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Archive for the ‘USA Tex-Mex & Mexican Style’ Category

This lovely combination of cold chicken and vegetables dressed in a spicy yoghurt mayonnaise and served with hot rice, makes a perfect light but spicy dish for a warm summer evening.  We enjoyed it so much I took the recipe on holiday with me, along with some tomato relish plus little packet containing the spices I needed and then made it in our holiday caravan in the French alps.  (I am always looking for straightforward and quick to prepare holiday recipes, after all it’s my break too!)  The finished dish looks very pretty and would be an attractive addition for a buffet, perhaps as an alternative to the much sweeter Coronation Chicken.  A small portion, perhaps on a bed of lettuce with little or no rice, would make a delicious starter.
Update 6.2.11:  I made this recipe as part of a buffet in a quantity that would serve 50 people.

The recipe came from one of my favourite cookbooks and probably one of my best charity shop finds: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.  Ideally this would be a good use for cold meat left over from a roast.  As I had none I gently pre-cooked some lightly seasoned chicken thighs in a small saucepan along with a little olive oil and some finely chopped onion, allowed them to cool and removed the flesh in strips.  This was then used to finish the recipe. One ingredient that I dispensed with was onion purée.  I certainly was not going to buy a ready made version, if I could find some, as it would be so easy to make myself, but it was rather a lot of work for such a small amount.  In the end I simply gently cooked half a finely chopped small onion in the microwave. On subsequent occasions I have used a good tablespoon of my own home made Spicy Tomato Relish in place of the onion, tomato puree, chilli powder and cayenne pepper, just adding the paprika.  The relish includes a little apple and sugar, making it slightly sweeter, but it was enjoyed by all and I will make it this way in future.  If using tomato relish in the recipe chilli and cayenne can still be added to taste for lovers of spicy food but less will be needed than in the original recipe.  In my version I have also adjusted the proportions of other ingredients, including doubling the quantity of sweetcorn and adding an extra pepper in a different colour.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mexican Style Chicken Salad
(Serves 6)

450g/1lb poached chicken, breast or meat from thighs, cut into small pieces
140ml/¼pint mayonnaise (more if you wish) – not salad cream
140ml/¼pint natural yoghurt (more if you wish)
1tsp paprika
3 medium peppers, seeded & finely sliced: suggest one each red, orange & green
½ x 325g tin sweetcorn, drained (but more if you wish)
a little paprika to garnish
1tbsp Spicy Tomato Relish
or
1tsp chilli powder
pinch cayenne pepper
½tsp tomato purée
1tsp onion purée

1. a.If using the chicken thighs lightly season them and gently cook in a small saucepan with a little olive oil and some finely chopped onion.  When cooked thoroughly, leave to cool, remove the flesh in strips.  Drain and reserve any cooking liquid, which can be cooled and frozen to use as stock.  Set aside the drained onion unless using tomato relish, in which case it can be kept with the stock if you wish.

b.  If using cold leftover chicken cut it into strips, checking for and removing any gristle.

2.  Deseed the peppers and cut into small strips, a similar size to the strips of chicken.

3.  Open and drain the sweetcorn.

4.  Mix together the yoghurt and mayonnaise.  Stir in either the tomato and onion purées (or onion cooked with the chicken or some onion chopped and gently cooked until transparent) along with the chilli powder and cayenne pepper or the tomato relish, which already contains spices. (If using tomato relish a little additional chilli powder and/or cayenne pepper can be added, according to taste.)

5.  Mix in the sweetcorn, peppers and chicken and stir well.  Chill before serving with warm long grain rice, lightly sprinkled with paprika.  Alternatively serve on a small bed of lettuce leaves.

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We inherited most of a bag of nacho tortilla chips that were left over after a party and I managed to persuade the family to let me make this rather than just finish them up.  Just a few days before I had seen versions of this recipe in two different places but as we don’t normally buy crisps it was an ingredient I did not have. 

