Chickpea Pancake
Mains, Sides, Vegetarian/Vegan

Chickpea Pancakes

Humans have cultivated chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, for quite some time. According to Wikipedia, the remains of 7,500 year-old chickpeas have been found in the Middle East. Today, they’re popular in many parts of the world, including Spain where garbanzo beans have been all the rage since at least the 15th century when Sephardic Jews of Iberia were making a dish called “adafina.”

After some extensive Googling, I haven’t found anything that says “and then, the Spanish brought garbanzo beans to Mexico in year XXXX,” but considering Mexican food is a fusion of indigenous foods with, primarily, Spanish food, I think it’s safe to make that leap. Today, Mexico is the 10th largest producer of chickpeas.

Despite their popularity, I hadn’t heard of chickpea flour, also called besan or gram flour, until recently when I was perusing vegan and vegetarian food blogs like this one (I’m trying to cut back on our animal-product intake). Apparently, while popular in India, using garbanzo beans to make flour is just not that common of a thing in Mexico or Texas. That’s a shame, because it makes a nice pancake that goes well with things like salsas and guacamole. It’s also a good source of vegan protein. Below is a quick comparison of chickpea flour to all-purpose white wheat flour:

1 cup chickpea flour all-purpose white wheat flour
Calories 356 455
Fat 6
1
Carbohydrate 53 95
Protein 21 13

After some experimenting, I believe I have developed a solid chickpea pancake ideal for my favourite Mexican toppings.

Ingredients (makes 4-6 pancakes, feeds 2 as main dish):

  • 1 cup of chickpea/gram/besan flour
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne (optional – adjust up or down depending on spice tolerance)
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp of your favourite oil (like coconut or sunflower) for your pan/griddle

 

Method:

  1. Stir all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add the water. Whisk briskly with a fork until most of the lumps are gone.
  2. Heat a large skillet or flat griddle on medium-low. Oil the pan with half of your favourite oil – I usually use coconut oil because it handles heat well
  3. Pour about ¼- 1/6 of the mixture onto your pan for each pancake depending on how large you like the pancake.chickpea pancakes cooking
  4. Cook the pancake on the first side for about 5 minutes. Normal pancakes you flip when they bubble in the center, but these take a little longer
  5. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes until the pancake is golden brown
  6. Halfway through cooking, add the rest of the oil to the pan if it’s starting to look dry.
  7. Top with guacamole, pico de gallo, your favourite salsa, sour cream, cheese, scrambled eggs, chili or anything else your heart desires.

Chickpea pancake with eggs

chickpea pancake

 

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Appetisers, Cheese

bacon jalapeño cheese ball

Every year, my friend Jack holds a bacon party. It started when we were flatmates, but Jack has taken and carried the torch forward. Jack and his new flatmates invite all of their friends, each of which bring a dish made with bacon. In addition to mains and side dishes, there are cocktails made with bacon, deserts made with bacon, you get the idea. For two years running, I have made this bacon jalapeño cheese ball from the Homesick Texan blog (where you can find the full recipe), and for two years running, there are no leftovers for me to take home.

One of the best things about it is that all of the ingredients are available from most grocery stores, with fresh jalapeños being the only thing which is slightly difficult to find. I’ve started buying frozen red jalapeños from Ocado so I always have some on hand. In the past I used fresh green ones, this year I used frozen red ones, I don’t think there was a huge taste difference but I did like the extra colour the red jalapeños added.

Step one, cook the bacon. Use streaky, American style bacon – the kind from the belly.

streaky bacon

Cook it till it’s nice and crispy, because you’re going to crumble it.

crumbled bacon

Mix half of the bacon and jalapeños with the cheese and other ingredients together. NOTE: cilantro = coriander.

The recipe calls for 8oz of cream cheese, which is about 227 grams. That’s more than a container of Philadelphia (180 grams) and slightly less than a container of Waitrose soft cheese (250 grams). I just used the whole container of Waitrose soft cheese.

Cheese Ball Mixing

Scatter your remaining dry ingredients on a plate, roll your cheese into a ball.

dry ingredients Cheese Ball before

Roll the cheese ball onto the dry ingredients, and voila – bacon jalapeño cheese ball.

Bacon Jalapeño Cheese Ball

 

Put it in the fridge for a while and serve it with a knife and crackers. I think Ritz crackers are best. Here is my instagrammed cheese ball at the party:

Bacon Jalapeño Cheese Ball with Ritz Crackers

 

 

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Beans, Sides

refried bean counting

I love refried beans. They’ve been a staple of my diet since I was a kid. My dad and I ate bean burritos or tacos at least 3-4 times a week for dinner. In Texas, we’d always bought them in cans or dehydrated from Whole Foods, but in the UK they are so over priced. In the tiny size you usually see them in the supermarket, they’re £4.60 ($7.89) a kilogram. That’s more expensive per kilogram than ground beef at £4.00 ($6.86) per kilo.

