To travel culinary . . .

I have a great love for travelling, which is no secret considering I started this blog to write about travel and food. For me travel and food go together much like, say, Naples and pizza.

Of all the countries and cities I’ve travelled to so far I can’t think of one place I regret visiting. And there are so many more places I’d like to visit. But daily life and commitments get in the way and sometimes travelling has to take a back seat.

While I’m waiting for my next adventure I find it comforting to know that I can escape to the kitchen and cook food that will transport me, however briefly, to a faraway place. Nigella Lawson once said that sometimes to travel culinary is better than to arrive.

I have never been to Mexico although it’s definitely on my list. They have some fantastic dishes and flavours and I love to cook it in my own kitchen. When cooking this type of cuisine, much the same with Spanish and their famous tapas, it’s nice to have a small line up of dishes so you can fill your plate with a bit of this and a bit of that. Not to mention you get some great textures and flavours going on.

Before I get to the delicious recipes for my small Mexican feast I’m going to make a short declaration. I am not claiming that these dishes are authentic and I’m sure when I do visit Mexico the food will most likely be quite different from how I cook it at home. I’m simply taking what I know about Mexican food as inspiration and cooking it how I love to serve and eat it.

I’m an avid explorer of the Internet for recipes and inspiration. I see so many comments by people complaining that recipes aren’t authentic. But for me cooking is about feeding people and making them happy – myself included!

With that said, let’s get down to business.

One of my favourite ways to cook a tortilla (and there are a lot of ways!) is to make quesadillas. There’s something about turning anything crispy that makes it seem more of a treat. A toasted sandwich feels a tad more satisfying because of that crisp toast and the way everything inside is hot and melting (and I love the crispy cheesy bits where the cheese has dripped down the side of the bread and onto the hot pan).

So I like to think of a quesadilla as a Mexican toasted sandwich – but actually more interesting and absolutely delicious. The avocado and sweetcorn salsa makes an interesting change. It’s fresh and zingy with the lime juice while the chilli flakes add a gentle hit of heat.

Serve the quesadillas with some sweet chilli sauce and sour cream and every mouthful is a dream. I realise sweet chilli sauce isn’t exactly a Mexican condiment but I’ve already covered myself on that front. It tastes great, that’s all I care about.

The black bean and tomato salad is a perfect accompaniment and has some great contrasts. The black beans are meaty, the tomatoes fresh and the spring onions give some crunch. I’ve carried the lime juice through to the salad, which is all you need in the way of dressing along with a dash of olive oil.

The fresh coriander finishes the salad and salsa off beautifully. I can’t tell you how much I love this herb.

As for the spiced potatoes – my husband couldn’t stop eating them. And incidentally they’re also delicious dipped into the sweet chilli sauce and sour cream.

These dishes make a fantastic lunch for friends. If you’re serving for dinner I might be inclined to make two quesadillas per person but they’re so quick this would be a cinch. The avocado and sweetcorn salsa can easily be doubled and a pack of tortillas is cheap as chips.

So here goes . . .

 

Avacado and Sweetcorn Quesadillas

4 plain flour tortillas

75g cheddar cheese, grated

 

Avocado and Sweetcorn Salsa

Kernels from a large ear of corn (or 1 x 300g tin sweetcorn, drained)

1 avocado, diced into small pieces

Half a red onion, finely chopped

Pinch cumin

¼ teaspoon chilli flakes

Small handful coriander leaves, chopped

Juice of a lime

Ground sea salt, to taste

 

For the salsa, simply combine all the ingredients into a bowl and stir together well.

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Place a flour tortilla out flat and spoon the salsa onto one half (don’t pile on too much). Sprinkle over some grated cheese and then close the other half over to cover the filling.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a hot frying pan. Place the folded tortilla into the oil and let it sizzle and fry for 2-3 minutes. Have a quick check and if it’s nice and golden carefully turn onto the other side. Once both sides are golden remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Add a touch more oil to the pan as you go but only if you need it.

That’s it. Easy. And of course, if you’re using a large frying pan you could easily do two at a time.

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Spiced Potatoes

 

600g Agria potatoes

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground sea salt

Olive oil

Blend the spices and salt together in a small bowl.

 

Peel the potatoes and chop into approximately 2cm cubes. Place into a pot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Let them simmer for a few minutes. I would start checking after 4-5 minutes. You want your knife to sink into the potato without too much resistance but you don’t want them soft and completely cooked. So watch carefully.

Once they’re at the right cooking point, drain off the water, add the spices and a tablespoon of olive oil. Put the lid back on and toss well until all the potato cubes are covered in the oily spice mixture. It’s fine to add a little more olive oil if you need to.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to a hot pan – and you want it hot – and then add the potatoes. Leave them for a minute or so to sizzle so they can start to form a nice golden crust and then start stirring and tossing. Fry them for around 10 minutes or until they’re soft inside and crisp on the outside.

 

Black Bean and Tomato Salad

 

Half a red onion, finely chopped

1 x 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed

12 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)

2 spring onions, chopped

Small handful coriander leaves, chopped

Juice of a lime

Dash of olive oil

Salt, to taste

 

Once again, couldn’t be simpler. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir together well.

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I really must recommend that you serve these dishes with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream. Two simple condiments that will make your plate sing.

Enjoy!

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