Sunday, April 14, 2024

Throw a Fiesta! THE best Quesadilla, Tortilla, Salsa & Guacamole Recipes…

Thinking of throwing a Mexican fiesta? Luckily, we have an expert on hand.

Rosa Cienfuegos travelled the length and breadth of her homeland to bring Mexico’s most beloved snacks, tacos, tortas and tamales together in her new book, Comida Mexicana. From the vibrant streets of Mexico City, to tucked-away villages and tranquil coastal towns, each region and every family has their favourite dish and a story to tell.

Here, Rosa shares a few of her favourites!

FRIED QUESADILLAS / QUESADILLAS FRITAS

Fresh, greasy and filled with Oaxaca cheese or your favourite filling, quesadillas fritas are off-the-scale delicious, yet are surprisingly easy to make. I love eating these delicious morsels as much as I love making them. It reminds me of being back in kindergarten getting my hands messy with playdough.

I recommend using white or yellow masa flour as the hot oil brings out the rich flavour of the masa, giving you a heavenly aftertaste with every quesadilla.

Makes 10

  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 10 freshly made 11 cm corn tortillas (recipe below or use store-bought corn tortillas)
  • 500g oaxaca cheese or firm mozzarella, grated

To serve

  • shredded iceberg lettuce
  • cotija or fresco cheese, crumbled
  • salsa verde (recipe below)
  • coriander leaves
  • lime wedges
  1. Heat enough vegetable oil for deep-frying in a large heavy-based saucepan or deep-fryer to 180°C on a kitchen thermometer.
  2. Working with one tortilla at a time, scatter 50 g of the cheese over the tortilla, then fold the tortilla in half to seal.
  3. Carefully lower the quesadilla into the hot oil and cook, flipping frequently, for 2 minutes or until light golden. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and cheese to make 10 quesadillas.
  4. Top the quesadillas with shredded lettuce, a sprinkling of crumbled cheese, a spoon of salsa verde and a few coriander leaves. Serve with lime wedges.

POTATO QUESADILLAS / PAPADILLAS

Papadillas can be found throughout Mexico, although the name may vary from state to state. Deep-fried and topped with lettuce and salsa, papadillas are a delicious vegetarian garnacha that will leave you licking your fingers after every bite.

MAKES 10

  • 200g small all-purpose potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • vegetable oil for cooking
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 5 fresh jalapeno, serrano or cayenne chillies, chopped
  • 10 freshly made 11 cm corn tortillas, warmed (recipe below)

TO SERVE

  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Salsa verde (recipe below)
  • Guacamole (recipe below)
  • Cotija or fresco cheese, crumbled
  • Coriander leaves
  1. Place the whole potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium–high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
  2. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl, then mash them with the salt. You can peel them if you like, but I don’t bother.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until softened.
  4. Add the onion mixture to the mashed potato and gently combine.
  5. Make a papadilla by adding 50 g of the potato mixture to the base of a warm tortilla and folding it in half. Use a tooth pick to secure the quesadilla if it keeps opening up.
  6. Heat 1 cm of oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat and add the papadilla. Cook for 1–2 minutes or until the base is crisp, then gently flip and cook the other side until crisp.
  7. Drain the papadilla on a plate lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 10 papadillas.
  8. Serve the papadillas with shredded lettuce, salsa verde, guacamole, crumbled cheese and a few coriander leaves and don’t forget to remove the toothpicks!
Rosa Cienfuegos

ADDITIONAL RECIPES TO SERVE

TORTILLAS – Makes about 20 corn tortillas

There is no doubt that handmade tortillas are far superior to store-bought versions, plus they are fun to make. They also enable you to use yellow, white or blue masa flour. Even though nixtamal (the process of soaking and cooking corn in limewater) is the traditional and most authentic way to make masa, it’s very labour-intensive. Store-bought masa is absolutely fine to use and the results are pretty much the same. You will need a tortilla press to make tortillas. You can easily pick one up at your local Latin American supermarket or online.

  • 500 g masa flour
  • 600 ml warm water
  • Pinch table salt
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • vegetable oil spray for cooking
  1. Combine the masa, warm water, salt and oil in a bowl until you have a soft and non-sticky dough.
  2. Lightly spray a comal or heavy-based frying pan with oil spray and place over medium–high heat.
  3. Place a square of plastic wrap over the bottom half of a tortilla press. To make 16 cm tortillas, roll 50 g of the dough into a ball and place it in the middle of the tortilla press. Cover with another square of plastic wrap (this stops the dough sticking to the press), then close the tortilla press and gently press to flatten the dough into a 3 mm thick tortilla. If you are making 11 cm tortillas, reduce the quantity of dough to 35 g for each tortilla.
  4. Open the tortilla press, remove the top layer of plastic wrap and flip the tortilla onto your hand.
  5. Remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap and place the tortilla in the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip over and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Transfer the tortilla to a tortilla warmer or folded tea towel and repeat with the remaining dough, using more oil spray as needed.

SALSA VERDE / GREEN SALSA – Makes about 250 ml (1 cup)

Salsas are one of the most important accompaniments in Mexican cuisine, and salsa verde is probably the most popular, with its the tangy flavour of green tomatillos mixed with fresh chilli. It’s also my  favourite salsa.

Fresh tomatillos are one of the ingredients Mexican expats miss most, but tinned tomatillos are readily available and are nearly as good. You will find them at Latin American supermarkets or online.

  • 300g fresh or tinned tomatillos
  • 10 green chillies, such as jalapeno, serrano or long, roughly chopped
  • ½ white onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 100 g coriander leaves, finely chopped
  1. If you are lucky enough to find fresh tomatillos, remove the husks and thoroughly wash the fruit. If using tinned tomatillos, drain and rinse them. Roughly chop the tomatillos.
  2. Heat a comal or heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the tomatillos, chillli and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until charred on all sides.
  3. Place the charred tomatillos, onion and chilli in a mortar or blender and add the garlic, salt and 250 ml (1 cup) water. Pound with a pestle or blend the ingredients to a chunky salsa. Stir through the coriander and transfer to a serving bowl.

GUACAMOLE – Makes 500g

When I was a child, I remember my dad loved to eat guacamole and chicharron rolled up in a taco. Now, of course, guacamole is everywhere, most commonly eaten as a dip with tortilla chips. It’s actually extremely easy to make; it just depends on the avocados you use. In Mexico, we are lucky enough to have a huge variety of avocados at our disposal, but outside of the country there is less choice. I recommend using hass or fuerte avocados, as they are large, creamy and easy to peel.

  • 5 ripe avocados (the bigger the better)
  • 15 g table salt
  • 3 green chillies, such as jalapeno, serrano or cayenne, finely chopped
  • 100 g coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Gently mash the avocado in a bowl and stir through the remaining ingredients. Your guacamole is ready!
  2. Guacamole is best eaten on the day it is made, as the avocado will start to discolour once peeled, but if you do have leftovers it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 1–2 days.

Recipes extracted from Comida Mexicana by Rosa Cienfuegos, published by Smith Street Books, RRP$55.

Photography © Alicia Taylor, Food Stylist © Deborah Kaloper

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