I’d often heard beans referred to as the poor man’s meat due to their high amounts of protein and low cost, but it’s even worse when you look at their price per calorie –  £0.005 ($0.01) for refried beans, £0.002 ($0.004) for minced beef.

It seems like I’m going to be in London for quite a long time. Faced with the possibility that I may have to over-pay for refried beans for many years to come, I decided to learn how to make them from scratch, and you know what? I think they’re WAY better than from a can. The whole recipe makes over a kilogram of refried beans for £2.11, less than half the price of canned, and £0.0009* (that’s a whole extra 0) per calorie. Plus it’s dead easy.

Ingredients:

  1. 500 grams (about 1 pound) of Pinto Beans
  2. 1,000 ml (about 2 pints or 4 1/4 cups – it’s not necessary to be exact) of vegetable or pork stock
  3. 1 large white onion, half diced and half in quarters
  4. 1 clove of garlic, minced
  5. 2 tablespoons oil or lard (Lard is the traditional fat used for refried beans, but they still taste great without. If using oil, use one that is neutral tasting like sunflower, canola or peanut. I usually use sunflower. Don’t use olive oil.)
  6. salt to taste

Soak your beans over night, or if you never remember to soak beans (like me) quick soak them by bringing them to boil in a pot of water about 3 inches above the beans, then turn off the heat and let them sit for an hour.

Drain and rinse the beans, then, in a large pot, add your beans, your quartered onion half, and your stock. The liquid should be about two inches above the beans. If it isn’t, add a bit of extra water. I use stock cubes, but feel free to use your own vegetable or pork stock.

Bring to a boil, then cover and cook for about 1.5-2 hours, or until the beans are soft. Check on them every now and again and add water if they’re starting to dry out. Drain them, but keep and set aside the bean broth. In the same pot or a large bowl, mash the beans + ¼ cup of bean broth with a potato masher or hand mixer. Add more broth if necessary.

Mashing Refried Beans

In a large skillet, sauté the diced onions in your oil or lard until they become translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Add the beans to the skillet, stir, and cook for about 8 more minutes. Add more broth or water as you cook to keep the beans at the desired consistency. They should be a bit denser, but runnier than mashed potatoes.  Taste, and add salt if needed.

Saute Onion Refried beans, Frijoles refritos

*Refried bean math(s):

Price £1.10 for 500g dried pinto beans (doubles in volume when cooked) + £0.50 for a large white onion +£0.40 for two stock cubes + £0.05 for a clove of garlic + £0 .06 for two tablespoons of sunflower oil

Calories 1,800 for 500g dried pinto beans + 60 for a large white onion + 70 for two stock cubes + 4 for a clove of garlic + 240  for two tablespoons of sunflower oil = 2,174 calories

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Chicken Fajitas
Chicken, Mains

chicken fajitas

My father came to visit for Christmas and brought with him 120 delicious, fresh flour tortillas. I’ve been pulling them out of the freezer in batches all January to make tacos, bean burritos, and fajitas.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to capture pictures of all of the food I’ve made recently – my camera was water damaged during a downpour on the Jurassic Coast. I’ve now upgraded from a Nikon D3000 to the updated Nikon D3200. Still Nikon’s base DSLR, but with much higher ISO settings. Perfect for grey and dark London and photographing food in the evenings.

Ingredients (for the chicken):

  1. 500g (about 1 pound) of boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh meat
  2. Juice of two limes
  3. 4 tbsp olive oil
  4. 2 tbsp Cholula
  5. 2 tsp garlic puree
  6. Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  7. Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the fajitas):

  1. 8-12 flour tortillas
  2. 1 cups pico de gallo or your favourite salsa
  3. 1 ripe avocado chopped or made into fresh guacamole
  4. 1 cup sour cream
  5. 1 cup cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
  6. 1 onion, cut into strips
  7. 1 large green (bell) pepper cut into strips or 3-4 fresh jalapenos for a bit more spice

Chicken fajitas start with a quick marinade to flavour the chicken and make sure it stays juicy. Marinades usually have oil and an acid, which in this recipe is the lime and the vinegar in the Cholula.

