This month, Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen is celebrating the big three-oh. Dom has been running Random Recipes for 30 months! What a commitment. I’m a latecomer to RR, coming in at #18 with a short break in September for an overseas trip. Looking back whilst I was researching this post, I note that I also missed December (#23) and January (#24). How did that happen? Summer I suppose….I must pay greater attention. This time the challenge is simple. Count 30 books along your shelf, left to right and select the recipe on page 30.
Book number 30 for me was Lourdes Nichols ‘Mexican Cookery’. I bought this simple little paperback in a second-hand shop on a road trip to Airlie Beach. It’s a no nonsense book with useful information on Mexican ingredients, cooking techniques and stories from Lourdes’ childhood. On page 30 however, she is still banging on about special ingredients such as ‘dried chillis’ so, I counted 30 pages from when the introduction stops and the recipes start. This brought me to page 65 and my recipe for the month: Quesadillas San Luis or Tortillas w Chillies & Cheese. They take their name from San Luis Potosi, a state in northern Mexico where they grind ancho chillies and mix them into the maize dough to give a red colour to it. Nice one Lourdes! Once again, I have selected a book with no illustrations but I’m sure my final Quesadillas San Luis are exactly how Lourdes would have pictured it.
As I read through the ingredients, I saw a word that caused some concern. Lard. It would be fair to say that I’ve never cooked with lard. Whilst I’m not anti lard, I know that it certainly wouldn’t be doing my arteries any good. I Googled alternatives but most were options for frying. As the lard in this recipe was being used as a shortening, olive oil was not a useful alternative. Twitter suggested butter or even copha but I wasn’t too keen on coconut flavoured tortillas. A look around the supermarket offered no alternative except beef dripping. Possibly even worse. I decided to buy the lard and give it a go. Did you know that Allowrie makes lard? As it turned out, I only needed 25g so that’s not really so much. And my! How wonderfully, wonderfully short the tortillas were. You probably wouldn’t use lard if you were making plain tortillas but for these delicious snacks to accompany a drink, I say ‘go for the lard!’.
- 2 x ancho chillies
- 150ml boiling water
- 150g masa harina*
- 50g plain flour
- 25g lard (mmm…lard….)
- 1 x tspn baking powder
- 1 x tspn salt
- 2 x tbsp double cream
- 100g grated cheddar cheese
- 2 x green chillies, sliced or a handful of coriander, chopped (optional)
- oil for shallow frying
- Heat the ancho chillies in a heavy based, dry frying pan, turning until they soften
- Discard the seeds and stalk, roughly chop, place in a bowl and steep in boiling water for one hour.
- Meanwhile, mix together the dry ingredients, rub in the lard and then stir in the cream.
- Put the chillies and their water in a blender and blend until a paste is formed.
- Add the chilli paste to the dough and mix.
- Knead until a soft, consistent dough is formed (around 5 minutes)
- Divide the dough into even balls approximately the size of a large plum
- Place the ball between two sheets of baking or greaseproof paper
- Flatten the dough in a tortilla press (or with a rolling pin) until it is the thickness of a 10c piece
- Place a small amount of grated cheese and some chilli and/or coriander onto the tortilla and gently fold in half
- Seal the edges by pressing them together. You should have a semi-circle.
- Repeat with other dough balls.
- When ready, heat oil in a medium pan and place Quesadillas San Luis into pan to cook for 3 minutes
- Turn Quesadillas San Luis over half way through cooking and watch so they do not over brown. They will puff slightly.
- Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot. Be careful! They are full of steaming, melted cheese.
- First, catch your tortilla press….. ah, yes, the tortilla press. They’re not exactly a common kitchen item in Australia. I don’t own one but was lucky that Mel had one to loan me. There are instructions at the front of Mexican Cookery on how to make one but I suggest a firm hand with the rolling pin can probably give you a similar effect.
- *Masa harina is white cornmeal flour. Not typically available at supermarkets in Australia, it is likely to be at deli and specialist grocers. For Brisbane readers, I bought mine from Geeta Enterprises in Fortitude Valley. You can also get it at Pennisi Cuisine at Woolloongabba.
- Dough – some tips from Lourdes. You can not over mix masa. Test the dough by squeezing between two fingers – if it cracks it needs a little more moisture (water or cream). This will depend on temperature, humidity etc. Keep the dough covered with a damp tea towel as you work.
- My first lot of dough was a bit too dry and cracked when I tried to fold it. It still tasted great when cooked and spurred me on to make a second batch the following weekend with a little more moisture in it.
- Double Cream – I used sour cream as that is what I could lay my hands on and for such a small amount, I think the difference is negligible.
- count along your cookbooks until you reach number 30… if you have less than 30 simply go around again
- take that book off the shelf and open it at a random page… or if you really want to be a stickler then open it at page 30
cook the recipe on this page or if it’s something you’ve cooked before then turn to the very next page and cook that dish… and don’t cheat… do it with a friend in the room who will make you stick to it… it’s a challenge after all and you’re only cheating yourself… this is specifically designed to take you out of your comfort zone…!
- you may change the recipe for dietary or monetary or seasonal availability reasons only