This month’s IMK post is dedicated to a wonderful woman who touched many of our blogging lives and who sadly passed away last month. This post is in memory of Selma @ Selma’s Table. We will miss your sparkle.
Time passes… In the last gasp before the rush to get completely packed for our temporary relocation to Greece, I’ve found a little oasis of time just to enjoy the warm British summer. Grills feature quite heavily – and none more so that one of my favourites – fajitas, spicy grilled meats wrapped in soft warm tortillas and often topped with fresh jalepeño-spiked salsa and creamy guacamole. We were first introduced to these in San Antonio, Texas, so many years ago, almost a life-time past. Also long ago, while living further north in Wisconsin, we were lucky to have a brilliant Tex-Mex deli only a few blocks from our house. The place was painted in warm adobe colours with stenciled gekos climbing the walls and red chilli pepper lights festooning the windows. Very exotic for the Upper Midwest. I still have the refrigerator magnet advertising the place. It has been several decades since we were last there, but it forever lives on in our memories.
When we first moved to to the UK, I spent years trying to replicate that fajita taste based on those memories of a perfect spicy marinade. I had limited success at first, but quite recently I hit on a mixture that works for me, using readily available ingredients. That is, it didn’t require special dried Mexican chillies that are only – and sporadically – just showing up in the mainstream markets in the UK.
For meats (chicken, beef, pork), but can be adapted for fish or even vegetables (such as corn on the cob, roast potatoes, courgette slices, mushrooms).
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons* smoked sweet paprika
- 1 Tablespoon* ground corriander
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers (depending on the heat you want)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tablespoons* olive oil
- Juice from 1 lemon or 2 limes
* For Glenda: these are 15ml Tablespoons.
Simply mix the ingredients and place your meat in to marinade for a few hours (covered and refrigerated) before gilling. If you wish to use smoked hot paprika, omit the chilli pepper flakes. Smear this on your meat (fish or veg) and let it marinate for at least 1 hour before grilling.
The key ingredient is smoked paprika which replicates chipotle smokiness without the intense heat. Although, you can get the picante type in addition to the dulce. Stashes of Spanish smoked paprika are waiting to be packed – to tide me over until I can source supplies.
And, though I know I can buy tortilla wraps in Athens, it’s good to have a recipe for homemade ones under my belt, espically since dried packets of “Muriel” the sourdough starter are going with me – spreading the sourdough love from Celia’s original starter, Priscilla. After a few trials, I think I have it down. Quite easy to do.
Soft Sourdough Wheat Tortilla
Surprisingly like other leavened flatbreads baked on a hot griddle.
- 250g sourdough starter, 100% hydration
- 250g (about 2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
- 50g (about 3-1/2 Tablespoons) solid vegetable margarine or lard
- 30g (or 30ml) water – or less, depending on consistency of dough
Measure your sourdough starter in a bowl after it has been refreshed. Cover with clingfilm and let it rest for at least 4 hours. I do mine in the late morning so that it will be ready to use by the evening when you need to prepare the tortillas.
About an hour and a half before you want to make the tortillas, prepare the dough. Place the flour in a separate bowl and rub in the margarine or lard with your hands, flicking it between your fingers – the same procedure as making pastry or crumbles. Add the sourdough starter and salt. Then add a little water at a time. You may not need the entire 30g of water. Mix until the flour has been incorporated. The dough should be firm, but not too hard, nor too soft and sticky. Use your judgement on how much liquid to add. Let it rest for about 15 minutes before trning it out onto a lightly floured board.
Knead the dough until no longer stickly. Cut into 8 equal pieces and form these into flattened balls. Cover with clingfilm and let it rest for 1 hour. This relaxes the dough so that it will not spring back when rolled out.
Roll out each ball on a floured board as thin as you can get it. Each of the eight should be about 23cm (9in) diameter. Heat a cast iron griddle or a heavy bottom flat frying pan. Carefully roll the flattened tortilla on your floured rolling pin (being so thin, they are prone to tearing) and lift it to place the tortilla on a hot griddle. Let it start to produce a few bubbles on top (about a minute or a little longer). Flip the tortilla and let it get a few golden spots – another minute or so. Place the baked tortilla on a tea towel and cover. This softens the warm tortilla. Repeat the process with the other wraps. Serve immediately, or if preparing ahead, simply warm up again on the griddle.
Another way to warm up tortillas after they are made is in a specilist clay pot – covered and kept at a low heat in the oven. This pot (pictured below) lives in the back of my cupboard and comes out a few times a year. It is Mexican, purchased while we still lived in the US. Not only is it perfect for tortilla wraps, but it is great for crêpes and buckwheat galletes. It will not be going with me to pottery-rich Greece (like “taking coals to Newcastle”). On the other hand, I have made extensive measurements in the hopes that I can have a similar one made.
And, yes, we finally got to make and eat red currant salsa with grilled pork fajitas in homemade wraps!