I like Mexican food. Well I think I do because although I've never been to the place I try to read up and then cook dishes from a lot of cuisines and Mexican is one I've investigated a bit. It started with a couple of books but over the years it has become increasingly via the net. My first Mexican cookbook was bought in Sainsbury ages ago, it's called 'Cooking of Mexico' and is written by an author called Lourdes Nichols. Googling around it was originally written in 1983 and the revised version came out for Sainsbury in 1985. As I was only 9 then I imagine it had been sat on the shelves for a while before I grabbed my copy. Outside of the interesting recipes it seems it was a good investment as a used copy is now going for £8.33 and I think I paid a meagre fiver for mine. Before this book my idea of Mexican food was fajitas, tacos and nachos which were the only dishes that seemed to pop up in the Tex-Mex inspired restaurants in the UK in that time. This book is a miniscule 93 pages but within it there was so many things I'd never seen before: frijoles, mexican chorizo, tostadas - to name a few - but first and foremost soft corn tortillas. Their combination of nacho-like taste and soft texture are well worth seeking out but for some reason I think we've only started seeing these in UK supermarkets in the last couple of years. This cookbook had a recipe for them but getting masa harina at the time was an impossible task and so it was years before I tried making them. Thanks to the Cool Chile Co. masa harina is available easily, if not rather expensively, now though in my local Sainsbury.
I decided to make this weekend a Mexican weekend and so fresh corn tortillas were on the menu. Recently I've been reading up a bit on improving my food photopgraphy and one thing that kept springing up was make sure there's plenty of natural light. Currently we only seem to have a few hours of daylight a day though and not wanting to get caught out by an overcast afternoon I decided on a Mexican breakfast and for me that means only one thing - huevos rancheros. If you've not heard of this before it consists of fried tortillas topped with refried beans, fried eggs and cooked tomato salsa and is a great start to the day. In preparation I went out and bought my masa harina, my kidney beans, my coriander and my tomatoes, onions and chillies. I then proceeded to drink for about 11 hours straight then wake up in my dressing gown not very sure how I got home and feeling a tad on the tender side. Not one to be sidetracked from my cooking task though I headed downstairs and proceeded to prepare for the meal. As I had my new photography tips to put into practice this also involved setting a tripod up and making a few adjustments to the camera much to the amusement of the flatmates who'd also been out with me the night before and whose methods of dealing with their hangovers differed slightly from mine.
The first thing to make was the tortillas and I just followed the recipe on the masa harina packet for these - so 250gr flour mixed into 330ml of warm water. The dough mixes really easily and doesn't stick and then you leave it for 15 minutes, I guess for the flour to absorb the water. After this time take balls (this amount makes 10-12) and make into tortilla shapes. You can use a tortilla press, a rolling pin, pat them out between your hands or copy me and place the ball between two sheets of greaseproof paper, place this between two chopping boards and then stand on it. It works surprisingly well but since someone suggetsed the hand patting method (they'd seen mexican ladies on TV do it) I will give this a try next time. Once they're tortilla sized and shaped chuck them one at a time onto a dry, hot frying pan and cooked for maybe a minute a side storing on a tea towel whilst waiting for the others to finish.
The rest of the recipe was taken from a book by the aforementioned Lourdes Nichols but a bigger hardback called Mexican Cookery which I picked up from the local Oxfam recently.