This was a meal born of laziness, leftovers, the desire not to waste food, and the desire to have alliteration in my menu. The soup came from the freezer. Wait, it didn’t *originally* come from the freezer, that would mean I had some kind of magic freezer, potentially with a gateway to Narnia at the back. That said, I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time that I’d taken something out of the freezer that I didn’t remember putting in. Stupid fauns, getting amongst my icy tupperwares… However, in this instance what I meant was that the soup came from the freezer because I had made a great big cauldron of it last time and saved some for just such an occasion. The bean burrito makings were left over from steak fajita night; the steak was all gone but I had salsa, guacamole, refried beans, tortillas, cheese and creme fraiche left. It pains me to say that the refried beans came from a can, and the tortillas were very much not home made. However, I am enough of a realist to know that some nights you don’t have time to make everything from scratch, and it was one of those nights. Besides, it was a (very belated) birthday dinner, and I wanted to spend less time cooking and more time eating, drinking and setting the world to rights. Steak fajitas are really tasty, when you cook the steak till it’s still pink but nicely coloured and then wrap it up with a bit of everything and then drop it all back onto the plate because you were over ambitious… Good times. However, the bean burritos were pretty good the next night, too, and I have pictures of them and everything.
One other thing to note is that the guacamole was homemade, and left over from the night before. I stored it in a tupperware alongside some leftover salsa, and put the stones from the avocados (they were small) in amongst it to see if it would maintain its green colour and not turn into a grey mess that would look more at home at the bottom of a pond. This definitely worked, and the guacamole was still 99% green and fresh looking after about 18 hours in the fridge.
I feel that the soup is the main event, though, since it’s all homemade and very nutritious. It’s an original recipe of my brother’s, though we make it a bit differently and it depends what veg comes to hand what colour the soup ends up. Plus I don’t remember him using the flavoured oils or fresh herbs, so I’ve done what I usually do and messed around with the recipe till it’s the way I like it, but all props to the Bizzle (that’s not his given name, I hasten to add) for the idea and method. The only bad thing about this soup is that it feels wrong to serve it without several thick slices of buttered bread – tiger bread in particular. Don’t get me wrong, the soup is excellent on its own, but the bread and butter adds a whole level of joy. I say it’s a bad thing because adding said tiger bread to the plate transforms an otherwise quite healthy and vitamin-rich soup into a feast of wheat, cheese and butter. Unfortunate, but who can resist? A stronger woman than I, that’s who.
To make the soup, get a selection of your favourite mediterranean veg. My favourites, and amounts to make a large pot, are:
- six tomatoes
- two small courgettes, thickly sliced
- one red onion, cut into six pieces
- two chilis, each topped and cut into two or three bits, seeds removed as you see fit
- four cloves of garlic, peeled
- one red and one green pepper, quartered
- four or five stems of fresh thyme or oregano, or a mix
- basil oil
- lemon oil
- kettle of boiling water
- salt and pepper
- handful of fresh basil
Put all the vegetables (or actually I think they might all be fruits, except the onion. Weird.), the garlic and the oregano and/or thyme into a large roasting dish, then drizzle with the basil and lemon oils. Try to position the tomatoes and peppers at the top of the dish. Put into the oven at 200C and roast for about 15 minutes, then check. The aim is to be able to lift the skin off the tomatoes and peppers and discard it, so keep putting the dish back in the oven until this is possible. You’ll probably have to turn things around while cooking, and the tomatoes will give up their skins much more easily than the peppers – the peppers are like the marines of the vegetable world in that respect. It doesn’t matter if you leave a little on there, it all gets blended up in the end anyway, but I think the skin can be bitter so it’s best to get rid of a lot of it.
Once the veg is roasted up all nice, tip the entire contents of the roasting dish into a big soup pot, add a couple of mugs of water, then stir. Blend with a hand blender until the veg is all liquid, then taste and season. You can add more water to make the soup thinner if you prefer, and if the flavours aren’t strong enough crumble in a veg stock cube or two, depending on the size of the pot. Stir in the basil and simmer until you’re ready to serve. You’ll see I have also – inexpertly – drizzled the soup with basil oil and creme fraiche, just to be fancy. The result is a rough textured, fresh and spicy soup. I like the texture of the tomato seeds in there, it’s one of the reasons that I like homemade tomato soup and not tinned cream of tomato. If you’d prefer the soup to be smooth, remove the seeds from the tomatoes before roasting them, and you can also pass the finished soup through a sieve to catch any bits of skin or anything else that won’t be smooth. I like the sort of rustic finish, though, plus it’s easier to do and requires less washing up, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a winner.
