Chicken Chimichangas with Mexican Rice (serves 4)

Chicken Chimichangas by The Fat Foodie

I always thought that chimichangas involved a lot of ingredients, but after researching them for the website I realised that they’re really only made up of a tortilla that’s stuffed with rice, cheese, meat or vegetables and then folded and fried until it is crispy. With this in mind, you could make chimichangas with any filling combination you fancy, such as slices of roast chicken, shredded pork or beef, or even fish.

Although many people like to fill their chimichangas with plain rice I prefer to serve my rice on the side because it allows the tortilla to take on the flavour of the meat and cheese and it also means that I can make Mexican rice to accompany the chimichangas. Mexican rice is a seasoned rice that’s made with chopped tomatoes and a range of spices, providing a great side dish to the chicken chimichangas that goes really well with the usual jalepenos, sour cream, guacamole and salsa that we tend to serve alongside Mexican dishes.

Chicken chimichangas make a lovely change from the usual fajitas or burritos our family tends to have on our chosen ‘Mexican night’. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy a soft, warm corn tortilla wrapped around well-seasoned fajita ingredients, but the beauty of frying the tortillas to create chimichangas is that it produces the great taste of the fried, crispy tortilla. The crispy exterior of the chimichanga also makes a wonderful contrast to the soft, gooey cheesy interior.

Chicken chimichangas don’t take that much longer to make than regular fajitas or burritos, but they’re worth it in terms of taste. The crunchy, toasted corn tortilla that’s tightly wrapped around tender pieces of roast chicken, tangy cubes of fresh tomato and soft, melted cheese provides a taste that’s unbeatable.

Ingredients:

8 corn tortillas (or normal wheat tortillas if you’re not sensitive to wheat or gluten)

3 chicken breasts

100g grated cheese (I use non-dairy Violife)

4 fresh tomatoes (diced)

Vegetable oil (for frying the chicken chimichangas)

For the Mexican rice:

2 vegetable stock cubes

200g long grain rice

600ml boiling water

1 red pepper (diced)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp asafoetida powder

1/3 tsp of dried chilli flakes (optional)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method:

Cook your chicken breasts.

Meanwhile, put your hot water in a pan and dissolve the stock cubes in the water. Add the rice and cook until the rice is soft. Drain the rice and put it back in the saucepan.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the diced red pepper and all of the spices to the rice and heat through.

Once your chicken is fully cooked, slice it into thin strips.

Build your chicken chimichangas by laying out a corn tortilla, adding grated cheese, sliced chicken, some diced fresh tomato and a good grind of fresh black pepper.

Fold the sides of the tortilla so that the edges meet in the centre and then fold the top and bottom towards the centre so that it forms a tight parcel.

A Chicken Chimichanga that’s filled and about to be folded.

Chicken Chimichangas ready to be fried.

Get your frying pan hot and add a tbsp of vegetable oil. Once it’s hot lay the chimmichangas folded side down in the frying pan and fry them until the base is golden brown and crispy. Turn the chicken chimichangas over and fry the other side too.

Once they’re crispy and golden serve them with the Mexican rice, salsa, sour cream, jalepenos, chopped fresh coriander and salad.

The Interior of a Chicken Chimichanga by The Fat Foodie

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Mexican Bean Burritos (serves 4)

Mexican Bean Burritos by The Fat Foodie

I’ve been going through a Mexican food phase at the moment, not just because it’s very tasty, but also because it’s a type of cuisine that’s really easy to adapt to make it low FODMAP. Beans and legumes generally get a bad rap in the FODMAP world because they’re high in Oligos-GOS and fructans and can cause digestive issues for a lot of people, but many forms of beans are actually low FODMAP as long as you stick to the recommended serving size. That’s why these Mexican bean burritos are actually low FODMAP.

I’ve used tinned butter beans (aka lima beans) in my Mexican bean burritos because they’re great at soaking up flavours and as long as you stick to a portion size of 35g of butter beans per person they remain low FODMAP. Beans are packed full of nutrition, being chock full of iron, dietary fibre, protein and a myriad of vitamins and minerals, so it makes sense to try to incorporate them into our diets wherever we can.

