Monday, August 8, 2016

Ole once more

We have been big fans of Mexican food since way back. In fact, if I remember correctly, back when I was a student in Calcutta, I had gone out for a date with my then boyfriend and through some strange serendipity, found a tiny new restaurant that served Mexican food on the terrace of a building - quite ahead of its time. Then many years later, Rodeo opened in CP and became our hang out place for the yummy large baskets of nachos and salsa as well as their food - the Sopa de Queso was a winter favourite. I remember after they started karaoke nights, we went with a couple of friends and took over the karaoke, singing so loudly and so off-key that everyone else pretty much left. Unfortunately, Rodeo has not aged well and the last time we visited it, out of sheer nostalgia, it proved to be a major let down.

Meanwhile, on my many travels to the US, I discovered several different restaurants that served Mexican food that I hadn't eaten before. In California, I went to Baja Fresh with my sister and her family - QSR food but fresh and tasty, like Californians love. Then in Seattle, dad and I discovered a restaurant near the Pike's Place market that served fabulous vegetarian chili. You can argue that chili is more Tex than Mex, but hey, it's all good! In Minneapolis which used to be a regular haunt, I went to Masa with a friend and we gorged on fabulous food including a salsa made of tomatillos that I can still recall loving.

My youngest is a big fan and when younger, used to constantly fold his roti bites over the vegetables, calling it a 'Tayco'. A year back, we made a foiled trip to Casa Lota and when we didn't get a table, beat it to La Bodega, a very fancy Mexican restaurant in Khan Market - don't remember the food being that great but the kids loved the churros.

However in all these years, the one thing I haven't found as good as the Rodeo nachos is the nacho chips. You still get good guacamole or salsa and sour cream but the actual nacho chips are mostly never crisp enough and I frankly don't enjoy the taste of corn chips. So when setting out to make a Mexican meal at home, I decided to go for broke with nacho chips as well.

Turns out, they're really easy to make. Not that healthy, but then deep-fried...who are you trying to kid?

Basically you take a couple cups of refined flour ( good old maida), add a tablespoon of (gasp!) butter and enough water to make it into a puri-type dough. Not too stiff, nor too sticky. Remember to add salt - it needs to taste salty.

Roll out into really really thin rotis/ circles and prick holes in it using a fork. Cook on a tawa/ pan on both sides until cooked and a few brown spots appear. Set aside to cool down.

When cool, cut each roti into 8-10 pizza-slide-shaped pieces. Deep fry until brown and place to drain on paper.

Serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Tequila on the side, yo!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Mexican food has been a favourite at home for many years, with Bojjandi constantly trying to make a 'Tayco' our of every roti he eats, with mixed results. Having had a smorgasbord at Junkyard cafe on Thursday, I was eager to have a foodie weekend. In Bangalore on a recent vacation, I and the kids had eaten at a place called California Burrito, where the food was super-enjoyable. Since A had missed out on it, I decided to recreate the fun at home. The best part is, it's customisable, really easy, delicious and healthy and would be great fun for a party.

I replaced the soft shell tacos with rice, mainly because the neighbourhood grocery store was our of maize flour ( makai ka atta).

Burrito Bowl

Rice/ soft shell tacos
Refried beans
Salsa - any number and kind you like
Sour cream

For adult fun, serve with tequila or margaritas on the side!

Cook approximately 1/4th white rice per person, as the refried beans make it a filling meal. Keep aside for use, hot, just before eating.

Refried beans recipe
Rajma - uncooked and soaked for 6-7 hours, 1 cup
1 medium onion ( about an egg size), chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Chilli powder/ 1-2 green chillies ( hotness level adjusted to what you can handle)
1/2 tbsp oil
Water - approx 1.25 cups
Salt to taste

Put the oil on to heat. When hot ( 30 seconds), add the cumin seeds. Once they puff up, add the garlic and onion and saute until translucent. Then add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Add the bean, water, salt and chillies and let it simmer until the beans are soft and tender - you may need to add a touch more water but the overall consistency should not be watery. It could take about 30-45 minutes. You can also do this in a pressure cooker, cook for 2 whistles.
Once the beans are cooked through, mash them using a masher or a heavy ladle. Ideally don't put them through a mixie as it becomes glutinous in texture. You should have a chunky puree at the end of it; add a tad more water if you like is slightly flowy. Should be the consistency of chunky peanut butter but not as immobile. Check seasoning.

While the beans are soaking, you can make your sour cream and refrigerate. I made a cheat version, inspired by Tarla Dalal.
Fresh cream packet from Amul - 2
Juice of 1/2 - 1 lime
Touch of salt

Mix the three well in a bowl and put away to refrigerate till needed.

While the beans are cooking, get on with your salsas.
Corn salsa
Frozen corn - 2 cups...or you can get 4 roasted bhuttas and slice the pods off
Tomato - 1 large, chopped fine
Juice of 1/2-1 lemon, depending on tartness
Coriander leaves, chopped fine
2 spring onions, chopped fine
Dash of cumin powder
Salt to taste

Mix everything and refrigerate, letting the flavours develop.

Pico de Gallo
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped superfine
1 tomato, pulped/ grated
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 chillies chopped fine, or chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped fine
1/2 tbsp tomato ketchup - any brand
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, depending on the tartness
Salt to taste

Mix everything, taste for balance and refrigerate till needed

Mango salsa
1 mango, finely cubed
1 mango, pulped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
Handful coriander leaves, minced
2-3 green chillies, chopped fine
Salt to taste

Mix everything, taste for balance and refrigerate

Guacamole, our favourite
1-2 large avocados, mashed
1 medium tomato, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 green chillies, chopped fine
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped fine
Juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon
Salt to taste

Mix everything together and refrigerate till the flavours develop. Tip - mash the avocados last and then mix quickly so they don't discolour.

Layer a large bowl with hot rice at the bottom, followed by warm refried beans. Top with a handful of lettuce leaves  - cut into ribbons, for once, for ease of maneuverability. Add whichever salsas take your fancy. Top with a dollop of salsa and enjoy!