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A taste of Mexico

Photos: George Aquilina, Illumina Media

Photos: George Aquilina, Illumina Media

We associate Mexican diner food with restaurant food, but creating these dishes at home could not be easier as most of the food can be prepared the day before, making it excellent for entertaining a crowd. It is quick and inexpensive, and an ideal choice for non-confident or starter cooks and for teen parties and sleep-overs.

Chicken with lime and coriander

You will need:
500g chicken pieces

For the marinade:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp lime zest
6 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp dried coriander leaves
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Combine all marinade ingredients over low heat and stir until the mixture is consistent. Allow the marinade to cool down.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the marinade all over the chicken. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Remove the chicken from the fridge and place in a large saucepan with the marinade. Bring the mixture to boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Then transfer to an ovenproof dish and roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Turn over after the first 10 minutes, making sure that all the pieces are covered with marinade.

Serve with a sour cream dip. To make it you will need 250g sour cream or yoghurt, ½ tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp onion powder.

Mix all the ingredients together and garnish with fresh coriander.

Tacos with homemade taco seasoning

You will need:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
250g minced beef
200g cooked or tinned kidney beans
8 taco shells
1 cup grated yellow cheddar cheese
1 tomato
2 jalapeno peppers
2 tbsp chopped coriander

Taco seasoning:
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp oregano
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the taco seasoning and set it aside.

Dice the onion and mince the garlic and place in a large pan. Sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is soft and becomes transparent. Add the minced beef and prepared taco seasoning and continue to sauté until the beef is cooked through.

Add the beans. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Arrange the taco shells in an ovenproof dish so they are all standing upright.

Fill the tacos with the beef and bean mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese over top.

Bake the tacos in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the taco shells are golden brown.

While the tacos are baking, chop the tomatoes, slice the jalapeños, and roughly chop the coriander leaves.

Prepare other toppings of your choice such as sour cream, shredded lettuce and avocados to garnish the tacos just before serving.

Guacamole Dip

You will need:
2 ripe avocados
2 small fresh limes
½ onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chilli flakes [reduce the amount if you do not like it too spicy]
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 small garlic clove
A pinch of ground coriander
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of stevia

Salsa Dip

You will need:
200g chopped fresh or tinned tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
¼ tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice
Salt and pepper

For Guacamole:

Prepare the ingredients by peeling and cutting the avocados. Squeeze the juice of the fresh limes and peel and roughly chop the garlic and onion. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a hand-held blender to puree the ingredients to a smooth paste. Taste and season. Place in serving bowls and chill for at least an hour before serving with nacho chips, fresh carrot batons and celery sticks.

For Salsa Dip:

If you are using tinned tomatoes, drain the liquid and keep the chopped tomatoes aside. Remove the seeds from the red bell pepper and chop them up. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is very smooth and consistent.

Easy beef and bean burritos

You will need:
6 soft tortilla wraps
2 cups yellow cheddar cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

For the filling:
500g minced beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to season
200g cooked kidney or pinto beans
1 natural stock cube mixed with 100ml water

Peel and chop the onion and place in a pan with the vege­table oil on low heat. Cook gently until the onion is translucent then add the minced beef.

Cook for five minutes until the beef browns and add the garlic powder, spices and seasoning. Cook for another five minutes. Then add the beans and the stock. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Place the tortilla wraps on a plate and cover with cling film. Microwave them for 30 seconds to warm them up.

Place the tortilla wraps on a flat surface and cover with grated cheddar. Top with the beef and bean filling and any other toppings of your choice. Fold in the edges of the wrap and roll it up to make burritos. Place on a non-stick oven dish and scatter more grated yellow cheese on top. Heat the oven to 200°C. Place in a hot oven for five to ten minutes until the cheese topping melts.

Allow to rest for five minutes; garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Lea’s new book Good Food Everyday is available in most bookshops in Malta and Gozo.You can watch Lea cook every day on Smash TV and find more of her recipes on www.timesofmalta.com.

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