There were two sources for this recipe, both from Sainsbury’s supermarket.  The first is the Summer 2010 leaflet titled ‘Try something new’, the recipe was called Cheesy Nachos.  The second source was from a free instore recipe card, which adds beans to the mixture.  One recipe used salsa dip, which is available from the supermarket, but the other had instructions for a sauce.  My own basic Simple Tomato Sauce could be substituted or alternatively it would be a good way to use home made Tomato Relish.  Chilli powder or sauce can be added if not already in the sauce or relish used or this could be replaced with another spice such as cumin.  No need to buy expensive branded tortilla chips, the supermarket own brand ones are just as good.  Once cooked the top layer of chips are mostly crunchy, but the lower layers are less so.  Do not make this dish too long in advance as the tortilla chips will lose their crispness.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Cheese & Tomato Tortilla Bake
(Serves 4)

1 bag plain flavoured Tortilla chips/Nachos (about 100g/3½ozs)
1 125g ball Mozzarella cheese
2-3 chopped spring onions or ½ red onion
1 x 400g tin cannellini/red kidney/black eye beans or chick peas – optional
100g/3½ozs Salsa dip (approximate amount)
   or
100g/3½ozs Tomato Relish (approximate amount)
   or
1 portion Simple Tomato Sauce (approximate amount)
Chilli & or cumin powder or chilli sauce, unless relish/sauce already spiced, to taste

1.  Heat the oven to 200oC/Fan 180oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  Finely chop the spring onions or red onion.

3.  Cut or tear the mozzarella ball into pieces.

4.   Reserving 6 unbroken tortilla triangles for the top of the dish, start to layer the Tortilla Bake nto an ovenproof serving dish.  Cover the bottom of the dish with about ⅓ tortilla chips and follow  with ½ beans (if using), ½ tomato sauce, ½ onions and ½ cheese.  Repeat (⅓ chips and remaining beans (if using), tomato sauce, onions and cheese). Finish with the remaining ⅓ chips placing the 6 reserved chips on top.

5.  Bake uncovered for 10minutes in the centre of the preheated oven.

6.  Serve warm as an accompaniment to a light supper, as part of a buffet or even as a starter.  Best eaten warm but could be served cold at a buffet as long as not made too far in advance.  It will be less crisp if cold.

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Chilli con Carne is one of our most popular family recipes.  The name comes from the Spanish chile con carne, meaning ‘peppers with meat’, but it is actually the official dish of the State of Texas in the USA, making it ‘Tex-Mex’ rather than Mexican, as is sometimes thought.  My version is not taken from any particular book but has been adapted and improved whenever I have discovered a new ‘twist’.  Some years ago we had an excellent Chilli con Carne for lunch in a pub, leading me to experiment with adding cumin as well as chilli powder, which adds extra depth to the spice flavours.  More recently I discovered that Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast, adds cocoa powder to her Chilli con Carne.  What a good idea!  Chilli can be added to chocolate recipes, after all, so why not chocolate to chilli recipes?  It really does enrich the sauce and you do not detect the flavour at all.   Smoked bacon similarly adds good background flavour, with diced red and green peppers (capsicums) adding colour, as well as vegetable content.  If you wish to make the dish a little healthier by reducing the red meat content per head, add finely diced aubergine which will cook down to be almost invisible.  The amount of chilli powder to be added is optional, of course.  When my children were young I used to cook the mixture without chill, divide it between two pans and then add the spices later (not ideal, I know).  One pan had the full (adult) quantity of spices and the second had some cumin and a very little chilli, just enough for the children to get used to the taste: one was known as Chilli con Carne and the other as Carne non Chilli!  My ruse obviously worked as we all now eat food cooked in the same pan!  

As with the Lasagne al Forno I posted a few weeks ago, this method is my own tried and trusted recipe and special because it has been adapted and improved .  It is worth making a double quantity as the recipe can be frozen for later use, as can individual portions of leftovers.  Chilli con carne is lovely finished with a spoonful of cool and soothing soured cream.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Special Chilli con Carne
(Serves 6)

15ml/1tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
½-1tsp (or more) chilli powder, depending on taste
1tsp cocoa powder (optional, but recommended)
1tbsp water
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
125g/4ozs diced bacon, smoked or unsmoked
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered (or larger ones, sliced)
1 medium aubergine, diced (optional)
15ml/1tbsp mixed herbs
500g/1lb minced beef steak
30ml/2tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
150ml/¼pint water (about ½ tomato tin) 
1 red pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 green pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & black pepper

1.  If using aubergine it is usual to sprinkle it with salt, place it in a colander, cover it with a plate and place a weight on top of it for at least 30 minutes, to let the juices can run out.  You can cut out this step if you are short of time: I have never noticed much difference in taste.

