Thomasina Miers’ Chorizo and Potato Quesadillas

As I may have mentioned, I don’t think a meal is a real meal if it doesn’t have carbs. There are some who say a meal is not a proper meal without meat. I can do without meat. But carbs? Carbs are the essence of food.

These have double carbs. Potatoes and bread. You know what else has both potatoes and bread? Chip butties. And crisp sandwiches. So you know this is gonna be good. It also has chorizo so if you are feeding someone with the aforementioned “must have meat” issue, this fits the bill.

Thomasina Miers is the creator of Wahaca, the chain of Mexican restaurants. Apparently she won Masterchef in 2005 or something. This is from her book “Mexican Food Made Simple”. A lot of it is not that simple, but this is.

Get yourself some potatoes. Cut them into dice, or smaller-than-dice if you can be bothered. The instructions said just to fry them but I find frying potatoes takes forever so I boiled them for 5 mins. Cut up some chorizo very small. Put it in a nonstick frying pan and fry while your potatoes are cooking. It’ll leak lots of lovely orange fat. Drain your potatoes and put them into the chorizo-y frying pan. Add lots of fresh thyme. Cook until you are sure that the potato is nice and soft.

Get your nice big tortilla wrap, put it into a hot nonstick frying pan (you can put some oil if you like but you don’t need to. Cover with the chorizo and potato mixture. Put grated cheese on top. I also added spring onion.

You’ll see the potato is all nice and orangey. Cover with another tortilla. I also used a small plate to hold the top one down to encourage the whole thing to stick together. Another way to make it stick together better is to use a lot more cheese than I did. That’s also a good option.

Cook like that until you sense that the bottom is brown. I don’t know how you expect to do this. The plate is useful for flipping.

Tah-dah! Now it is flipped. Cook til the other side is that same colour (I already told you, I don’t know how to do this, just use your intuition or something).

You’ll notice that I haven’t said any measurements here. I used a sausage of chorizo about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, double that volume in potato, and a small handful of thyme, to fill 4 tortillas (so two sandwiches). How much cheese did I use? That much  <gestures vaguely>

These are great for a lunch where you’re not sure when you’ll be eating. I made mine for friends who were coming round with a baby in tow. They are nice hot, nice cold, and (much rarer) also nice if they are just warmish. They stay warm well stacked in the oven as in the very top picture.

How to decide what to eat

The best way to decide what to have for dinner is to first decide what kind of carbs you want.

There are some people who think a meal is not complete without meat. Personally I can do without meat for a meal or two, but I cannot happily do without carbs for very long.

And carbs define the kind of meal you’ll be eating. Will it be a traditional meat-and-two-veg (one of which is of course potatoes)? A steaming bowl of pasta? Ditto noodles? Perhaps noodle soup? Or soup with bread? Or a sandwich? Or what about rice? How do you feel about a pie? A real pie of course, none of these stews-with-lids (although if you are a reprobate who likes that kind of fake pie, the puff pastry “lid” can form a whole new carb category).

My considered opinion is that once you know what kind of carbs you want, you have a much better idea of what to eat. There’s no point eating something if it’s not going to bring you joy, after all.

And because no post is complete without some pictures…

ramen

Some ramen I made recently.img_20160922_201151

Tonight’s pasta

 

In your face, Swiss meringues

I am all-conquering.

I have a variety of whisking machines and I will use them to make you.

Er, sorry, got a bit over-excited there.

You may recall that Swiss meringues tried to kill my food processor, but succeeded only in breaking the drive shaft. Lizard-like, my food processor has grown a new one (I bought it one from espares), but it was clear that this task required a more venerable whisker.

electric hand whisk

Behold, granny’s hand whisk. This machine is definitely older than me. It belonged to my great-grandmother. It can handle anything.

I made the full 115g of egg white this time (4 smallish eggs, if you’re interested) , heated up with 225g sugar (granulated again, I still don’t have caster, I have no particular intention of ever having caster).

