In My Fajita Kitchen

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 jalepeรฑo-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.

Pasquals_frig_magnet

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.

fajita_marinade

Fajita Marinade
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.

fajita_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.

smoked_paprika

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.

tortilla_wraps_feature

Soft Sourdough Wheat Tortilla
Surprisingly like other leavened flatbreads baked on a hot griddle.

Makes 8

  • 250g sourdough starter, 100% hydration
  • 250g (about 2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 50g (about 3-1/2 Tablespoons) solid vegetable margarine or lard
  • salt
  • 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.

making_tortilla

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 crรชpes 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.

tortilla_clay_pot
tortilla_in_pot

And, yes, we finally got to make and eat red currant salsa with grilled pork fajitas in homemade wraps!

red_currant_salsa_July2015

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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41 comments

  1. What a gorgeous post and am sure Selma will be missed on all who was blessed to know her! I love a good fajita recipe and yours looks delicious! Thank you for this month’s kitchen views also!

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    • Thanks Joanne. It was a shock to hear about Selma. She was such a lovely voice in our blogging world. Several of her recipes have now become regulars in my kitchen – a good way to remember her. By the way…the fajitas were excellent!

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  2. So sad to hear that Selma is gone…I can’t quite believe it. I loved her cheerful writing and vibrant recipes. In fact I featured one on my blog just a few months ago. I’m glad I got the chance to let her know how much I admired her work…what a sad loss for her family. Lovely recipe Deb.

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  3. That was a beautiful tribute to Selma, KW. She really touched a lot of lives. Those fajitas look fantastic and with that eye poppingly red salsa? Hoo Ha! Glad you have enjoyed some UK summer before The Big Move.

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    • I love that salsa – very seasonal since it can only be made with fresh red currants that only come around once a year. Fajitas are fab! I think Selma would have liked the sourdough tortillas. I have a number of her recipes I make often – a good way to remember a special person.

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  4. Lovely tribute to Selma Debi, it’s a bit hard to comprehend that her warm voice is no more. I will forever make lemon oil in her memory. Your fajitas look fab! Hope the packing is coming along, i feel a bit like time is standing still, waiting for M day!

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    • Yes, I like that idea that one (or more) of her recipes will keep the memory of Selma alive. I also associate my lemon oil with her. Packing is progressing. It is hard to decide what goes. The house we are moving to s fully furnished, has a working kitchen (in fact is catering certified). So, it is just personal stuff… Trying to limit books is the hardest! Good luck with your M-day! Our stuff is due to go before September.

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  5. Debi, your dedication to Selma was heartwarming — “sparkle,” yes, xo. Thanks for that, and for your fajita and tortilla recipes. The lil’ Tex-Mex deli that inspired you sounded way ahead of its time up in the frozen North! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • That deli was our favourite place and I guess just a little on the quirky side. It was very popular. Still, I liked the more common “fish boil” places and the German style restaurants with their beer steins and schnitzels (and polka bands) as well. A lot of other “ethic” populations in the mid-west also made their mark on the cuisine there, but the Tex-Mex deli was one of a kind.

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  6. I’m impressed with your devotion to re-creating Tex-Mex in England (and possibly Greece). We’re spoiled in the U.S. Tortillas can now be found in almost every well-stocked supermarket, even in New England. Will look for smoked paprika. My jar of regular paprika does little more than add a sprinkle of color. Good luck with your move.

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    • We can get tortillas here in the UK in most supermarkets, although they are often marketed as “wraps”. Ditto in Athens. If you can find Spanish smoked paprika, you are in for a treat – much more than just a colouring agent. I am sold on it!

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  7. Great recipes, I’m saving both of them ๐Ÿ™‚
    For the fajita marinade, I have lots of Mexican dried chilli powders so what would you use if you replaced the sweet paprika?

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  8. How versatile is Muriel, now she is the magic ingredient in Fajitas. Your post is so summery with salsas and outdoor grilling. I can feel some of that coming my way. Thanks for the marinade recipe- i can use that soon when the season turns- and I love smoky Pimenton.

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    • Well, the grilling was the “eye of the storm” – calm, but chaos in front, chaos to follow. Only a month to go before stuff is packed off and then we follow. An adventure, I keep telling myself. Good for the soul!

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      • Hope the banks and shops hold up over there, and that poor old Greece finds a solution to its economic woes, and that you and yours can stay a little immune from it. But, hey, it is an adventure! You wouldn’t be dead for quids!

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  9. A lovely, brightly coloured and flavoured, tribute to Selma, culminating in wonderful tantalising eye candy on the screen.. red currant salsa with grilled pork fajitas in homemade wraps ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. Hi Debi. I love your clay pot. What a wonderful idea. Your recipe soundslovely. Most Australians don’t even know that our std tbs is 20 mils. 5 mils can make a difference when you are talking salt or spices. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I didn’t know that there were differences in what we think of as “standard” measurements until I read your posts. Traditional Victorian/Edwardian British tablespoons are also different – 25ml (approx.), so tricky when interpreting historic recipes! That clay pot is fabulous – bought on a whim back when living in the US where I had much more cabinet space. I am so glad I decided to bring it with us on the move to the UK. I have a Greek potter in mind for replicas. Many of my Greek friends have admired it, so might make nice presents!

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      • Hi Debi. The Victorian tablespoons were literally that. Not a std measure as we know them. I discovered that when trying to make Ms Beeton’s Dampfnudelns. I wonder sometimes how people go with on-line recipes if they are not aware of the differences. I have a 20 mil set, a 15 mil set and a 1/2 fluid ounce set. I’m equipped for all contingencies ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I *think* it might be the rolling pin that I use – an Italian materello which is a solid olive wood cylinder about 20 inches long and about 2.5 inches in diameter. It really is a great kitchen tool and I have discovered that, since I acquired it, rolling out pastry and dough is so much easier. Of course, it also helps that the dough is well rested and does not pull back like an elastic band once rolled out. Hope this makes sense!

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    • Loved living in Wisconsin. We still miss it, but now we have fajitas to remind us of that wonderful time in our lives. I am glad that I finally have a good standby recipe for the marinade and the homemade tortillas are a revelation! I don’t think I will go back to store-bought ones.

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  11. Thank you so much for the tortilla recipe, it worked beautifully. Also made a version of your redcurrant salsa : with added passata and a little extra honey, cooked for a couple of minutes, when cool I added chopped coriander, it was absolutely delicious. All this to accompany kid-goat roasted on the spit in a warm sunday in the north-west of Ireland.

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    • Smoked paprika is like magic red powder – it adds a bit of zing to anything. Yes, it was a bit of a shock to hear about Selma. In a relatively short period of time on the blog, she made a huge impact of a great number of people.

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