Bringing some Mexico to England… well sort of. By Hilary

Tuesday, 5April, 2011

Bringing some Mexico to England… well sort of. By Hilary

by beckerich

Post image for Bringing some Mexico to England… well sort of.  By Hilary

I lived in California for 10 years of my adult life. Basically my entire 30’s and then some.  About  7 years in Los Angeles and 4 years in San Francisco.  When I moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco I missed the authentic Mexican food.  I’m not saying it’s still not damn good in San Francisco but what you miss there is the taco trucks on every corner and under bridges.  You miss the music of Mexico bursting out of every other car stereo as you drive down the sunny streets.  Los Angeles is right on Mexico’s doorstep so the only way to actually beat the authenticity of Mexican food in LA is to travel across the border.  Which I did often.

Now that I’m living in England I’m ashamed at my snubbing of the Mexican food in San Francisco.  Because you know what I miss now more than anything as I look out my window to this grey sky??  Well… hmm… wait a minute.   Besides the ocean, the warm days and the sun… sigh.  Let me rephrase.  The one thing I miss the most but that I can actually do something about.  There, that’s better.  Yep, you guessed it.  Wouldn’t take a genius.  I miss Mexican food!!!  Authentic Mexican food.  I miss mole sauce and corn tortillas, Mexican cheese, tomatillos, salsa and the horchatas.  I could go on and on, and on and on.

So last week, with spring in the air, a sliver of sun in the sky and more than 5 hours of daylight I started to get inspired.  I thought, “Well then, Im going to take matters into my own hands! This white girl is going to make some authentic Mexican food.”

Easier said than done.  First on the list of problems?  No corn tortillas on this entire island.  Not a one.  But hark! There is the internet and though this may not be the most sustainable way to get me my Mexican food, I’m going to order Masa Harina (flour used to make tortillas), a tortilla press, some canned tomatillos and some dried black beans.  That should get me started.  I found this great place on-line in the UK and miracle upon miracles it was all delivered to my home on the farm in the middle of a small English village the next day.  Bless the internet.  http://www.mexgrocer.co.uk/  And as my foodie friend from http://www.lovefood.nl/ in Amsterdam found out, they also deliver to the Netherlands!!

I decided the first thing I needed to master was the hand-made corn tortilla.  I found this great video on-line that really helped me.  If your interested in making these yourself this is great video.  No words or recipe on the video but it’s a great demo.  Plus I like the music on it! I will include the recipe below.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDegTyqL55o

So here we go!!

As you will see, the only thing authentic about my day was the corn tortilla.  The whole tofu kale thingie I ended up eating would be quite a disappointment to any good Mexican woman. But hey… it’s a start, and I did wrap everything up in the corn tortilla and douse it with Cholula sauce if that counts for anything!

The Corn Tortilla

Step 1:  Mix the water in a bowl and knead for about 5 minutes.  It should feel soft, slightly sticky and smooth.  Cover with a damp cloth until you are ready to use.

Step 2:  Roll a portion of the dough into a small ball (about the size of a golf ball). Place it on one half of a polythene bag (or plastic wrap) and press the ball a bit flat.  Now cover with the other piece of polythene and use a rolling-pin to flatten round.  Should be about 1 to 2 mm thick.

If you have a tortilla press handy as I did (for only £13 from the internet… yay!) you roll the ball, place it in-between two pieces of cling film or polythene and press (see pics below).

Step 3:  Heat a large, heavy bottomed frying pan or griddle.  Peel the tortilla carefully from the polythene and place in the dry pan.  Cook until the tortilla changes color and slighty puffs up.  When it has taken a bit of color on one side turn it over and cook on the other side.

Step 4:  Keep the tortillas warm by wrapping them in foil and keeping them on low in the oven until ready to serve as you do not want to serve these cold!

I was surprised at how easy these were to make though after the assembly line of golf balls of dough, polythene, press then cook I was ready to leave the kitchen. Of course I was hungry so make a quick and healthy vegan Mexican lunch for myself.