Put it in a bowl after the sugar is dissolved but before it starts looking like cooked egg white. Put in headphones and listen to something that will keep you occupied. I chose More or Less from the BBC because I like stats, and telling journalists and politicians that they are wrong.

Whizz it for ages and ages.

upside down meringues

Test if you can turn it upside down.

uncooked purple meringues

Squeeze in some squeezy purple food colouring because FANCY. (Next step actual flavours? Maybe) Blob onto greaseproof paper. Put into an oven that you have already heated to 150C.

Leave in the oven for some amount of time, then turn oven off and leave for some other amount of time.

cooked purple meringues

Look, they actually got bigger! I am all-conquering! etc

swirly purple meringues

Pile ’em up.

Cauliflower rice – because January

I know, I know, how ridiculously stereotypical to be making something low-carb on the last day before “back to work”.

I love rice, but I’m open to the idea of having an alternative source of “white stuff” with fewer calories.

I used 150g or so of cauliflower. Maybe a third of an average head? Mine was in a pack of “cauliflower and broccoli” and I’ll do something else with the broccoli.

Wazz it up, as Jamie Oliver would say. This means you’ll need to clean a blender, which I bet Jamie never does himself. I used my Nutribullet, adding to the list of things I’ve made in it that do not contain 1/2 green veggies. This is not because it is superior in any way, it’s just easier to clean up. If you don’t own, or do not wish to wash up, a wazzing device, you could attempt to grate the cauliflower instead.

uncooked cauliflower rice

Here it is in a dry non-stick frying pan, looking a bit like fake snow. I’ve sprinkled some turmeric over it, which rather ruins the snow effect (never eat yellow snow!).

I then wandered off, which I do not recommend you do, and came back to a smell a bit like toast. Scraped (gently, with a wooden utensil) the cauliflower off the pan and it came out an interesting mottled yellow-and-black-and brown colour. Not entirely unattractive.

cauliflower rice with curry

This is it with my curry (and some steam). The amount it made was not huge – I’d recommend using a bit more, maybe half a head per person. Raw cauliflower is 25 calories per 100g according to Google so I think we can be pretty relaxed on the quantities.

How does it taste? Well, it tastes a bit of cauliflower and a bit of the black bits of burnt toast. But when used to soak up curry sauce it tastes of curry sauce. So I’d call that a success.

Lunchbox noodle soup

Not quite a complete “lunchbox” – you need access to a kettle and microwave – but a lot cheaper than buying lunch out.

I’ve been trying not to buy £5+ lunches so often, after my live below the line challenge, but I’ve never been a fan of sandwiches.

This is a low-prep lunch that means  get something hot for not too much money.

lunchtime noodle prep

The night before, I chopped up some green beans, some red onion, red pepper, and put a handful of spinach into the tub. Sugarsnap peas are also good. If you use carrot you’ll want to cut it very very finely or use a peeler to get ribbons – carrot is too hard otherwise as none of these veg will get much cooking. Water chestnuts or bamboo shoots (from a tin) would work well too.

I have little individual packets of 50g of rice noodles from the Chinese shop, but you can get some that are just as good in the supermarket (these are a little thicker which is nice to eat, but the nests are not individually wrapped). Wheat egg noodles would be OK too if you get fine ones.

For flavouring the liquid I had a spoon of thai curry paste – I’ve also done it with half a stock cube and a spoonful of ginger (the kind that comes ready-prepped in a jar). A splash of soy sauce always makes liquidy things taste better.

Put everything into a bowl, cover with water from a hot kettle, and microwave on high for 4 mins or so.

noodle bowl

Voila. Lunch. Slurpy slurpy slurp. (Make sure you have some napkins)

Jamie Oliver money saving pizza

Jamie Oliver has come in for a lot of criticism for his money-saving TV series (and accompanying “Save with Jamie” book). I think it’s largely an issue of mis-targeting. This is not a book a “cheap” recipes. It’s a book of “cheaper than most TV chefs’ recipes are” recipes. It’s not for people trying to manage on a very tight budget, it’s for people who would normally chuck a 500g pack of mince into a spag bol for 4 without a thought, and are now thinking maybe I should try to make this stretch a bit further.

