Before I know it another fast day rolls by. If truth be known today I found the prospect of fasting rather inconvenient. Today I had my heart set on making corn tortillas. From scratch. I’ve just spent the better part of a fortnight hunting down masa harina, the traditional flour used to make tortillas, tamales and other Mexican dishes. Yesterday on a whim I stopped by The Essential Ingredient in Rozelle and literally stumbled upon this most elusive ingredient. There sitting on the shelf were three different varieties of the flour – white, yellow and blue. So here you have it today’s fast day offering. A taste of Mexico. For under 400 calories A homemade corn tortilla (55 calories) served with grilled chicken in an achiote citrus marinade (256 calories) and a roasted corn and grape tomato salsa (65 calories). A meal worth fasting for.
Corn tortillas are surprisingly easy to make. Contrary to popular opinion you do not need a fancy tortilla press. The dough is so soft and pliable. So much so that all that really is required is something flat and heavy. A book or skillet will do the trick. For the record I pressed my tortillas with the bottom of my crepe pan.
It’s another recipe that requires just two ingredients – flour and water. But not just any flour it has to be masa harina, a flour made from specially treated corn. Unfortunately substituting cornmeal, polenta or ordinary cornflour for the masa harina simply does not work. It will not produce the same results. To make masa harina corn kernels are removed from their cobs, dried, then soaked in lime water or lye until the skins of the kernels can be easily removed. Once this process has been completed the kernels are mashed, dried and ground into flour. Equipped with a packet of masa harina and downloaded instructions from Simply Recipes making corn tortillas was a snap. Such a pity this being a fast day I had to limit myself to just one.
At The Essential Ingredient I was also fortunate to find a brick of achiote paste; a traditional Mexican spice mix ground from bright red annatto seeds, oregano, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and garlic. Thinned with citrus juice it makes the most wonderful marinade for chicken, pork or fish. Usually when I grill chicken on a barbeque I prefer to use chicken thigh fillets over breast. I find they are much juicier and plumper. Another fast day compromise was to use breast fillet for the lower calorie count. I am very happy to report that the citrus marinade kept the chicken breast very tender and succulent despite its hot sear on the grill plate. Homemade tortillas and grilled chicken deserve a salsa. This time around I settled on a roasted corn and grape tomato version with a little rocket. Fresh seasonal ingredients the perfect accompaniment to my Mexican feast.
Adapted from www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_corn_tortillas/
Makes about 16 small tortillas (55 calories per tortilla)
2 cups masa harina (880 calories)
1 1/2 to 2 cups water
Make the Masa Dough
PLACE 2 cups of masa harina in a large bowl. Stir in water and let sit for 5 minutes or so.
BEGIN working the masa with your hands to make the dough. Work the dough for several minutes. Press the dough with your fingers and the palms of your hands as if you were kneading bread dough. If at any point through the tortilla making process the dough seems too dry or too wet, add a little more water or masa to the dough.
TWO cups of flour will make approximately 16 tortillas. To keep them all the same size divide the dough into two balls. Divide each ball into quarters, and divide each quarter into half again.
ROLL each of the 16 portions of dough into a golf sized ball.
Press the Tortillas
MAKE one tortilla at a time, pressing the next while one is cooking.
TAKE two A4 sheets of baking paper. Place a ball of dough in the centre of one sheet of baking paper and top with the second. Using a heavy book or skillet (I used my crepe pan) press down to flatten until the dough has spread to a diameter of 10 – 12cm.
Cook the Tortillas
HEAT a dry skillet or griddle over high heat.
WORKING one at a time, hold a tortilla in your hand, carefully removing the paper on each side. Allow the tortilla to rest half on your hand, and half hanging down, and gently lay the tortilla down on to the skillet.
START pressing the next tortilla.
COOK the tortilla in the hot pan for 30 seconds to a minute on each side. The tortilla should be lightly toasted with little air pockets forming on the surface.
WRAP cooked tortillas in a dish towel to keep them warm. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat.
Grilled Chicken With An Achiote Citrus Marinade
Serves 6 (256 calories per serve)
750g chicken breast, sliced into bite sized pieces (1237 calories)
1/2 brick (50g) achiote paste (75 calories)
1 clove garlic, finely grated (4 calories)
1 tablespoon olive oil (120 calories)
2 teaspoons sea salt
several grinds black pepper
juice and finely grated zest from one lemon (12 calories)
juice and finely grated zest of two oranges (82 calories)
juice and finely grated zest of one lime (8 calories)
MIX achiote paste with olive oil, using a fork to make a smooth paste, then add the garlic and citrus juices. Stir well to combine, ensuring no lumps remain. Season with salt and pepper.
PLACE chicken into a ceramic or glass bowl. Add marinade turning to coat. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
REMOVE the chicken from the marinade and barbecue on a hot grill for 8-10 minutes until nicely charred.
Roasted Corn and Grape Tomato Salsa With Rocket
Serves 6 (65 calories per serve)
4 small ears of corn (252 calories)
1 punnet (2 cups) grape tomatoes (60 calories)
2 long green spring onions (20 calories)
3 handfuls wild rocket, shredded (12 calories)
1 tablespoon lime juice (2 calories)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (2 calories)
drizzle of olive oil (40 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
PREHEAT barbecue to medium hot. Grill corn with husk on until charred. Allow to cool a little then remove the husk and silk.
PLACE the corn cobs back on the grill to gain a little color, rolling over the hot grill for 2 or 3 minutes.
ONCE charred, slice the corn kernels off the cob and place in a medium sized bowl.
PLACE a sheet of baking paper on the flat plate of the barbecue. Lightly grill the grape tomatoes until their skins are just about to burst. Add to the bowl of corn kernels.
FINELY slice the spring onions and also add to the bowl, along with the shredded rocket.
Dress with olive oil, lime and lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.