Tortillas

Oh yeah! Finally got here with the mexican food’s rockstar: tortillas. There are two principal kinds: wheat tortillas and corn tortillas, from which the second one is the genuine mexican tortilla. Its history goes back to precolombine days, when they obtained a flour by dying corn grains and then mashing them among two rocks (there still exists this rudimentary yet helpful tool, the metate) and mixing it with animal fat (commonly pork or cow) and water.
Nowadays process is pretty much the same, there are stores dedicated to making and selling tortillas, they are called “tortillerías”, in certain neighbourhoods, indigenous women sell them right at your doorstep, their tortillas are just the best! Handmade and still warm. Those women carry a huge basket packed of tortillas and other corn goods (tlacoyos, pellizcadas, molotes, etc.) on their backs.
There is even a machine to make perfect tortillas! Once your dough is ready, you form golf size balls with your hands, place one on the machine, close the lid, put the lever on it and press it down. When you open the lid, you will find a perfectly rounded fresh tortilla, you put it on a heated steel plate and flip it until cooked (about 10 seconds per side) and then again flip it and once more.
As it will be nearly impossible to fin one of this artifacts when living abroad, a rolling pin or even an empty bottle of wine can help. The thickness of a tortilla must be about 2 milimeters and it doesn’t vary when cooked, they might inflate a bit when upon heat but that’s all.
There are other varieties like the blue corn tortilla or nopal tortilla.

As for the wheat tortilla, it was created as an attempt to imitate the jewish flat bread. They are delicious, they work with both salad and sweet ingredients and the best news is they can be found more easily worldwide, “old el paso” has great ones, “bimbo” in Spain too. In case you can’t find, you can always reach out for the arabian bread or pita, which tastes very similar but is way thicker.

CORN TORTILLA RECIPE / MAIS TORTILLAS OPPSKRIFT

I really hope you can find the corn flour! They are seldom sold in latin products groceries, I found it at Carrefour too in Spain.

– 1 package of corn flour (1 kilo)
– 200 grams of pork or cow fat plus a bit more if required, you can substitute with vegetal fat, crisco or oil, if using oil then add slowly.
– a little water, warm
– salt, 1 teaspoon
– optional: dried mashed beans, if you have leftovers, fried mashed beans, whatever you choose, they must have dough texture.

Mix salt and flour with fat until you create a solid yet malleable dough, it might crackle and crumble, add water in spoonfulls until it doesn’t stick to your hands. Sprinkle flour on the countertop for the dough not to stick. Make golf sized balls and press them down against your working surface, roll them until they are 2 milimeters thick. Use a spatula to transfer it to a hot steel plate to be cooked, flip it several times until its color changes – gets lighter – and it doesn’t break when handled.
They can be frozen for a long long time, just pile them up when cold, wrap with paper and then with foil, film or plastic bag. If stored in fridge, use before two weeks.

If you want to use beans too, then add them when the dough is ready and knead. These type of tortillas must be thicker and therefore cooked for a little longer. They are great alone or with a homemade sauce, cheese and minced onion, that’s what we call a ‘memela’.

WHEAT TORTILLA RECIPE / HVETETORTILLAS OPPSKRIFT

– white wheat flour, the one commonly found at the supermarket, you can use whole wheat flour as well
– vegetal fat, crisco or any shortening, eitherway you can use margarine.

Let’s risk and try to do some now.

Enfrijoladas

Mexicans love beans, we really do, so like I told you we use them for a variety of foods. Today I will introduce you to one of our breakfast stars; enfrijoladas. There is no literal translation for that, I can only describe them: corn tortillas lightly fried, so they are flexible and then soaked in hot blended cooked beans. There is a chooce of classical fillings; stripped chicken or cheese, although they are great without one too. It’s usual to top them with a thin raw onion ring, cheese and a squirt of cream. Want to see the process? Let’s go!

Heat up oil and soak the tortilla in, as soon as oil starts bubbling beneath and around it, flip it and take it out when the same happens. Drain as much oil as you can using kitchen paper towels. Fry as many as you want to have and set them apart.