As I said, the burritos were leftover central, and I filled them as follows: first, a layer of guacamole (made to the recipe I’ve posted before). Next, a layer of refried beans, heated in the microwave. Let us not beat around the proverbial bush – refried beans look more appalling than appealing. They’re pinkish-brown mush, in this instance pinkish-brown mush from a tin. Yargh. However, once you’ve moved past that, they are delicious. Next time I’ll definitely make my own from dried pinto or black beans, but for now I went with the supermarket’s own brand, and very nice they were too. On top of the beans went the salsa – again made to the recipe as previously posted, and heated through. Then, some ever delicious cheese. I used half-fat cheese, just as I used low-fat creme fraiche and low-fat yoghurt in the guacamole. The way I see it, the flavours of the avocado, peppers, tomatoes and beans stand out better without bucket loads of thick sour cream and really strong cheese. Or perhaps that is just something that I tell myself so that I feel like I’m not missing out… Really though, with the amount of food I like to eat I find it necessary to substitute low-fat ingredients a lot of the time, and most often people don’t notice. Perhaps some of them are too polite to say anything, but others would definitely pipe up if they thought I was trying to feed them rabbit food, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating anyone on taste. I am also working hard at teaching myself that ‘treat’ or ‘special’ food doesn’t have to be rubbish and heavy on the stomach, it’s just that so many of us have this perception of ‘treat’ food courtesy of the demon ADVERTISING. I try to stop and think about what I’d really, really like to eat and not just go for the foods I wouldn’t normally allow myself. That said, macaroni cheese is my ultimate comfort food, and it often is what I’d really, really like *as well* as being something that I wouldn’t normally allow myself. Even with skimmed milk and half fat cheese, it’s more than I’d usually eat, if only because a normal sized portion just isn’t enough, and I like to eat it with buttered, white toast on the side…
Preaching about low-fat ingredients and drooling over macaroni cheese over – for now. No promises about future posts, I reserve the right to daydream about lactose related products as much or as little as I want. Once I’d layered up the burritos, I wrapped them. Now, you may look at this next picture and tell me that they are not, in fact, burritos, but fajitas. You’re right, as far as my understanding goes, but rolling them this way makes the tortilla to filling ratio more sensible, and involved far less folding and footering around, both of which appeal to me greatly, especially when the food is just for me. I’m not changing the post title though – you can pry my alliteration from my cold, dead hands.
So they’re rolled, and I put a nice line of creme fraiche along the top of each one and covered with more cheese. I know, what happened to the health conscious choices? This is a prime example of the reason that I can’t have cheese in the house – I should only be allowed to consume cheese, pasta or white bread in the presence of a responsible adult who has no qualms about simply taking it away from me when I have had a reasonable amount. At any rate, once I’d ignored my guilt and topped the wraps with dairy products, I put them under the grill to get all melty and warm while I heated the soup through. The creme fraiche thickens up and compliments the melted cheese really well, as it’s smooth and almost slice-able in contrast to the cheese’s persistent stretchiness. Then, once I’d put the fancy swirly decoration on the soup and taken some pictures of the whole lot, I was good to eat.
The great thing about a lot of Mexican food, for me, is the mix of textures and flavours. The salsa is spicy and crunchy, the guacamole creamy with occasional soft lumps of avocado and tomato, the creme fraiche is smooth, the refried beans are stodgy… I also love the mix of hot and cold between the components, it’s a strangely satisfying feeling that confuses but pleases. It’s like hot fudge cake and ice cream, the combination of hot and cold can be as much an important part of the enjoyment of a dish as the flavours themselves. I also love the colours in these dishes; the soup in particular is really vibrant and energising even before you take a spoonful.
I think I may have waxed lyrical quite enough about my own cooking for one day. All that’s left is the gimmicky and increasingly difficult pairing up of the food with appropriate media…
Tunes: Since this was a quick meal to throw together, I wanted a quick tune to go with it. I remembered then that one of my favourite Red Hot Chili Peppers songs is only a minute long, and it turns out that it’s about Mexican food, so how much more appropriate can it get? I had no iea about the lyrics until now, it’s true what they say about every day being a school day. I learned a lot of song lyrics when I was at school, and they’ve stuck with me where things like the quadratic equation haven’t… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5W2J1osesg
Movie: Let’s go with From Dusk Till Dawn. It’s faux-Mexican, it has a certain bite to it, it’s enjoyable without stretching your limits in any way and George Clooney has an awesome tattoo in it. The last bit’s unrelated to the food. You Tube mainly provies the clip of Salma Hayek dancing, but here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E5iV_VoBSg