cumin and bring to boil uncovered.
Lower the heat to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the water has evaporated — between 1-2 hours, depending on the size of your pan. By this time the meat should be cooked, but not falling apart. If the meat is still hard when the water has evaporated, add more water and continue cooking until tender.
Once tender, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the meat until all the fat has cooked down. Keep turning the meat until it’s browned. It will almost look crispy. This will take another hour.
You now have carnitas! Good whole or shred by hand once cooked and add to tacos, burritos or by themselves. They’re delicious with any combination of the following accompaniments: lemon or lime juice, fresh diced onion, sliced radishes, salsa, guacamole or avocado slices, jalapeño and/or chopped cilantro (coriander) in a heated corn tortilla taco.
Carnitas taco shown with frijoles, guacamole and a tomato salsa containing diced onion, cilantro, jalapeños.
The word frijoles means beans in Spanish. Now, we’ve all heard the schoolyard melody;
Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel. So let’s have beans with every meal!
Beans are delicious, but let’s face it, they make for noisy seconds. (See: blog title) Usually. Unless you know the trick my mother taught me. Once they’ve come to a boil for several minutes, throw out the first boil, add more water and continue to cook until done. Bam. Gas-less beans! (Or close to. Some people can’t be helped.)
I haven’t found that pinto beans are easy to come by in Melbourne, but I do know of two places where you can get them easily. I’ve seen them occasionally at the Queen Vic Markets at the dry legumes stall closest to Victoria St. and also in Murrumbeena at Oasis Bakery.
My pride and joy tool for cooking beans is my bean pot–bought in Mexico by my parents and given to me as a gift just after I was married.
Don’t be afraid to cook beans from their dry form. They taste better and have less salt than the refried canned slop in the international food aisles in grocery stores.
My recipe for refried beans will (hopefully) make you never want to buy store-bought bean dip again!
1 cup pinto beans
ground cumin to taste
granulated garlic to taste
salt to taste
1/2 cup milk
ceramic bean pot or equivalent (small/durable stock pot)
strainer or slotted spoonvegetable masher
large cast iron skillet
Fill your pot with 1 cup of pinto beans and the rest water and heat on medium. Once they have begun to boil, strain the beans and rinse. Put back in the pot and refill with water. The best way to cook them is on low for a couple hours. Check and stir your pot every little while to make sure they still have plenty of water covering them. Burnt bean smells are horrible! You’ll know they’re ready by their tenderness and peeling skins. In my bean pot, depending on your heat, they should be done anywhere from 2 hours.
Have your cast iron skillet and slotted spoon ready. Heat to medium/hot and then add 1/2 cup oil to start. Refried beans are pretty oil-hungry, but at least you’re in control of how much goes in. Begin straining the beans from the pot into the pan with the slotted spoon until they’re all in and let fry whole for a minute. Then begin mashing. If they feel too dry, add more oil. Remember, they should be a watery paste. You can also add milk and some of the water from the bean pot in lieu of more oil. Continue mashing until all the beans are mashed. If they still feel too dry, add more oil, milk or bean-water. Season with salt, garlic and cumin to taste. If it still tastes grainy, it needs more oil. The final product should be a smooth tasting paste. If it’s too watery, keep it on the heat and reduce until desired consistency is achieved. Keep in mind that they will thicken a little once they begin to cool.
Serve immediately. Freeze for several weeks or refrigerate and consume within a few days.
(For more flavour, you can cook a ham hock with the beans in the pot. Just remove before mashing, then shred, add and mix once the refried beans are done. Or shred the pork and eat with the beans whole!)
Dish ideas with refried beans.
Refried beans are delicious in burritos, naked burritos, tacos, as a side for enchiladas, on tostadas or toast with slices of avocado or parmesan cheese or a crumbly feta sprinkled on top, mixed with spanish rice or by themselves!