A real Mexican heaven in Ireland

Queso+Tortilla = Quesadilla August 1, 2011

That’s it! no complex Nahuatl pronunciations this time, simple and straight forward: Quesadillas are a famous and standard breakfast or supper in many Mexican homes, they are prepared with a tortilla and typically cheese, this is where the name comes from: [Queso-Cheese / Tortilla = Quesadilla] However, the filling is up to the cook, it can be cheese and turkey sausage, cheese and mushrooms; or simply mushrooms saute with onions and a bit of garlic, you pick!

Tortillas in Mexico are made of corn flour and in the central and south side of the country you will find that quesadillas are mainly prepared with a tortilla that looks yellowish (just like in the picture below) In the north, people prefer to use wheat tortillas, just like the ones we find in Ireland.

Another interesting element to quesadillas is that in many Mexican homes they are the perfect way to get the family working together: children can do the cheese shredding/grating, adults can work on the fire and other younger people can help setting up the table by bringing the guacamole and other salsas, and this is what makes quesadillas so enjoyable.

Quesadillas made with corn tortilla and Oaxaca cheese.

The classic presentation of a quesadilla is a tortilla folded in half and the cheese melted inside. Generally, this is accompanied by a salsa of your choice and a bit of ‘pico de gallo’ (a side salad that I will be posting soon) Now, time to go shopping and source the best possible ingredients to get the best out of such a simple recipe.

In Dublin, you will find wheat tortillas in nearly every supermarket or convenience shops: Tesco, Superquinn, Dunnes, Marks & Spencer, Spar, Mace, Londis, etc. However, I do recommend that you buy the ‘generic’ brand versions of it: they are less expensive and the flavour is exactly the same. For those who are watching their daily calorie intake, prefer the smaller versions.

The cheese used to prepare traditional quesadillas in my native Mexico City is called ‘Oaxaca’ cheese, which its distinctive ball-like presentation makes it stand out from the rest and it is a cheese that can be shredded by hand.  Oaxaca cheese is very mild and creamy in flavour. In Dublin, you can replace Oaxaca cheese for any good quality Mozzarella or Gouda. If you don’t have any of these at home, white mild cheddar will do.

How to prepare them is very simple: grate the cheese, then put a non-stick pan to medium heat, then place the tortilla on it, and turn it around every now and then until it is warm, now it is time to add the grated cheese and fold the tortilla. The absolute key to a very nice quesadilla is that your pan is to medium temperature and that the quesadilla is constantly turned so you don’t burn any side as this will cause the tortilla to become very hard, and a nice quesadilla should be just lightly crispy.

Adding grated cheese and folding

Turning the quesadilla around regularly until lightly crispy

Once you have that, for presentation you can place them on a board with salad, and guacamole. In some Mexican homes, people prefer to place the quesadillas in tea towels, and wrap them to keep them warm and soft. Then, they are placed at the center of the table along with guacamole, chillies and salad so people can help themselves.

Quesadilla ready to eat!

I will post this week how to prepare different fillings for quesadillas, in the meantime… Buen Provecho!


Ahuacamolli – Guacamole July 24, 2011

In the ancient Mexican language, Náhuatl, Ahuacamolli means ‘avocado salsa’ [‘ahuaca’ – avocado / ‘molli’ – salsa/sauce] Until today this recipe is a classic as it adds a lot to a taco, salad or any other dish this is why I wanted this recipe to be the very first one in this blog because you will be able to prepare and eat it in only a few minutes and hopefully remember it for years.

The history of guacamole comes from hundreds of years of tradition and some popular Mexican stories tell that avocados were only to be hand picked by men, women were not allowed to do so. Nowadays, the challenge for those living in Ireland is to actually find suitable avocados, so I have done a bit of research around and selected a number of shops where you will easily find them:

Tesco Dundrum

Fallon & Byrne (Actually this is a nice shop where you will be able to find a few magic ingredients)

Superquinn Ballinteer

I have listed them in order of preference, Tesco seems to have avocados that are suitable for guacamole more often than other places. My definition of ‘suitable’ in this case is that the avocado is black or purplish; your finger should sink nicely in it, not too soft, not too hard and in terms of taste, the closest taste to Mexican Hass avocado are the ones that come from Peru.

Now, let’s get hands on deck – Once you have bought your nice avocados, ensure that they are dark and soft enough to mash them, simply get the following:

– 1/2 small onion

– 1 small tomato

– 1/2 lime

– 1 pinch or 2 of salt, or 1 salt/1 chicken stock powder

Suitable avocado, onion, tomato, and lime.

So the recipe goes like this – Get a bowl and mix in this order: chopped onion, then mash the avocado, add salt (and chicken stock, if you went for that option; this option is not suitable for vegetarians) and gently mix. After that, add the lime juice and the tomato and mix again.

This is how a nice avocado should look like.

Mashed avocado, onion and salt/chicken stock.

Adding tomato and lime.

Tada! guacamole sorted, now a few tips:

1. If you are not going to eat it immediately after preparing, simply make sure to add some lime juice on top to prevent that the guacamole turns dark.

2. Always keep the avocado seed and add it to your guacamole at the very end, this will add a nice touch and it is a belief in Mexico that the guacamole will be preserved green for longer as the seed is he heart of the avocado.

My suggestion? – Quesadillas with guacamole, make a great light supper.

Nice supper ready!

A healthier option for those on diets: guacamole on Ryvita bread. It is also great for parties, simply buy lightly salted tortilla chips (Marks & Spencer sells good ones) and leave the rest to your guests.

Buen Provecho!