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Quesadillas San Luis – Oh My Lard! Random Recipes #30

randomrecipes logoThis 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.

Mexican Cookery by Lourdes Nichols

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!’.

Quesadillas San Luis
Tortillas w Chillies & Cheese


  • 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
Preparing Quesadillas San Luis on the tortilla press
  • 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
Quesadillas San Luis cooking in the pan
  • 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.
Cooked Quesadillas San Luis



  • 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.
Makes: approx 10 small Quesadillas San Luis
A reminder of the rules
  1. count along your cookbooks until you reach number 30… if you have less than 30 simply go around again
  2. 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
  3. 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…!
  4. you may change the recipe for dietary or monetary or seasonal availability reasons only
10 comments… add one
  • Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things July 20, 2013, 8:51 pm

    Fiona, such an interesting concept, this Random Recipes. And funny that you landed on one using lard. I see they still sell it! We used to eat it on bread… but it was fresh from the home oven… roast pork etc. I've never made tortillas, to be honest, but with your very detailed instructions I think anyone reading this could! Thanks for sharing.

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! July 20, 2013, 10:58 pm

      Of course, now I have another 225g of lard to use….I've put it in the freezer as I think Nigella has a bit of a thing for it. They truly were delicious but not something to get hooked on!

  • belleau kitchen July 21, 2013, 5:10 pm

    ah those Spanish types and their love of lard… there is NO doubt about it, however un healthy you will never get that taste anywhere else… look us Ensemeidas on my blog… it's a croissant type Spanish pastry that uses lard to great effect, although I just used butter and they came out fine… this is a wonderful random recipes entry and I would KILL for a bite right now I really would…

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! July 21, 2013, 8:59 pm

      I do have a lot o flard left over so maybe I'll do the Ensemeidas. They're popular in the Phillipines too. I really enjoy RR. It suits my busy lifestyle with plenty of time to plan, prepare and cook but pushes me to try new things. Roll on 1 Aug!

  • Please Do Not Feed The Animals. July 30, 2013, 5:39 pm

    Hi Fiona. Love this post. Firstly, I was amazed when I saw the photo of the tortilla press! Glad you managed to borrow it. Secondly, I don't mind some lard or beef dripping as long as it is occasional. Certainly makes things tasty. I do make quesadillas from time to time but just by using bought flour or corn tortillas. These look FAR superior.

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! July 31, 2013, 10:03 pm

      Hi – I must say I'm glad I stuck to the recipe and didn't go for th healthy option that Dom says is 'OK' to do. The tortillas were so fabulously short. Thanks for visiting and your kind comments.

  • Ruth Ellis August 1, 2013, 3:42 am

    Good work on finding a tortilla press to borrow – that would have been a LOT of rolling out otherwise! They look fab.

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! August 3, 2013, 5:47 pm

      Hi Ruth – yes, I was very lucky. I heard rumour they had been seen at Aldi but I think that was wishful foodie thinking. Thanks for swinging past.

  • Rachel A August 2, 2013, 7:22 am

    Oh lard, such a wonderful thing and combined with melted cheese, what's not to love?! Thanks for the dough tips, it's always interesting to learn about new pastry techniques

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! August 3, 2013, 5:48 pm

      Dough and I aren't the best of friends but this was quite forgiving. Must have been the lard…. : )

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