2.  Mix the cumin and chilli with the water to make a paste.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan, stir in the spice paste and fry briefly (no more than 30 seconds).  Reduce the heat, stir in the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the diced bacon, mushrooms and mixed herbs (at this point the diced aubergine should be added, if using), put a lid on the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

3.  Add the beef mince, stir to break up and cook for 1o minutes, stirring occasionally so the meat cooks through.  Stir in the cocoa powder, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and water, stir and bring to the boil.  Season and taste.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for a further 10minutes.

4.  Add the chopped peppers and red beans, stir well, cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending  on how well cooked you like your pepper. Check seasoning.

5.  Serve on a bed of white rice or as a filling for a jacket potato, flour tortilla or pancake along with a spoonful of sour cream.  A small side salad makes a good accompaniment along with a few tortilla chips if serving with rice.

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In her novel Chocolat, Joanne Harris writes a little about the Mexican background of the history of chocolate and the novel’s heroine, Vianne, serves her customers hot drinking chocolate flavoured with chilli. It may seem unusual, but cocoa has also long been used to complement the flavour of meat and is a key ingredient in the Mexican dish ‘Mole Poblano’. Chocolate and chilli are surprisingly good together, the heat of the peppers blending beautifully with the rich dark flavour of cocoa.  The Basque country of South West France, the city of Bayonne in particular, is well known for its fine chocolate and on holiday last year we enjoyed sampling a chilli flavoured variety. The chilli was surprisingly subtle but with a definite hot spicy ‘kick’.

I was delighted to discover this recipe for a spicy marinade for roast lamb which contained chocolate – and it was every bit as delicious as I hoped it would be. I made a few adaptations, using fresh orange in place of orange juice and squeezing some of this juice over the rice to give it a citrus flavour. The recipe would work equally well with some good thick lamb steaks or slow cooked lamb fillet.  The original recipe for Leg of Lamb with Chilli Sauce comes from Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.

100_7613 Lamb with Chilli Sauce

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Roast Lamb with Chilli Sauce
(Serves 4)

1kg/2¼lb leg of lamb (or replace with lamb steaks or fillet)
5ml/1tsp cocoa powder
125ml/½tsp Cayenne pepper
125ml/½tsp Ground Cumin
125ml/½tsp Paprika
125ml/½tsp Ground Oregano
140ml/¼pt water
140ml/¼pt orange juice (2/3 oranges depending on size – includes garnish)
140ml/¼pt red wine
1 clove of garlic, crushed
30g/2tbsp brown sugar
15ml/1tbsp cornflour
Pinch of salt
Orange slices and fresh coriander to garnish

1. Trim the paper thin skin and any large pieces of surface fat from the lamb with a sharp knife. Place lamb in a shallow dish.

2. Cut one orange in half and remove a slice or two. Place in a covered container to reserve as a garnish. Squeeze the juice from the remaining pieces of orange and take enough from other oranges to make up to a generous ¼pint.

3. Leaving aside the cornflour, mix at least half of this orange juice with the remaining marinade ingredients. Pour this over the lamb, turning well so it is completely coated. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

4. Drain the lamb and place in a roasting pan. Reserve the marinade. Cook in a pre-heated 190oC/370oF/Gas 5 oven for about 2 hours or until meat is cooked according to taste basting occasionally with the marinade juices.  (If you usually leave the joint to roast while you are out then put most of the juices in the roasting dish and cook on a lower setting, turning the temperature up and basting the joint for a final 10 or 15 minutes before resting and serving the meat.)

5.  Remove lamb to a serving dish to rest and keep warm.  Add any remaining juices or a little water to the pan, stir to loosen the sediment, strain and put aside for a short while.  Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.  

6.  Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water in a sauce pan and then stir in the skimmed, strained marinade juices.   Heat gently, stirring all the time, until thickened. (This can also be done in a jug in the microwave by alternately giving short bursts of heat and stirring until thickened.)  More orange juice, wine or water can be added if necessary. Keep a little orange juice back to stir through the rice, if you would like.

7.  Garnish with the reserved orange slices and sprigs of coriander.  Serve with white boiled rice, stirring through just a little reserved orange juice to give a zesty flavour, the sauce and mildly spiced vegetables curry (so it does not overpower the lamb dish, but including more coriander which complements the citrus flavours).  The original recipe suggests you could also serve this with boiled potato and conventionally cooked vegetables.

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