Mexican Tostadas

Finally this week, I have been focused on Mexico. I think it just must just be the sort of vegetables that are in season right now – cherry tomatoes, chillies. sweetcorn, avocadoes and chard all lend themselves handsomely to Mexican flavours and as sweet potatoes appear back in the boxes, I am sure I will be making a whole lot more. Mexican food may at first seem complicated but the essence of it is a selection of fillings which pretty much always comprise of a few staple ingredients – meat or vegetables with chilli (a huge assortment), black beans, re-fried beans, avocados, lime, sweetcorn, cheese, sour cream, queso fresco, salsa of some sort and coriander. These can be put together in any combination of your choice. Then there is the choice of vessel.
I decided to make Tostadas which are little, fried corn tortillas. You can do this quite simply yourself by buying ready made all corn tortillas but if you wished you can make your own. There is a recipe in Thomasina Mier’s book Mexican Food At Home but beware – it does require the purchase of Masa Harina flour, unless you already have some in the store cupboard.
If you didn’t fancy Tosdadas, which just happen to be my particular favourite when we occasionally visit to Wahaca, the following recipes would make equally tasty fillings for a Burrito, Taco or a Quesadilla, maybe with a little extra cheese.

 
To make the Tostasas
All corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
Lay the corn tortillas flat stacking them neatly on top of each other and using a pastry cutter, about 8 cms, cut three stacks of rounds. If you trim up what you are left with, you should have perfect shape for Tortilla chips. Heat about 200ml of oil in a shallow frying pan until it is sizzling hot (you can test it with a piece of off-cut tortilla – the oil should really sizzle when it goes in) and fry them in the hot oil until crispy and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Fry the Tortilla chips the same way and serve with the salsa or avocado dip.

Chard and sweetcorn

Swiss Chard and Smoky Pan-Toasted Sweetcorn
Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn
1 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of smoked chipotle chilli
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 handful red, yellow or green chard
Pinch of smoked chipotle chilli
Sea salt
Cut the sweetcorn from the cobs. Do this by first removing the husks and then top and tail each cob to give it a secure base and cut each one in half. (As in photo)

Removing corn kernals

Stand each piece upright and using a sharp knife cut downwards releasing the individual kernals. Heat a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a little oil and the corn kernels and cook, shaking the pan and stirring, until the kernels brown, about 5 minutes. Be careful because the corn can pop. Season with salt and add the chilli and smoked paprika. Shake well and remove corn from the heat.

Steamed Chard

If the chard has a large stalks (this is not usually the case early in the season) separate the chard stalks from the leaves and chop both leaves and stalks roughly, keeping them separate. Add the stalks to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes and then add the leaves as well and blanch briefly. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to cool. When cool use the tea towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the garlic into very thin slithers. Heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until just turning light golden brown. Add the Chard and season with salt and mix well. Fry briefly and remove from the heat. Add the corn and stir through and check the seasoning. I like these topped with sour cream.

Cherry Tomato and Black Beans Salsa

Cherry Tomato, Black Bean and Coriander Salsa
8 ripe cherry tomatoes
½ tin of black beans (drained)
2 spring onions
1 lime
Small bunch of coriander
1 – 2 small fresh red chilli
Sea salt
A glug of extra virgin olive oil

Cut your tomatoes into quarters and chuck them in a bowl. Finely shred the spring onions and add them. Squeeze the juice from the lime and add ½ to the tomatoes with a good pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Roughly chop the coriander and add that two. Remove the seeds from the chilli and finely chop. Add ½ to begin with. Stir in the beans well and check seasoning. It should have a good kick, so if it is too mild add more chilli. Add move lime or olive oil to taste. Top with creamed avocado.

Creamed Avocado
This is simply Guacamole without all the ingredients. Since the same ingredients are in the salsa, there is no need to add them twice. I especially omit the chilli as the salsa should have more than enough. The avocado topping is there to cool your mouth down.

1 avocado (perfectly ripe)
Juice of ½ a lime
Tbsp. of sour cream
Handful of coriander, washed, drained and finely chopped
Sea salt.

Mash up the avocado until completely smooth. Add the lime, sour cream and finely chopped coriander. Add salt to taste.