These Mexican bean burritos are incredibly easy to make, requiring nothing more than throwing the ingredients into a saucepan and heating it through. The bean burrito filling also lasts for a good couple of days in the fridge so it’s perfect for making filled tortilla wraps to take for lunches and such like. I served my Mexican bean burritos in soft, warm corn tortillas with a small portion of guacamole (a 20g serving is low FODMAP) and non-dairy sour cream with chives on the side, but they’re delicious even without any additions.

Ingredients:

1 yellow pepper (diced)

1 red pepper (diced)

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsps dried oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 small tin of drained & rinsed butter beans (140g drained weight)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes (juice drained off)

1 pouch of long grain microwaveable rice (250g)

8 corn tortillas

Method:

Place all of your ingredients in a large saucepan and heat through.

Once hot, taste and season if necessary before serving wrapped in the tortillas alongside grated cheese, jalepenos, salsa, guacamole etc.

Mexican Bean Burritos by The Fat Foodie

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Chicken Enchiladas (Serves 4)

Chicken Enchiladas by The Fat Foodie

I love Mexican food, but I must admit that I do tend to stick to making the same meals all the time simply because they’re so tasty. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing though because it means that you can perfect your own version until the seasoning mix is just right. That’s the case with these chicken enchiladas.

I didn’t realise until I started reading into Mexican food that the word ‘enchilada’ simply means ‘to season with chilli’ and that, traditionally, enchiladas are quite simple  snacks, involving little more than a fried tortilla that’s wrapped around a plain, spiceless filling of meat, beans or vegetables (or a combination of the three).

According to Mexican food expert Diana Kennedy’s quintessential book on the subject of Mexican cookery The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, traditional enchiladas served on the streets of Mexico tend to see their tortillas fried in oil before being stuffed, but I don’t really think that’s necessary when you’re cooking at home. I don’t really like oily food so I’m quite happy to skip that step towards authenticity. Plus you’ve got a grated cheese topping that’s going to add oil to the enchiladas anyway.

Although a traditional enchilada doesn’t contain any spices other than freshly chopped chilli, I like to flavour mine with cumin, oregano and smoked paprika because it makes the whole dish much tastier. As a result, this chicken enchilada recipe yields a large casserole dish filled to the brim with soft tortillas that are stuffed full of delicately spiced tender chicken strips and slices of sweet bell peppers and is topped with a tangy tomato sauce and encrusted with golden grilled cheese. It’s simply the perfect Mexican meal.

Ingredients for the enchilada filling:

8 corn tortillas (use gluten-free if necessary)

1 tbsp of vegetable oil

1/2 a tin of chopped tomatoes

4 chicken breasts (cut into thin slices)

1 green pepper (cut into thin slices)

1 red pepper (cut into thin slices)

2 tsps ground cumin

2 tsps dried oregano

2 tsps smoked paprika

1 tsp asafoetida powder

Ingredients for the enchilada topping:

1/2 a tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp asafoetida powder

1 tsp dried oregano

150g grated cheese (or non-dairy alternative)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Get a large rectangular casserole dish out to cook the enchiladas in and keep it to one side.

Place a saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil, sliced chicken breasts and spices. Fry until the chicken is almost cooked.

Add the sliced peppers and continue to cook until the chicken is fully cooked.

Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and cook until hot.

Pour the other tin of chopped tomatoes into a jug and add the sauce spices and stir.

Lay a tortilla out on a chopping board and place some enchilada filling inside it before wrapping it up and laying it in a large rectangular casserole dish. (Bear in mind you’ve got 8 tortillas to fill so try to distribute the filling evenly between them.)

Chicken Enchiladas Being Filled by The Fat Foodie

Chicken Enchiladas Awaiting Their Topping

Once you’ve filled all the tortillas and they’re in the casserole dish, pour the enchilada sauce over them and top with the grated cheese.