Jamie’s recipes generally work pretty well, and my boyfriend is a big fan of pizza, so I’m trying out his “American Hot Pizza Pie”.

Don't try to read it - I'll tell you below

Don’t try to read it – I’ll tell you below

One criticism of the “money-saving” aspect of this book is that all of the recipes are for 6 or more. Most recipe books work on a basis of 4. Of course things are cheaper in bulk! This pizza recipe allegedly serves 8-10. I am not convinced by that. It makes 4 pizzas. I’ll use half measures, make two pizzas, and see if one of them will feed two of us.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg bread flour (so I’ll use 500g)
  • 1 sachet dried yeast (I’m going to use a whole one anyway)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (Jamie says extra virgin, I say yeah right)
  • 2 cloves garlic (I love garlic so will use two)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (I have oregano in my garden so will use fresh)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes (I’ll see how far half a tin goes – it doesn’t sound like enough for 2 big pizzas)
  • red wine vinegar (don’t have any – assume white wine vinegar or malt vinegar will do)
  • 50g ciabatta or stale bread (I can’t actually see where this is used in the recipe)
  • olive oil
  • 6-8 quality sausages (I’ll interpret this as half a pack of nice sausages)
  • 1 red onion
  • 25 slices pickled jalapeno or 2 fresh green chillis (I have fresh red chillis)
  • 150g cheddar or mozzarella (my pack is 125g of mozzarella and I suspect I will want all of it on my two pizzas)
  • 1 heaped tsp fennel seeds (I don’t have a pestle and mortar so will have to leave this out)
  • 1 good pinch smoked paprika

Step one is to remember that you are making dough, and it needs to rise, so leave plenty of time in advance! Make dough from the flour, sea salt, yeast, 600ml (or 300ml for me) tepid water, olive oil. Knead “until smooth and springy” or “until you lose the will to live and then some more”.

Jamie says to put it in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel, but Esther says that you really should put clingfilm on top and make a seal, and that damp teatowels alone just don’t work. Leave it somewhere warm for an hour.

Make tomato sauce by putting sliced garlic, oregano, tomatoes, vinegar into a blender. Whizz, add salt/pepper. No cooking of the sauce? I bet this sauce would be testier if it were actually cooked. If you don’t have red wine vinegar apparently you can use some of the liquid from your jar of jalapenos. I’l assume then that any vinegar will do. Pickedl onion vinegar even. At this point Jamie says to turn the ciabatta into breadcrumbs. He then does not mention it again. My bread doesn’t really go “stale”, it’s edibly soft until the point that it goes mouldy, so I’m going to leave this out altogether.

Put your oven on to 190C. “Knock the dough back” – apparently you are supposed t know what this means just like you are supposed to know how long to knead for – divide into 4 (or 2 in my case) and stretch or roll out until about 30cm across. Put into tins (because obviously you have 4 30cm-wide tins just knocking about) and let prove for 30mins (I forgot this and just put the toppings on straight away). No mention of whether to cover them at this stage, or what “proving” is. I’ll leave in a warm place (on top of the warming-up cooker).

I don’t actually have a 30cm round tin so I had to improvise. I’ve got a round flan dish and a square tin.

One round, one square

One round, one square

Top the pizzas with the sauce, squeezed-out sausage meat, sliced red onion, chilli, olive oil, cheese, etc. I can see that 150g of mozzarella between 4 of these would really not have been enough. I added some red pepper too. Sprinkle over paprika and bashed fennel (if you are using it, I wasn’t).

This is the point at which you clingfilm and freeze any pizzas that you don’t want right now. These can be cooked straight from the freezer – about 30mins allegedly. I didn’t want to put my dish out of action so I put tinfoil into the dish, made the pizza on top of that, then froze it uncovered until it was solid enough to take out of the dish. Then I clingfilmed it loosely. When it comes to cooking time I can take the clingfilm off easily, and if the tinfoil is a bit more reluctant that’s OK (clingfilm stuck to pizza would be a bad idea to put into oven!)