Mix the lime juice, olive oil, Cholula, garlic and Worcestershire sauce together. Put the chicken in a bowl, and pour the marinade over it. Slosh them around a bit and make sure they’re well coated. Cover with a lid, plastic wrap or a dinner plate.

marinade

Move the chicken to the fridge and let it sit for 1-2 hours. If your refrigerator is small like mine and won’t accommodate your bowl, put the bowl inside of another bowl of the same size with a few ice cubes and a bit of water to keep it cool instead.

bowls

Discard the marinade and pat the excess liquid off of the chicken with a paper towel. Beat the chicken with a meat mallet focusing on the thick end of the breast (if you’re using breasts) so that the chicken is the same thickness throughout and cooks evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then grill the chicken outside or on your stovetop until it’s cooked through.

Chicken Grilling

Once done, set it aside and let it rest 5-10 minutes while you heat your tortillas and grill your onions and peppers.

Turn a burner on medium-low and warm your tortillas either in a skillet, or on the flat side of a double griddle. Cook them for about 30 seconds on each side until they puff a bit. Stack them on a plate, and put another plate upside down on top of them to keep them warm or put them in a tortilla warmer.

While you cook your tortillas, sauté your green peppers and onions on medium-low in a little bit of olive oil until the onions start to become translucent (about 8 minutes).

Tortillas, onions and green peppers cooking

Slice the chicken in strips against the grain of the meat and serve with tortillas, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole or sliced avocado, and grilled onions and peppers to let people build their own tacos.

Avocado, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream

 

fajitas

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Beans, Beans, Mains, Pork

red beans and rice

Red beans and rice is a great dish for winter. While popular in Texas, it is neither Texan nor Mexican, and it’s certainly not Tex-Mex. Apologies for the false advertising with the blog name. Instead, red beans and rice is from neighbouring state Louisiana. It’s warming, it’s rich, it’s gently spicy, and to top it off, it’s really affordable to make. Perfect for when you’re saving up for Christmas, or for when it’s so cold you start spending less time at the park and more time wasting money at the pub.

So, grab a bag of beans and some cheap pork sausage. Invite the friends over, it’s time for red beans and rice.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  1. 500 grams (about 1 pound) dried kidney beans
  2. 1 tablespoon sunflower or other neutral flavoured oil
  3. 1 large red onion, diced
  4. 2 stalks celery, diced
  5. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  6. 4 cloves garlic, diced
  7. 200 grams (about 1/2 pound) smoked pork sausage roughly chopped– if you’re in The States, use andouille sausage. You won’t find this in the UK, but Mattessons smoked pork sausage or Polish krakowska sucha sausage is a suitable substitute
  8. 1 tablespoon tabasco
  9. 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  10. 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  11. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  12. 1 teaspoon paprika
  13. 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  14. 2 bay leaves
  15. 1 sprig fresh thyme
  16. 8 cups chicken stock
  17. 6 cups cooked long grain white rice
  18. 1 small bunch of green onions for garnishing, chopped
  19. salt and cayanne pepper to taste

Method

  1. Either soak your kidney beans over night (about 12 hours) and move to step 2, or pour them into a large pot, cover them with about three inches of water, and bring them to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let them sit for one hour.
  2. In a large soup pot, saute the red onion, celery, and green bell pepper in oil until soft. About eight to ten minutes.onions, celery, bell pepper
  3. Add the sausage and garlic, cook for two more minutes. sausage and vegetables
  4. Drain and rinse the beans, pour them into the pot with the vegetables. Add the tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, herbs and spices.
  5. Pour in as much of your chicken stock as the pot will hold. If, like mine, your soup pot is wanting for size, keep your chicken stock in a cup beside your pot so you can pour more in as the liquid boils off. If all of the stock fits in your pot, you may still need to add water later if too much fluid cooks off.
  6. Bring the beans to a boil. Boil them with the lid off for 20 minutes. Make sure they’re really boiling. Undercooked kidney beans are poisonous. No really, they are.boiling red beans and rice
  7. Add some more water or broth if needed. Turn the heat down low, cover your pot and let the beans cook for one hour.
  8. Take the lid off and give the beans a good stir. Let the beans cook for one more hour uncovered, checking back occasionally to stir and add more fluid if necessary. After an hour, test the beans. If they’re nearly ready to eat, start cooking the rice. While the rice cooks, smash a few beans on the side of the pot to thicken the broth and add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Red beans and rice should be a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. boiled red beans and rice
  9. Serve the red beans over cooked rice and garnish with chopped green onion.red beans and rice
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Chicken

chicken tinga

Tinga is a dish from Puebla, Mexico made of shredded meat. It’s typically chicken or pork in a tomato and chipotle sauce. It makes a great topping for tostadas (fried corn tortillas), tacos, and burritos.  It’s not super spicy, but it does have some heat to it. This recipe should make enough to serve 4 normal people, or two if one of them is my boyfriend after hitting the gym.

