Tecs-Mex

Been getting back into making tortillas – wheat ones that is. Sometimes it seems like a real drag but, like bread, shop-bought tortillas are disgusting. So get your sleeves rolled up and stop whinging!

This is how I did it this time. It was warm and the butter was very soft. I’m not a pastry person but I know the butter is supposed to be chilled before you rub it into the flour. Don’t know why because the soft butter rubbed in really easily. Rubbed the butter into the two flours + salt.

I think the inclusion of starter began as a sort of private joke a lot of years ago (when a sourdough baker was a rare animal) and I think I insisted on it being rye. I did once find a recipe in a Mexican cook book that included starter but that was the only time. So, hand-mixed a dough. I usually use pretty hot water but the day was already well warm.

Put the dough in a plastic box, put the box in the fridge, forgot about it for a couple of days. Then got hungry.

I have an ancient cast-iron skillet that only ever gets used for dry-frying tortillas. There’s nothing special about it, in fact it heats very unevenly, but that’s it’s job.

So my method is: scale the dough at 60g, roll the dough balls, flatten them the heal of my hand, line them up on the back of the work surface, cover and allow to rest. Nothing crucial about this; they just rest while I finish prepping.

You need wide-open spaces over which flour can be strewn and a rolling pin with which you have an affinity.

Put the pan on a medium heat and give it ten minutes to really heat up (you can adjust as you go along). Place a dinner plate next to the hob with an open tea-towel half draped over it and your favourite spatula/turner by its side.

Get rolling. Roll out maybe five tortillas before you start to cook. Roll them as thin as you can, give them a little stretch with the flat of your hands and line them up in order of rolling.

Pick up the first to go by the top edges, carry it to the pan and flop it in giving the skillet a little shake to make sure it’s not sticking.

Retreat to the rolling area and start with the next dough ball – once you get into a rhythm you can roll one out as the one in the pan cooks.

After a minute or so the tortilla will start to bubble up. Toss like Pancake Day or just flip it over. Use your spatula to pat it down against the hot surface for about 30 seconds, then hoik it out onto the plate and fold the tea-towel over to cover it.

You want to singe patches into the first side but just seal the second.

Pile them up: they’ll keep warm for some time. Use what you need and freeze the rest.

And on this occasion the still-warm wheat tortillas were joined by a delivery from Cool Chile Company: a kilo of white and a pack of Blue Corn Tortillas. Thats what you call Food Security.

Tecs-Mex – North Walian-Mexican food. First time I heard of someone called what I took to be “Tex” round here I imagined a tough looking guy in a stetson, a Welsh cowboy (try Andrew RT Davies in a 10 gallon hat). In my ignorance I didn’t realise it was “Tecs” short for Tecwyn …

Mexican/Tex-Mex food is a fairly huge and contentious area. In my youth I would have been attracted to Mexican food because I’m a fairly genre sort of person, you know John Wayne turn-ups, cowboys/vaqueros and injuns, Pancho Villa, Sam Peckinpah, Once Upon a Time in almost anywhere. Took a long time to get any understanding of the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex. But we used to wander between the London restaurants that had claims in either direction.

There was one terribly authentic Mexican restaurant, La Cucaracha on Greek Street in Soho where the Mexican Embassy people were supposed to eat. You went through a doorway and down a flight of stairs at the bottom of which were two guitarists in full Mariarchi clobber (they would have stood out from the crowd on the last bus home) and the reception area. They were pretty stiff and snooty but the food was good and the guitarists weren’t bad (and didn’t play Besame Mucho). The restaurant was obviously converted cellars – a maze of rooms that led off each other, the walls naked brick. The best thing I (n)ever saw was a waiter with his nose in the air carrying a tray at head height with a dozen margeritas on board. He shimmied between the tables in our room into the next. Yes, next came the most enormous crash, followed by a deafening silence. The guitarists stopped, the conversations stopped, a great stillness sank upon the earth. It was so much more dramatic than actually seeing it happen.

But a very minor epiphany happened in a very different restaurant – Break for the Border on Argyle Street, a sort of trendy, trying to be cool joint that had bands playing Americana type music at night (before the name had been coined, I think). But we’ve always been lunch people – just seems so much more decadent. You all know what Huevos Rancheros is, tortillas with eggs and some sort of enchilada sauce and possibly frijoles refritos – a very popular Mexican breakfast. Well, they served it as a brunch-style dish with hash browns and bacon. Simple stuff but it changed my way of looking at things.

Hence the sort of Mexican All-Day Breakfast below, Mick’s wheat tortillas, enchilada sauce, bacon, Mentor Pandy eggs, proper hash browns, yesterday’s left-over sausage (another rare breed), Mick’s Patent Tomato Ketchup.

Food Security …

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