Hello dear reader,
I recently discovered a blog challenge called Alphabakes run Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes. They choose a random letter each month and the challenge is to cook something, or use an ingredient, whose name begins with that letter.
Caroline is hosting this month’s challenge and the letter she randomly chose was Q. Now there’s a reason Q is a high letter score in Scrabble – it’s an awkward little so and so – but as soon as I saw “Q”, I knew exactly what I wanted to make…
In Spanish “queso” means cheese and a quesadilla is basically a toasted tortilla with melted cheese inside. They are one of my favourite snacks – crispy crunchy on the outside, tasty and gooey on the inside.
Quesadillas originate in Mexico and have been adapted by many other cuisines, particularly in the USA where TexMex is particularly popular. There are now many variations on the theme but to be authentically Mexican they must have cheese in them and they must be folded, not stacked.
In Mexico they would usually use Oaxaca which is a mild cheese that is quite stringy when melted. It is quite difficult to find this in the UK, so Monterey Jack is a good substitution and today I have simply used a good ole British mature cheddar (grated). The other ingredients I always include in my quesadillas are red chillis (de-seeded & finely chopped), spring onions (thinly sliced), tomatoes (deseeded and chopped) and coriander (lightly chopped).
First off you will need tortillas.
In central Mexico it is traditional to use corn tortillas but in northern Mexico quesadillas are usually made with flour tortillas and I always use these, as they are softer and much easier to fold. Shop-bought flour tortillas are great at keeping this dish a quick-to-make snack but making your own is really easy! Some people will tell you that you must have a special flour called masa harina – this is a corn flour and is only required for corn tortillas.
For flour tortillas, simply mix together 350g plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and ¾ teaspoon salt. Then gradually add warm (not hot) water to form a crumbly dough – it usually takes about 200-240ml water. Bring the dough together with your hands, knead until smooth and then divide into 12 equal pieces and roll into smooth balls. Cover these in cling film and set aside for about 15 minutes.
Next you need to form the tortillas.
Take a ball of dough, flatten it down, smooth around the edges so there are no cracks and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 20cm diameter. It is best to roll from the centre to the edge, turning the tortilla often and stretching it slightly as you go. If you really get into making your own tortillas, you can also buy a tortilla press which does all this work for you!
Pop your tortilla into a medium hot frying pan or griddle. It will start to bubble almost immediately, flip it over and press down with a fish slice to keep it flat. Once it is golden flip it over, so the golden side is upppermost. At this point you can add the filling, or can continue cooking the tortillas until the whole batch is rolled and cooked. If you are cooking all the tortillas at once, then stack them in a folded tea towel, inside a plastic bag, so they steam a little and stay soft. If you make them in advance, remove them from the bag, wrap in cling film and store in the refrigerator, or roll them up and freeze.
Next for the filling.
A quesadilla should be quite flat, so you don’t want to put in too much filling. You need one tablespoon of the grated cheese, which is what sticks the whole thing together. Then add in a mix of the other ingredients totalling another one tablespoon (i.e. make sure there’s equal amounts of cheese and other stuff). Here I have used the mix I showed above – chillis, spring onions, tomatoes and coriander plus I have added some chopped prawns.
You can add in anything you like – chopped veggies or beans (to keep it vegetarian), chopped ham, shredded chicken, other types of cheese – whatever – let your imagination go. It’s a great way to use up small amounts of leftovers too.
Mix your selection together and spoon two tablespoons of the mixture onto one half of the tortilla, then fold over the other half of the tortilla to make a half-moon shape. Cook for about a minute and then flip it over on the fold and cook the other side for another minute or two.
Remove from the pan, cut into quesadilla slices and devour!
Quesadillas are fabulous as a snack with a bottle of Mexican beer.
As well as entering my Quesadillas in the Alphabakes challenge, I am also entering them in the Cooking with Herbs challenge run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and in the Made with Love Mondays challenge run by Mark at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/ Luv.
Quesadillas can be great fun to make at a party. Put out lots of bowls of prepped ingredients & get everyone to choose their own preferred mix (and chilli-heat level) and cook them themselves. Everyone always ends up in the kitchen at a party anyway, right?!
So, do tell me dear reader, if you came to my next Quesadilla party what ingredient would you hope was all prepped and ready for you?
Update: I am also entering this into Chris’s Foodie World Cup bloggers challenge, as Mexico are playing today (13th June 2014).