Chicken Enchiladas by The Fat Foodie About to be Baked

Bake in the oven for about 30-40 mins or until the cheese is crisp and golden brown.

Serve with a fresh green salad.

Chicken Enchiladas by The Fat Foodie

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Refried Bean Quesadillas with Almond Cream (serves 6)

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Refried Bean Quesadillas with Almond Cream Made by The Fat Foodie

As much as I love tortilla wraps I really think they come into their own when they’re stuffed with a filling and then folded and fried to be turned into a quesadilla. I think that a crispy tortilla is particularly complemented when it’s filled with soft fillings, such as refried butter beans.

These refried bean quesadillas with almond cream are very easy to make and require very little preparation, apart from pre-soaking the almonds (assuming you want to make a non-dairy almond nut cream instead of just using sour cream). The traditional Mexican recipe for refried beans calls for black beans, pinto beans or kidney beans, but I just used a tin of butter beans that I had in the kitchen and they were lovely. Butter beans are also a low FODMAP bean, so it’s a win-win all round really.

I was quite sceptical about the almond cream and couldn’t really envision how blended almonds could possibly taste anything remotely like a cream, but I must admit I really enjoyed it. Soaking the almonds and then blending them produces a very smooth and yes, creamy, sauce which nicely complements the refried bean quesadillas. You could also add chopped chives to your almond cream, but I didn’t have any so I just left them out. To be honest, I don’t think it’d make a massive difference to the overall taste, but feel free to add them in if you like.

The refried beans have a lovely subtle Mexican spice flavouring from the ground coriander and smoked paprika and go wonderfully with sliced avocado or guacamole. Mexican foods, such as these refried bean quesadillas with almond cream, have become a bit of a staple in my house because it’s a cuisine that tends to be naturally pretty dairy-free, but there are so many variants to Mexican food that I doubt I’ll be getting bored with it any time soon.

I know it seems like a bit of extra work to fry your tortilla to turn it into a quesadilla instead of just eating it like a fajita, but it really adds a lovely crunchy, toasted dimension to the flavour of the tortilla and enhances the smokiness of the refried beans. It’s well worth the couple of extra minutes it’ll take before eating your tortillas.

Ingredients for the refried bean quesadillas:

6 corn tortillas

1 tbsp garlic-infused oil

Salt and pepper

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tin of butter beans (drained and well rinsed)

2 red bell peppers (cut into bite-sized pieces)

The juice of 1 lime

For the almond sour cream:

70g almonds

The juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

1 tsp of apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp chopped chives

Method:

To make the sour cream: Cover the almonds in boiling water and soak them for at least half an hour.

Drain the almonds and then blend all of the sour cream ingredients together in a Nutribullet until smooth.

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Almond Sour Cream Made by The Fat Foodie

To make the refried beans: Put the garlic-infused oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the beans, spices, salt and pepper, and lime juice and cook for 10-15 mins until the beans are soft.

Put the bean mixture into a bowl and wash your frying pan.

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Refried Beans by The Fat Foodie

To make the quesadillas place your tortilla on a flat surface and put 3 tbsps of refried beans in the middle. Fold the left and right sides of the tortilla over the beans and then the top and bottom sections until it forms a square parcel.

Put the frying pan over a medium heat and place your quesadilla in the pan. Fry on both sides until golden brown. (I just fry mine in a dry frying pan, but feel free to add some sunflower oil if you like.)

Serve with the almond sour cream, jalapeños and sliced avocado.

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Refried Bean Quesadillas with Almond Cream Made by The Fat Foodie

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Steak Fajitas with a Side Helping of Science and Guacamole (serves 4)

Steak Fajitas by The Fat Foodie

Steak Fajitas by The Fat Foodie

Some time ago a friend of mine asked me if I’d consider doing a blog post on fajitas, but every time I made chicken fajitas I never felt as though they were interesting enough to feature on my website. However, I came to realise that this was down to two reasons. One, I’m utterly bored to death with eating chicken in fajitas when there are much more interesting options out there instead. And two, I needed to know more about how Mexicans created authentic fajitas (i.e. what meat did they tend to use? How did they marinate it? And what herbs and spices did they use?). This realisation led me into an investigative journey into the chemistry that creates a fantastic fajita.