In a small saucepan, heat up a little oil and toss a thick slice of onion, cook until golden. Pour cooked beans into the blender or mixer vase, about half a cup per tortilla, add the onion and blend for one minute, if your paste is sticky or hard, simply add water until you get a creamy consistence, adjust salt to taste. Put the same saucepan you used to cook the onion on a light flame and empty the blender’s content in, let simmer and remove from heat. Take one fried tortilla carefully, you can use a plastic or wooden spatula (metallic ones will break the tortilla), let it sit on the bean cream and flip it over, take it out like you would do with a pizza you take out of the oven, put it on a plate, fill it with chicken or cheese or just add a little more bean cream and then fold the tortilla forming a semicircle, pour some more bean sauce over it and then add your selected topping. ¡Listo! Serve and eat immediately, if it gets cold two bad things happen: the tortilla turns into a bland sticky blob along with the beans cream and the last mentioned gets dry, so nope! Don’t let them chill on your dish. Enjoy!

Bean soup / Zuppa di fagioli / Bønnesuppe / Bohnensuppe

There are two ways I have eaten this soup: creamy and non creamy. In regional restaurants, you’re more likely to find the non creamy type. I like the creamy one better because it’s less strong, tastefully speaking. However, I will tell you how to make it both ways. Ready?

BEAN SOUP (serves up to 6)

– 1 liter of cooked beans, with its broth or cooking water
– 2 small tomatoes, diced
– 1 slice of onion, about 1cm thick (half an inch)
– 1 large garlic, chopped
– a pinch of pepper
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– 2 bay leaves
– Cream
– Grated cheese, it can be white, Gouda, Manchego or cream cheese.

Heat up a little oil in a saucepan, toss onion and cook until soft and transparent, add garlic, mix until lightly golden. Bring tomatoes in and cook until the tender red color turns darker. Pour into blender glass or mixer vase and put in cooked beans, salt and pepper. Blend for one minute, you will get a soft and gooey paste, transfer back to the saucepan, put the bay leaves in and let simmer. Adjust salt to taste. If you want it a little more liquid, simply add water or broth and stir well.

Serve in a bowl, trace any shape you like with the cream and top with your selected grated cheese.

CREAMY BEAN SOUP

– 1 liter of cooked beans
– 60 grams of cream cheese (Philadelphia)
– Milk, in case you wanna make it runnier
– a pinch of pepper
– 1 tablespoon of salt
– one half of a medium onion, diced
– 1 large garlic, chopped

Heat up oil in a saucepan and toss onion, stir until soft and transparent, add garlic and mix until lightly golden, transfer to the blender glass or mixer vase. Pour in the cooked beans with their broth, the cream cheese, salt, pepper and blend for one minute, if you need more liquid just add a little milk until the texture pleases you.

You can place a ball of cream cheese in the bottom of the bowl and pour in the soup or stream some cream atop instead. Add a topping if desired.

TOPPINGS

When we have some tortilla (our famous corn flatbread) leftovers, we use to cut it in triangles and make chilaquiles, or in this case, cut it in stripes, fry them in oil until crunchy, like the so called nachos. We use them instead of croutons for these kinds of soups/creamy soups. As a hint, I find the “Tostitos” crisps very useful to substitute tortilla fried stripes. If you can’t find this brand in your country, try to get any given “mexican nachos” and use them without the cheese sauce, obviously.

It is very common to find diced cooked nopales (cacti paddles) joining the soup or to spice it up with chili (any kind, actually). You can also add stripped chicken to boost the protein factor.

So, what do you think? This is just the beginning of what beans have to offer, in my next post I will tell you the many uses it has and I will hurry myself up to bring the other mentioned recipes (nopales, tortilla, chilaquiles) so we can start to seriously mexican cook. ¡Nos vemos!

