It took me a long time to get into Mexican food. As a student my distinct memory was of acres of chilli con carne and dried-up refried beans; not the most appetising combination. Then in the States, home to some of the best Mexican food outside Mexico, I spent more time drooling over the local crab cakes in Maryland and discovering how gorgeous and affordable sushi could be; in fact, I don’t remember ever eating Mexican food, though I’m sure I must have done. And, here, in London though I have had many a drunken night in La Perla, the thing I recall most (or don’t…) is the margaritas.
So, when a friend suggested eating at Wahaca over a year ago, I wasn’t enthralled at the prospect. But, knowing that she was both fussy and knowledgeable, I went with her recommendation. We went to the Southbank branch, a conglomeration of shipping containers, which, though irritatingly hard to get into (I tried on a wet February Wednesday last week; the wait was 90 minutes…), is, I discovered, bloody marvellous and relatively reasonably priced too.
The food is served in tapas-sized portions, which I love since normal-sized burritos are, usually, completely overwhelming and, what’s more, you can try loads more things. This was my favourite, a really straightforward combination of flavours, and when the same said friend bought me the founder of Wahaca, Thomasina Miers‘s book, Mexican Food Made Simple, I made these first. They’re incredibly after-work-friendly because all the ingredients are easy to get hold of, make yourself, or store, they’re fast and, one of the absolute rules for any restaurant-related cook book as far as I’m concerned, the ones you make yourself taste pretty close to the ones you get in the restaurant itself. But you don’t have to wait 90 minutes for these…
Chorizo, potato and thyme quesadillas (adapted from Mexican Food Made Simple)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
cheese, 400g (a mixture of Cheddar and grated mozzarella is recommended and works. Don’t bother grating the mozzarella yourself, buy the ready-grated stuff, if you value your fingers.)
chorizo, either shop-bought or homemade, 350g
a small bunch of fresh thyme
large flour or corn tortillas, 4
1. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and fry in a little olive oil over a gentle heat until cooked/tender.
2. Whilst the potatoes are cooking prep everything else: peel, top and tail and chop the onion and garlic; chop the chorizo into bite-sized pieces; remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs; grate the cheese if necessary.
3. When the potatoes are done, remove from the pan and put to one side and add the onion to the same frying pan. Cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.
4. Add the cooked potatoes and chopped chorizo to the garlic and onion, turn up the heat and fry for another 5 minutes.
5. Finally, mix in the thyme leaves and season with a little salt and pepper.
6. Take one of the tortillas and spread a quarter of the potato-chorizo mixture on one half then scatter over a quarter of the grated cheese. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the top of the cheese to make a semi-circle shape then brush it with a little olive oil. Repeat with the other 3 tortillas.
7. Heat a clean frying pan and dry-fry each of the tortillas in turn until golden and crisp on both sides.
8. Cut each tortilla into quarters and serve immediately. Rather delicious with Mexican Food Made Simple guacamole…