WARNING! SCIENCE AHEAD! READ ON AT YOUR PERIL!

(But it’s quite interesting so I’d keep reading if I were you…)

The perfect fajita is made up of a number of components which come together to produce a wonderful medley of Mexican flavours: a warmed soft tortilla; juicy, slightly seared around the edges meat which is encrusted in paprika, cumin and chilli; and soft, buttery guacamole that’s sharp, but aromatic, with freshly squeezed lime juice. Bliss.

Although, there’s more to it than just serving the right combination of ingredients for people to cram into a tortilla, the meat’s got to be treated right in the first place in order for it to give its all to the diner’s palate. That’s where the chemistry comes in. Upon investigation, I’ve discovered that the best meat to serve when making fajitas is beef. To be precise, good quality lean skirt steak (also known as flank).

The unique structural fibres of steak enable it to absorb the oils, acids and salts of a marinade much better than chicken or pork ever could and allow it to retain the flavours of the herbs and spices we choose to add, but it’s the important chemical effect of the marinade that leads to the production of a beautifully soft and juicy piece of cooked beef.

The best steak fajita marinade will always contain three elements: oil; acid; and salt. The oil works on three levels: it emulsifies the marinade and allows it to coat the beef efficiently; it dissolves the oil-soluble flavour compounds within the spices, enabling them to be absorbed into the meat; and it also provides a protective layer around the meat when you cook it over a high heat, hopefully helping it to retain its natural moisture. The acid, in the form of fresh lime juice, tenderises the meat and breaks down the connective tissue, leading to a softer and easier to chew mouthful of beef. And lastly, the marinade’s salt content dissolves myosin (a muscle protein) which gives the beef a slacker texture and helps retain its moisture. Also, by using soy sauce instead of plain old salt it introduces glutamate and protease (found naturally in soy sauce) into the marinade which add umami flavours and tenderise the meat further.

I did warn you there’d be science.

In an ideal world I’d marinade the steak fajita strips overnight to really let the flavours be absorbed by the meat, but if you take the notion to make these I think you can get away with an hour’s marinating (that’s what I did, to be honest). And in terms of cooking the meat, cook it fast over a really high heat and try to cook the steak medium to enable the natural juices of the steak to remain.

Serve the steak fajitas with a plethora of delicious accompaniments so that the people at your dining table can build the perfect fajita to suit themselves. Sombreros and stick-on handlebar moustaches are entirely optional though.

Ingredients for the marinade:

500g of skirt steak (cut into strips)

1 heaped tsp paprika

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp celery salt

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground chilli

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsps. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

The juice of 1 lime

Additional ingredients:

1 red pepper (cut into thin slices)

1 green pepper (cut into thin slices)

8 corn tortillas

To make a basic guacamole:

80g avocado

The juice of ½ a lime

8 cherry tomatoes (quartered)

¼ tsp fine salt

Method:

Put the steak strips in a large bowl and add all the ingredients into the bowl with it (apart from your guacamole ingredients, obviously). Stir it all thoroughly and leave to marinade.

When you’re happy that your meat’s marinated enough put a griddle pan or a large frying pan over a high heat.

Drain and discard the liquid from the steak marinade before putting the steak and the slices of pepper into the hot pan.

Cook the steak to your preferred liking. Once cooked, put the steak in a serving bowl and cover with foil and let it rest for 5 mins while you make the guacamole.

To make the guacamole:

Half your avocados and remove the stone. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh and mash it in a bowl before adding the rest of the guacamole ingredients. Mix them all together and place in a serving bowl.

Serve your steak fajitas with warm, soft tortilla wraps, the guacamole, chopped fresh coriander, salsa, crème fraiche or sour cream (or a non-dairy version), re-fried beans, grated cheese (or a non-dairy version), and slices of fresh chilli.

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