Galería

Mexican beans / Fagioli messicani / Meksikansk bønner / Mexikanische Bohner

Beans must be our number one here, because they are the most basic food of mexican families. You can find them along the country made in several different ways. As you might – or not – know, Mexico is a vast territory, many precolombine cultures existed (mayans, aztecs, olmecs, totonacs, etc.), some like rarrámuris, huichols, nahuatls and othe ethnical groups, still preserve their languages and traditions. A fact is that each one of them has left a unique culinary heritage to us all, here and beyond.
Mexico is nowadays a gathering of different regions, so to speak, each region has its own way to cook, use different ingredients, some prefer to fry, others to just boil, some are spicier while others are fresher. Today I will show you how to cook black beans, the way the majority of mexicans make them. Have in mind that this methos also works to cook lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, haricots and chickpeas (for further recipes).

YOU WILL NEED
– 500 grams of black beans (can be substituted with any bean you find to approach the final taste).
– one thick slice of onion for taste (I always skip this, I find it unnecessary).
– salt, about three tablespoons for the cooking water.
– salt, to adjust to taste when beans are fully cooked.

SORTING AND WASHING

In Mexico, you can buy beans at the local market, supermarkets or “tiendas” (our term for small grocery store). They commonly have tiny chunks of rock or defected grains, so we have to sort them out, from half a kilo we usually get five to ten pieces out to discard. Even if you find packaged raw beans or other grains, make sure they come completely clean and so you can avoid chipping a tooth or just sensing a disgusting texture in your tasteful beans, not yummy!

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TRADITIONAL COOKING METHOD
Mexican artisans through the country craft clay pots, polish them and put them inside a stone made oven, the result is our typical cooking pot: cazuela. Typical yet not solely mexican, spaniards have them too. Their origin seems to be also precolombine, since they have been found in almost every archaeological excavation. When people don’t have a fast cooking pot, they set the beans covered with water overnight to make them tender and let them cook faster. Next day they just drain them and put to boil with clean water, often a thick slice of onion, oil, salt and “epazote”, a leaf used as condiment that usually grows wildly in the backyard. No need to plant it. The beans boil and boil on low fire for five hours or until tender. You can try this if you have plenty of time or if you happen to have some sort of cazuela.

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FAST COOKING POT METHOD (recommended to save time)
After the sorting, set your beans in a percolator and wash them under running water, or if you prefer, put them in a bowl and cover them with water, shake a little to remove particles of dust and drain, repeat until water comes out clean.
Fill the pot with water until two thirds of its capacity if you want your beans gooey or add more water if not. I like them runny, so I usually fill almost three quarters of the pot (a bit less maybe, see the pic), add salt and toss the clean beans in it.

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Cover the pot with its lid and set to cook for 40 minutes or until tender, turned them off prematurely? That’s okay, don’t drain and return them to fire…my pot starts whistling after ten minutes upon high flame, start counting from that point. And yep, open up all windows and shot the kitchen’s door if you have one, because they have a strong smell (mind the expression, farty). No worries please, it’s normal and they don’t taste like their aroma 😉

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Tick, tock and they’re ready! Adjust salt to taste (carefully, they’re obnoxious when too salty or with no salt at all). Anyhoo, they can be served in several ways like you will find in my next post. Thanks for reading and enjoy, ¡buen provecho!

TIPS AND COMMENT

If you will cook beans in the clay pot, you must know the final taste will be a bit earthy, so to say, not bad but different, many folks may find it not-so-pleasant.
As for to store your beans, they can be kept frozen for up to 2 months. To freeze them, first let them sit and coo. If you keep them in the fridge, then make sure to bil them every other they to prevent them from rotting.

¡Bienvenidos!

Willkommen! Benvenuti! Velkommen! Welcome! My name is Maria Rodela, I’m mexican and I love cooking. I decided to create this mexican cookbook for all non-spanish speakers that want to learn about real mexican food and a bit of our culture. Even though my mission is to share my country’s original recipes with you, I’d like to debunk gastronomical and cultural myths about this peculiar yet lovely land of mine from time to time, so you are always welcome to ask!

And nope, I’m not a chef! But my stomach churns everytime I wander around food sites (mainly looking for other countries’ flavours) and I happen to find some gruesome “mexican” recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I get it’s hard – or impossible – to be able to find every and each original ingredient to prepare a real mexican dish, but I have tried to adjust this and that to deliver similar tastes, textures and looks. So…hope you like it, and most important, you try it!