I recently ordered chicken tinga tacos from one of my favourite Mexican restaurants in London, and wasn’t particularly impressed. After some experimentation, I’ve come up with my own recipe, and I’m quite pleased with the results!

Ingredients:

  1. 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  2. 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  3. 1 onion – half of it chopped, half quartered
  4. 2 chipotles in adobo
  5. 2 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 bay leaf
  7. 1 pinch of oregano
  8. 1 pinch of thyme
  9. ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  10. 2 tablespoons of corn or sunflower oil
  11. 1 tablespoon of salt + pinch + more to taste
  12. 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar 

Method:

Start by brining the chicken. Mix salt and sugar with three cups of boiling water in a bowl. Add ice cubes to the water or let it sit until it chills down to room temperature. Place the chicken in the bowl, cover with plastic foil, then move to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for one hour.

rawchicken

Next, in a medium sized sauce pan, bring three cups of water to a boil with the two quarters of onion, one clove of whole garlic, a pinch of salt, and bay leaf. Remove the chicken from the brine and place it in the boiling water. Cover, and let cook on low for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the broth, set aside and allow to cool. Once cool, shred the chicken with two forks.

While the chicken cools, place the chipotles, oregano, thyme, black pepper, half of your diced tomato, your last clove of garlic, and half of the diced onion in a blender with half of the remaining chicken broth.  Blend together until smooth.

sauce

In a skillet, heat your oil then add the remaining onions. Cook until translucent, then add the remaining tomatoes. Cook for an additional ten minutes. Add in the chicken and blended chipotle broth. Allow to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15-20 minutes. Sample, and add salt to taste.

InPan

How should you serve your tinga? Well, it’s classically served on tostadas (crispy fried corn tortillas) or as tacos in corn tortillas.

If you want to serve them on tostadas, fry your corn tortillas for a couple of minutes on each side in a skillet with one inch of oil.

You can also use tinga for burrito filling. I quite like it with rice seasoned with coriander and lime.

No matter how you serve it, make sure to top with sour cream, chopped coriander (cilantro) and avocados. If you’re a cheese fan, tinga is typically served with queso fresco or Cotija cheese, which can be hard to find in London. Mild feta makes a nice substitute.

InTortilla

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Appetisers

guacamole

If you’re able to get great avocados, you’re going to have a hard time making bad guacamole, but you don’t stand a chance of making good guac with bad avocados. Thusly, we’ll start with the most important part of making good guac. Picking the avocados.

You need Hass avocados. Hass are the most common kind, the bumpy ones you typically see in the store. If you see some unusual, exotic looking avocado with smooth skin, don’t bother. Trust me, it won’t make good guacamole.

The perfect Hass avocado is almost black. It should give a bit to the touch, especially around the stem where it should be fairly soft. It shouldn’t have obvious squishy bits that might indicate a bruise. If you’ve managed to pick three good avocados, you’re almost certain to make great guac so long as you don’t add anything weird like sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese.

What does belong in guacamole is up for debate. Some people don’t like tomatoes in their guac, for example, but I think the juicy squish and bright colour of a nice ripe tomato adds a lot to the experience of eating guac. Some people add a bit of orange juice to theirs, but I prefer to stick to lime. Here’s how I make my guacamole:

Ingredients:

  1. 3 ripe Hass avocados
  2. 1 small/medium tomato diced
  3. ¼ white onion finely diced
  4. 2 cloves garlic finely diced
  5. 2 serranos or jalapenos – fresh is preferable, but hard to come by in London, so I usually use serranos or jalapenos in escabeche (seasoned vinegar) which you can buy online or in Whole Foods. You can also find them pickled in most supermarkets. Serranos are slightly spicier than jalapenos.
  6. 15g coriander (cilantro), large stems removed, rinsed and chopped
  7. Juice from half a lime
  8. Pinch of salt + more to taste

Method:

Peel and pit the avocados. The easiest way to pit an avocado is to slice in a circle around the pit, twist a bit and pull the halves apart. Then on the side with the pit still in it, slice around again and pull the quarters apart, leaving the pit exposed and easy to remove by hand. Last, cut the non-pit side in half so you have the avocado in quarters. You can now easily peel back and remove the skin. Try to ignore the dishes in the background of this handy demonstration:

Please, whatever you do, don’t do that thing where you whack the pit with your knife and pull it out. Every time I see someone do that, I’m terrified they’re going to lose a finger.

Cut the avocados into chunks and move them to a bowl. Mash them against the side of the bowl with a fork until it’s a good consistency. Guacamole should be a bit chunky, so don’t go overboard.

Add in the other ingredients and stir! Serve with salted tortilla chips. My favourite in the UK are Kettle Tortilla chips.

Guacamole

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