One of my favourite memories from when we were in Los Angeles is our visit to Olvera Street.
We had read about Olvera Street on before we left Australia, and with a love of all things Mexican (particularly the food), we knew we had to make an effort to get there. But we didn't get there until our very last day!
It was one of those places that is hard to describe. The smells! The colours! The music! It was so much fun! A wonderful place full of market stands selling Mexican wares and crafts, and spotted with traditional restaurants.
Before we had even been to the US we had been on a mission to discover what Mexican food really was like. I had been making my tortillas from scratch for about a year, and dabbled in trying to make my own spice mix (never very successfully). After we had eaten at Olvera Street we knew that buying the old El Paso Mexican kits from the supermarket was just never going to cut it again! Ever!
And now, with some experience of what ACTUAL Mexican food tastes like, we had a better reference point for what we should be aiming for when making our own homemade nachos, burritos, and tacos.
Now, I haven't developed my own recipes, because I managed to find recipes that were pretty clean and gave me the right flavours.
I’m going to list all of the recipes (and resources) I currently use, so hopefully, you can experiment and try them all! The flavours are so much better than those pre-made flavour sachets from the supermarket.
FOR THE TORTILLAS:
Before you even worry about the tortilla recipe, you need to get a Tortilla Press! I bought my Tortilla Press from Chile Mojo
. There's stacks of them on ebay if you want to take a look
. Previously, I would flatten them with a rolling pin, but the Tortilla Press is so much better; they stay round, and are an even thickness which in the long run, makes cooking them easier. There is also instructions on how to make your own wooden press here
I buy my Masa Lista Flour from Goodies & Grains
in the Adelaide Central Markets. Masa lista is a corn maize flour. You should be able to buy it from most natural pantry shops. Here
is one shop that sells it. You can make them with plain flour, but they just don't taste realistic and for me, they are too bland.
Now, the all important Tortilla Recipe: I have tried dozens and dozens of recipes, and NOTHING beats masa lista, salt, a drizzle of oil and water. If you need a recipe, this
is a pretty standard recipe. Alternatively, go to the Chile Mojo
website and look up their recipes link.
The trick to cooking tortillas is to think of them as having three sides. Set your pan to really hot, and keep it dry (don’t put oil or anything like that in it), and when it is heated slap a tortilla in. Leave it in there for 15 seconds for the side to set, then turn it over and let it cook. When it is ready you will see the layers start to separate and bubble a little bit – this should only take a minute of cooking time. When you see it do this, flip it again and it will puff up beautifully.
If you want nachos, just cut the tortillas up, brush VERY lightly with oil, put in the oven and heat up, then when slightly gold pull out and sprinkle with salt.
FOR THE TOMATO SALSA:
There is no other explaining to do… This cooked tomato salsa recipe is the bomb! totally perfect and exactly how I had it on Olvera Street.
- 4 Cups of diced tomatoes (about 1kg)
- 1 Cup of diced onions
- 1 Cup of green peppers (capsicums)
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 Cup of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
- 1/2 Lime, juiced
- 4 tsp White vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- Pepper to taste (or jalapeno)
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook on medium-high for 15-20 minutes (or until vegetables are soft. You can blend it if you want a smooth salsa. I prefer chunky, so I just bottle it straight away.
FOR THE SPICE MIX:
Well, this has been a bit of trial and error – by far I have stuffed this up more than anything else I have ever cooked (except for egg custard) BUT I am finally happy with the recipe. The quantities listed below are for 500g of whatever protein you are using. I am not a massive meat eater, but obviously, it can be used chicken breast, minced beef, steak. For a vego option, you can dry fry some red kidney beans and mushrooms, black kidney beans stewed... It all works on everything.
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt
NB: I leave out most of the chilli powder for the kids and then add it in at the end for the grown-up version. The paprika is plenty warm enough. As the kids get older I will add a pinch more every 6 months or so - and build up their heat resistance... I am determined that eating chilli will be their superpower!
If I use this spice mix on meat I don’t bother adding in any vegetables. Whenever we had this sort of spice mix in the US (in SoCal or AZ), vegetables (like onion, mushroom, carrot) were always added fresh on top, unless we were eating cooked chilli.
Well, there you go! I really hope you try it. I've added the image above for you to pin if you want. It really is delicious and so good for you to eat during your cycle - comfort food without any of the nasties!
If you are having nachos don’t forget to try some Salsa Con Queso! Basically, Salsa Con Queso is just cream cheese, grated cheese, with some of the spice mix and a few spoonfuls of tomato salsa, all cooked and melted together. YUMM!!!
Happy Mexican Night at your house