Bake pizzas 15-20mins (cheese should be bubbly/brown, crust should be puffy/brown). This did not take 20 mins, it took more like 40.

Square pizza

Square pizza

As you can see, the cheese melted into the sauce a bit. The sauce was surprisingly tasty, in spite of not having been cooked before. The edge was difficult to cut and generally boring. I think that the edge problem and the cheese-melting-into-sauce problem would be helped by making a fat pizza, on a baking tray not in a dish, and cooking more quickly at the highest temperature I can manage.

This was a bit of a faff, but it was tasty, and quite filling. I imagine anything requiring bread dough is going to be at least this much faff so it’s not exactly his fault. Assembling/decorating the pizza is fun, and you could put all sort of different things on top. One pizza is enough for 2 adults (with salad etc) so Jamie’s not wrong there, and the amount of sausage on top was fine, although he is wrong about how much cheese you need.

Cinnamon buns a la Esther

I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off. I find it very relaxing. Everyone is kind to each other, and if they have a crisis it’s really only a very minor crisis. The worst thing that can happen is that a tower of biscuits falls over, or someone accidentally uses the wrong custard (if this were The Apprentice they’d be deliberately sabotaging each other’s cooking).

This, in conjunction with an old blog post from Recipe Rifle, has inspired me to make cinnamon buns. They are quite autumnal too! They appear to be something like a Danish pastry or a Chelsea bun. I don’t know why they appeal – I am normally bad at things that involve kneading!

Melt 50g butter into 250ml milk – the recipe says whole milk, but I hope that doesn’t matter. I just did this in the microwave in the mixing bowl to minimise washing up. Add 500g bread flour, a sachet of yeast, 30g sugar (caster sugar apparently but I used granulated because I don’t ever bother to use caster sugar for anything) and a tsp of salt.

Mix to make dough, realise that your milk measurement may have been a bit much, chuck in some more flour. Knead for ages. Put on some country music to encourage vigorous kneading. Knead some more. Look at clock. Realise it hasn’t been that long. Promise to knead for “one more song”. Try not to deliberately pick a short song so you can stop kneading.

Put dough into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm, put in a warm place. I don’t have an airing cupboard and the heating is not yet on so I put hot water into a saucepan and put the bow on top of that. Wait for an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

Roll out into a big rectangle (50cm x 40cm apparently). This is tricky because I have a poorly-designed kitchen with no more than one cupboard-width of workspace in any one place.

Note the tape measure. And the non-squareness

Note the tape measure. And the non-squareness

Spread with 60g buttter and sprinkle with 150g light brown soft sugar (that is a sugar specification that I did listen to), 3 tbsp cinnamon, 75g currants.

Roll up (direction not specified- I went for the one that resulted in the longest sausage). It was a slightly lumpy sausage so I’m going to have some big buns and some small buns. Cut into wheels, put into baking tins, cover and leave for 45 mins. I put the oven on at this point and used the top of the oven as my “warm place”.

This is before the second rise - they did get bigger

This is before the second rise – they did get bigger

Brush tops with melted butter. Bake at 180C – 15 mins uncovered then 15 mins covered – normally I do things covered then uncovered, not sure what difference it makes. I actually forgot to cover them at all and they turned out fine.

Here they are in the tin

Some of the sugar/butter mix from the middle leaked out of the buns and bubbled away on the bottom of my tin. This gave them about 3-4mm of caramelised goodness on the bottom, but also made me think eek, better get them out of the tin before this sets solid to toffee!

They look nice like this

Chuck some water icing on if you want. I did and then they looked less pretty (my drizzling skills are not up to much) but they were tasty. And – SOFT! This definitely counts as a bread success.

Drizzling not great, but icing adds yummyness

Drizzling not great, but icing adds yummyness