Thursday, 12 April 2012

Veggie or chicken fajitas with salsa and guacamole

I started making these as a reliable and very tasty meal for when we have vegans or veggies round for tea. Jonno usually insists on some kind of meat for his evening meal (can't take the Nottingham out of the boy) but they're simple and tasty to make either way. The recipe makes enough sides for two people (so double up for company) but there's enough of the main event to give leftovers for tomorrow night (serves 4).

First of all, make the sides. For the tomato salsa you'll need:

Tomato salsa
10 - 12 cherry tomatoes
Half a red chili
Juice of half a lime
Glug of olive oil
Small handful of coriander leaves, stems and everything.

This is so simple and tasty - chop the cherry or baby plum tomatoes, removing most of the liquidy seeds. Finely chop half a red chili and coarsely chop the coriander. Mix in a bowl, add the lime juice and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, stir and chill. This recipe came from the Jamie Oliver website.

Next stop, guacamole. I prefer a tomato-free version, especially if I'm also serving the salsa.

1 ripe avocado
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red chili, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Small handful of coriander

Destone and deskin the avocado and put in a small bowl, crushing lightly with the back of a spoon. Mix in the chopped garlic and chili, the lime juice and coriander and mix until just combined. To prevent the guacamole from browning, place clingfilm onto the surface to create an airtight seal and stick it in the fridge. This came from my Spanish teacher when I lived in Ecuador, and hated tomatoes in her guacamole too. You can add a little salt when serving if you prefer it that way.

Guacamole, decontructed.
Now, onto the main event. This is a bit pan-intensive and there's a lot of chopping, but it's pretty quick.

Chicken breast, chopped to 2" cubes
Tomato sauce, with or without chicken:

2 chicken breasts, glug of olive oil optional
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tin chopped plum tomatoes in their own juice
1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp hot paprika, 2 tsps dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Seal the chicken if wanted in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Add the spices to the pan, and once the meat is browning add the tomatoes and garlic. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes. With or without chicken, the longer this element of the sauce cooks, the thicker and richer the end result (I cook for less time in summer).

Sealing the meat
Veggies ready for the pot

While that's cooking away, you can make a start on the veggies. Whilst always including half an onion, sliced into half-moons, what else goes in the pot depends on what I've got in the fridge that needs using up, or what I fancied when I popped into the greengrocers on the way home from work.

The version for tonight included a couple of carrots cut into slanted ovals, three sticks of celery, the aforementioned onion and a green pepper. Other things which are good to include are fennel, other varieties of bell pepper - anything with a bit of crunch that will soften up a little when sauteed. This is also the point to work out how hot you want it. Tonight, I added a finely chopped green chili and served with pickled sweet red jalapenos and Tabasco to spice things up if the chilis turned out to be a little weak in flavour. I used a wok as there's a lot of veg to cook, and the idea is to soften and cook through without losing the crispness. Stirfry all your veg together with either a little olive or sunflower oil. Whilst that's cooking, warm through flour tortillas in the oven (wrapped in tinfoil and separated from each other) and grate cheese if you like it to serve on the side.

And here it all is, ready for assembly.

Serving is simple - you know what to do! Tortilla then salsa then guacamole then fajita mix and finally cheese if you like it.

Et voila! Variations on a theme: I occasionally add tequila or vodka to the tomato sauce for a little extra kick, particularly if it's the meat- and cheese-free version. This goes alright with beef, but much better with prawns or cubes of firm white fish like pollock or hake. If you're cooking with either seafood option, the fish doesn't need sealing and just needs sliding into the well-cooked tomato sauce for the last three - five minutes. Enjoy - and tell me if you try it!