Tofu tacos with blanched kale and a green salad served with a sesame and balsamic dressing.

Tofu

There is no real recipe here to be honest.  I used what I had in my house and sautéed it together with the tofu then added turmeric for color at the end.

Rinse and pat additional water out of tofu.  To do this I wrap my block of tofu in a tea towel, put my heaviest pan on top of it and prep my other vegetables.

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1 leek

1 small onion

1 handful of mushrooms

1 tsp of turmeric

1 package of tofu, cubed

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the olive oil for about 5 minutes then add the leeks and mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes then add the tofu.  Saute for about another 5 minutes and add the turmeric.  Saute for a few more minutes until the tofu gets a bit crunchy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Kale

Remove the kale leaves from the stem, chop then rinse in cold water.  Blanch for one minute in hot water, drain and serve.

Sesame and balsamic dressing

Note:  this recipe is taken from my new favorite cook book “Mexican Food Made Easy” by Thomasina Miers

Ingredients

1 tsp cane sugar ( I used Agave)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Juice of 1/2 lime

6 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

Mix well.  If using cane sugar you will need to mix the sugar, mustard and some salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar or in a jam jar.  Mix until the sugar has dissolved, then add in the oils.

Home-made Tortillas

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rach April 6, 2011 at 11:28 am

There is nothing like fresh corn tortillas, they’re just incomporable. I press mine out with the bottom of a cast iron pan – nowhere near as good as a proper tortilla press, but it’s a good stopgap measure.

Do try using a slit open zip loc bag instead of clingwrap next time you make tortillas – I find they release more easily, and the thicker plastic can withstand more pressings.

I can’t wait to try your tofu version!

Reply

beckerich April 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hi Rach!

Thanks for the tip. I have to make them this weekend and wont have my press with me. Going to make sure I’ve got a good ole zip lock bag with me and use my friends cast iron pan!

- Hilary

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briarrose April 18, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Yummy…I’ve never tried making corn tortillas before….I’m a little too addicted to the flour. ;)

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The Mistress of Spices April 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm

From a fellow American expat living in Europe (Paris)….I sure do miss my Mexican food too! Just got a tortilla press and some masa harina on my last trip to the States, I can’t wait to make some tortillas! You make it sound easy!

Reply

Tom July 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

The cheapest masa harina seems to be found at Coolchile – 5kg for £10.50, but there’s also a delivery fee. Mexgrocer sells good corn tortillas, 30 for £2.95, both the white for folding and the yellow for frying. They’re good for making chips. When I visited Texas in March I bought some dried white corn from a Mexican market and will be experimenting with making fresh masa soon.

It’s so true that Mexican food in the UK is hugely disappointing. It doesn’t help that the companies trying to establish a market here are introducing products that bear no resemblence to real Mexican food. I even read on the Discovery Foods website “In the UK we prefer the wheat-flour tortilla”. Perhaps they should give people an opportunity to try an alternative before drawing any conclusions! Gruma (the Mexican company who makes Maseca) is introducing some new Mission products in August but I wouldn’t hold my breath that it will be in any way authentic. You can find cartons of soaked black beans in Sainsburys, btw. It only takes me a few minutes to make refried beans now with a potato masher!

If you get an opportunity visit Mestizo in London. It’s a restaurant which I believe also owns Mexgrocer. They’re real Mexicans and the food is probably the best we can hope for in the UK at this point.

Reply

beckerich July 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Hi Tom!

Thank you so much for all the info! I love Mexgrocer and will absolutely check out Mestizo. Can’t believe I have not found that place yet here! Im ashamed of myself ;)

All the best,
Hilary

Reply

Mexican Food Fan February 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

I’m just starting with Mexican food, so I’m definately going to follow your corn tortillas recipe – looks simple enough – here’s hoping!

Reply

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