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Friday 22 August 2014

Recipes: Rachel Allen gives us a step-by-step guide to a simple Mexican supper

Go south of the border for the finest in convivial cuisine, says Rachel Allen, who gives us a step-by-step guide to a simple Mexican supper that's a real family feast

Rachel Allen

Published 13/08/2012 | 06:00

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Rachel Allen

To me, one of the most gratifying and fun aspects of food is sharing it around a table. I love big, convivial dinners in which lots of different bowls are passed around for everyone to dig in. I think that way of eating defines Mexican food more than chillies do, or even guacamole.

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Mexican food is one of my favourite world cuisines and it has a few essentials. It involves all sorts of different chillies, not just for their heat, but also for their distinctive flavours. There is almost always lime juice and coriander, two bright and fresh tastes that I adore. Mexican food also means avocados, and they must be soft and ripe. These and other distinctive flavours make up one of the great -- and increasingly popular -- cuisines of the world.

Tortillas are quintessentially Mexican. They're essentially very flat breads, made from corn or flour. You can easily find them in supermarkets. Tortillas are used to make various different Mexican dishes from quesadillas to burritos and, as here, to make fajitas.

These four recipes all combine to make a fabulous meal. The marinade for the steak should be made first, then the steak must be marinated for at least an hour, and preferably overnight.

Next the spiced beans are made and kept warm. Then put together the salsa and guacamole and keep them in the fridge -- though don't let the guacamole sit for more than a few hours as it will go brown. Placing cling film on the surface of the guacamole will prevent this, however. Finally, grill, then slice the steak. Warm the tortillas in a 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6 oven for a few minutes, then divide them between plates.

Everyone can then make their own fajitas, adding just what they want from the steak, beans, salsa and guacamole. Try including some sour cream and grated cheese, then roll up and tuck in!

Steak fajitas

Serves 6-8.

For the marinade, you will need:

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, mashed or finely grated

1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin

1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander

1 green chilli, finely chopped (see my Tip, opposite)

A handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems), chopped

For the steak, you will need:

One or two flank or skirt steaks, about 400g (13oz) in total

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Grated cheese and sour cream, to serve (optional)

Make the marinade by simply mixing all the marinade ingredients together. Put the marinade and the flank or skirt steaks, whichever you are using, in a bag, or in a container with a lid and seal.

Put the sealed bag or container in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours. When you're ready to cook, place a griddle pan or a sturdy frying pan on a high heat and allow it to get quite hot.

Remove the meat from the marinade and season it with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the pan and when it's hot, add the steak. Cook for a few minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like your meat. Remove from the heat and allow the steak to rest for five minutes.

Cut the steak into slices, then serve in tortillas with spiced black beans, tomato salsa, guacamole, (see below) and, if using them, some grated cheese and sour cream.

Spiced black beans

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

50g (2oz) butter

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin

1 x 400g (13oz) tin of black beans or pinto beans, drained, or 125g (4 1/2oz) of dried beans, soaked overnight then drained and cooked in fresh water until soft

75ml (3fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the butter in a saucepan and, on a low heat, add the peeled and finely chopped red onion, the peeled and very finely chopped garlic, the finely chopped red chilli and the freshly ground cumin.

Cover with a lid and gently fry for 6-8 minutes or until soft and slightly golden. Add the cooked black or pinto beans, whichever you are using, and continue to cook, uncovered, for three minutes until the beans are heated through.

Next, using a potato masher or fork, mash the bean mixture, but keep it chunky and not too smooth.

Add the chicken or vegetable stock, whichever you are using, and continue to cook gently for 4-5 minutes, uncovered, until it is quite thick. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then remove to a serving bowl and either serve immediately or keep warm until you're ready to serve.

Tomato salsa

Makes 400ml (14fl oz).

You will need:

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon onion or spring onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2-1 chilli, finely chopped (taste a tiny bit first, you might want to add more or less)

1 heaped tablespoon chopped coriander

Juice of 1/2 lime (lemon will also suffice)

Salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together and season with the salt, the freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Guacamole

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

2 ripe avocados, peeled and stone removed

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoon of olive oil (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mash the peeled, ripe avocados, then add the crushed garlic, the olive oil, if you're using it, the chopped fresh coriander, the lime juice to taste, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the guacamole into a bowl and put cling film on the surface to prevent it going brown. Keep until needed.

L

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