Beetroot Tostadas

Beetroot, Cumin Seed, Sour Cream and Coriander with Feta
This one is not strictly Mexican. In fact I have no idea if they have beetroot in Mexico. However I just felt that these Mexican flavours go so well with beetroot, I had to try it and I was really pleased with the results.
Most Mexican recipes call for queso fresco, which literally means fresh cheese. It is hard to find in England unless you make your own but feta cheese is a good substitute.

1 large beetroot
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 tbsp sour cream
Large handful of coriander, washed, drained and finely chopped (save a few extra leaves for decorating.)
100g feta

Pre-heat oven to 180⁰C. Wash the beetroot and trim of the tops and tail. Wrap it well in tin foil and put in the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. A skewer or knife should insert and pull out again without any effort. Allow to cool until you can handle. Slip off the skins with your hands. (You can wear disposable gloves if you have any.) Finely dice the beetroot and put in a bowl with the cumin seeds, sour cream and coriander. Season well with salt and taste. Serve with crumbled feta and a few extra coriander leaves.

Washed Chard

Braised Summer Greens with Pulled Ham Hock, Broad Beans, Peas & Lentils

I am very excited about peas in salads at the moment, especially baby fresh, uncooked ones. They are like a little crunchy explosion in your mouth. My pea harvest at my allotment has been particularly good this year and some have even managed to make it to the table. In past years the entire harvest has gone straight in the kids mouths. Anyway, back to this week’s box – summer greens and broad beans to use up, I came up with this rather successful recipe. Not quite salad, not quite a side, not quite soup, we ate it as a main and it was very enjoyable. As always with my recipes, it is easily adaptable and any greens would do including chard, kale or any sort of cabbage. You may have to adapt the cooking of the greens with a tougher variety of green such as kale but this method of cooking greens with olive oil and garlic is my favourite and is delicious just on its own.

I am a great fan of ready pulled ham hock. Although I know it is an easy enough to make your own and you end up with all that lovely ham stock, anything that saves a little time in the kitchen, helps. You can now buy it quite readily from good supermarkets or indeed, Riverford do their own.

When it comes to lentils for salads the ones from Le Puy in France are the most superior. They hold their shape and texture far the best and although you may see cheap imitations they are never as good. Merchant & Gourmand stock some fine ones and although they also do a ready cooked variety they are never as good as cooking them yourself.

With the weather as it is this June it is hard to know whether you want to eat salad or soup – well, this recipe really can be either, add some lettuce and you have a salad, add some stock and you have soup. I am always amazed how much the two can have in common.

Braised Summer Greens with Lentils, Broad Beans etc

Braised Summer Greens with Pulled Ham Hock, Broad Beans, Peas & Lentils

1 packet of summer greens

100g of cooked broad beans (boiling water for 2 minutes and refresh in cold)

A handful of fresh shelled peas or frozen

50g Puy lentils

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced

1 packet pulled ham hock

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shred the spring greens finely and wash well. Do not remove too much of the water. Put the lentils in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and cook gently for about 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain off some of the water, but not all. Stir in the mustard and add a glug of good olive oil and season with salt to taste, whilst they are still warm. Heat a large saucepan with a good glug of olive oil. Add the very thinly sliced garlic and cook until the garlic is golden brown. Add the greens and sauté for a few minutes until the greens are tender. Season with salt to taste. Meanwhile shell the peas and slip the broad beans out of their skins. Mix the lentils with the greens and the ham hock. Check seasoning. Heap into bowls and scatter with peas and broad beans and serve.

Broad beand shelled

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

Finally for this week a warming soup, because although it is June, I am absolutely freezing! I love this soup because along with some nice lovely fresh bread, it is a meal in itself and it is so easy to make. You start by roasting the veg in the oven and there is none of the usual hours of chopping. Just roughly cut up the veg, chuck it in the oven and before you know it, it is done. I often cook this for Simon’s SuperClubs or for Riverford lunches because it is so simple and so tasty.

Ingredients for Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

3 or 4 Ramiro Peppers

2 Red onions (peeled & quartered)

4 cloves of garlic (peeled)

1 Fresh red chilli

3 tsp. ground cumin

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tin chickpeas

Small bunch coriander (roughly chopped)

1 to 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a saucepan. Cover with water, but only just. Add the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the coriander. Using a hand-blender whizz up the soup into a puree. If necessary let it down with some more water to get the correct consistency and adjust the seasoning to taste. It should be quite spicy. Serve hot, swirled with some yoghurt to cut the heat.

Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup 2