The Husband and I both enjoy Mexican food. I have developed, over the years, a greater tolerance of hot and a little more spicy. Mexican allows for our both respective heat proclivities and penchants for things animal or vegetable. Just down the road and around the corner from our first home was a Mexican spot.
We ate there often – we literally stepped out of the front door and went around the corner. We missed it when we moved.
The mandatory digression
When we got married a few months later, and after we moved, we decided in
our wisdom, to host a supper, at home, for about 13 people – the evening before the nuptials. The most sane part was ordering most of the food from our favourite Mexican spot. The owner (who also owns our favourite Cape Town pizza spot – and still does – even though it’s moved) kindly allowed us to order in most of what we needed. From the chicken wings and guacamole, to the best pickled and roasted vegetables with, of course, tortillas. It all arrived and with instructions for flash-frying the wings.
I admit to remembering little of that evening, except that it was fun – even with no Tequila… (A lot of that period was a bit of a blur with special moments, never to be forgotten, standing out). It was the days before cell phone cameras, so there are no photographs.
Over the years we’ve continued having the odd Mexican meal – using commercial tortillas. More to the point, though, tortillas are versatile and have almost become ubiquitous. I think my last airline snack was a soggy tortilla. Also known as a wrap. Happily I have not had occasion to fly. For a while. Not that it’s a sane thing to do at the moment.
Consequences of Covid
Having been locked down for as long as we have (day 88, if you’re counting), I’ve tried making things I’ve been wanting to try for ages. One of these has been tortilla. I had a feeling that they’d be cheaper to make than shop bought. As a reminder, the village has no major grocery shop. The little convenience stores stock the essentials but very little fancy stuff – tortilla count as “fancy”. Also, at the beginning of lockdown, going anywhere was frowned upon.
So, inspired by a WhatsApp chat with Pixie to celebrate Cinco de Mayo on May the 5th, I knew had the makings of fajitas, but nothing to wrap them in. I had a potential problem.
Not really. It just meant I had to do what I’d long thought about: find a recipe for, and make, tortilla.
As happens when one consults professor Google, there is a range of options that emerges and one learns
how ignorant one is that flour tortillas and corn tortillas are quite different. Even though we have corn (mielie) meal in this country, the corn meal for making tortilla is not the same as the meal one uses for grits. I had no choice. They would have to be flour.
All the recipes that I found, courtesy of professor Google, included lard. Not only did I not have lard, but I have bad memories of lard. I prefer, if I can, to steer clear of it. It also occurred to me that if I could make tortilla successfully, I might be able to add another product to my repertoire. When. One. Day. I can again sell my wares at the market and/or host Sunday Suppers.
Wrapping up a promise
I did find a recipe for tortilla that uses wheat flour and vegetable oil. So I gave it a whirl. So happy was I, that I shared my success on social media. Of course.
Only to be asked for the recipe – some said that they’d had tried, unsuccessfully, to make tortillas. They’d not found a recipe that worked. They were surprised when I said that they’re easy to make. They really are. The recipe worked: first time. I’ve made them subsequently, and I shall, again. They are also quick and easy. Best of all, they are much less expensive to make than the store-bought ones. A lot less.
Flour Tortilla – wrapping it up
Not only is this recipe vegan, but it consists of ingredients that anyone has in the kitchen: just four – all purpose flour, salt, water and vegetable oil. While they’re wheat, they contain no yeast. Resting time is minimal. Probably the longest part of the entire job is rolling them out (a good way to deal with the frustrations of a bad day), but once that’s done, they keep if you won’t eat them all.
It’s easy – just a couple of steps: mix together two cups of all-purpose flour and ½ a teaspoon of salt. Then add ¾ of a cup of water and 3 dessert (UK) or table (USA) spoons of vegetable oil (olive oil, canola or sunflower). Mix this to a smooth, firm dough, adding flour or water if you need. Before rolling the tortillas, allow the dough to rest for at least 10 minutes.
The original recipe directs the making of eight, 18 cm (7 inch) diameter tortilla. This is not really big enough for a burrito, but works well for wannabe qesadillas, enchiladas and fajitas, and for more than one per person – if one is spoilt for choice with filling combos. The second time I made tortilla, I divided the dough into 6 and the finished size was more like that of the commercial ones (about 30cm / 12 inches). Oh, and if you want to be sure that the tortillas are equal sizes, weigh the dough and then do the math(s), dividing the total weight by the number of tortilla you want. The printable recipe is here. If you do download it, please buy me a coffee?
Cook the tortilla and assemble into your favourite fajita, quasadilla or whatever, in the usual way.
In keeping this promise, I’m also delighted to be reciprocating with a recipe to someone who’s generously shared many recipes with me, including one for flatbreads. So, Mary, this recipe is for you!
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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