It's week 3 into the year and I haven't fallen off the blog-wagon yet!
I shut my eyes, and plonked my finger down onto the international dialling page of my (old fashioned paper) diary.
I opened my eyes and looked down... Honduras.
Is Honduras even a country? I've never heard of the place? I realised my starting point for this weeks blog was going to be my know-all friend Google.
Before you all lambast me for my lack of geographical and cultural knowledge - let me give you a little bit of context... During my high school years I didn't really study geography. In the "identified lower-socio-economic-area" (don't you love latte sipping middle class speak for "they're such bogans that we've called them bogans") High School I attended, we didn't study geography.
Back in those days (I'm old enough to say that now) we had a class that was called SOSE. It was supposed to stand for "Studies of Society and Something or Other" or something along those lines. During this class we learned a smattering of history, along with "society" studies. In my high school this included informative and useful topics such as "How to fill out your Centrelink form" and "What you should do when you get arrested". Note it wasn't "if" it was just assumed that the whole pack of "identified lower-socio-economic-area-persons" would get arrested at some point before they turned eighteen.
Hence - another one of my motivations for blogging about vegan food, and making vegan versions of food all over the world is to learn more about geography, different countries and cultures this year.
So, where is Honduras? It's in Central America, and sits in between Guatemala and Nicaragua. So from that I was expecting some Spanish type influences to their local cuisine. That's cool, I love Spanish food! What's not to like? - lots of gutsy flavours with plenty of tomato and chilli, fun one-pot rice dishes, and really cool-sounding names for things.
I did a little bit more research, to have a look at what kinds of things I'd be trying to make vegan this week, and learned that Honduran cuisine is pretty interesting!
The country is influenced strongly by Indian and Spanish cuisines, with tortilla bread being pretty much the most popular food. It's not unusual for a house-hold to be preparing fresh home-made tortillas every day. These are usually served as an open "Baleda" for breakfast - traditionally with fried eggs, cheese, sour cream and beans. Okay, something like that would be a bit more of a challenge to do vegan.... but not impossible.
I keep reading, after that power-breakfast I wonder what a Honduran would be munching on for lunch?
It turns out the like soup - with either a red-bean or coconut milk base, they like rice and beans on the side, (hey great)! and they eat lots of fish (okay not quite my bag).
Then I discover the jack-pot.... Tacos Fritos. Yes - it's what it sounds like. Fried Taco. I thought I was going to have to get the USA to find food this... well, fried. Let's face it, I could have thrown a lentil soup recipe at you, or a rice'n'beans recipe at you, but let's face it, there's hundreds, if not thousands of recipes out there fitting that bill already. So, I stepped up to the challenge of the Tacos Fritos... making my tortillas for my tacos from scratch like a proper Honduran would of course.
Here's the recipes.
Tortillas (Taco shells)
You won't get a regular hard crunchy taco shell - they will be a yellow coloured, soft-ish taco shell. I discovered they're actually perfect for holding (well stuffed) and eating with one hand while continuing to cook the rest of your batch of tortillas.
You will need:
1.5 cups of self-raising flour
0.5 cups of polenta
about 0.75 cups water
2 tbs vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)
pinch of salt and pepper.
I used the dough blade on my food processor - placing the flour, polenta, seasonings in, and then slowly adding the oil followed by the water. I found that I needed to just give it about a minute to form a dough. You may need slightly more or less water, this will depend on the humidity, and on your flour. Go slowly and remember - and remember you can always add more, but mixing is not a reversible process.
You will end up with a yellow ball of dough. Mine was a little bit sticky - so I applied some flour to a board and kneaded the dough a bit, just to get it a little bit more cohesive and elastic without being super sticky. You don't have to knead it like you would fresh bread though - you're not aiming to develop the gluten; as the tortillas will be flat.
I then broke off small balls of my tortilla dough, and rolled each one out to a thin roundish shape. I'm not going to pretend they were perfect circles by a long shot. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the not quite perfect circle shape adds character. You need to roll them quite thin - about 2-3mm thick.
I used baking paper to sit in between each tortilla so that they don't stick as you roll them and then put them aside ready to cook.
To fill my tortillas, I got a little bit lazy - in that I made a very basic Spanish style bean mix, using red kidney beans, canned tomatoes and one of those packets of "taco spice mix". In my defence it was a week night, and in addition to cooking for the blog I had to write an essay for my masters.
To turn your basic Taco into a Tacos Fritos you need to take about a tablespoon or so of your bean mix and place it into the middle of an un-cooked tortilla, and spread it up and down in a bit of a mo-hawk type stripe. You want to then fold up the bottom of the tortilla so the beans are covered, then fold the right side over the beans, fold the top down, then roll up until all of the bean mix is contained inside the Taco like a neat package.
Google described them as "flute shaped". I've seen a flute, and I've seen my Tacos Fritos. Mine were exceedingly fat and squat flutes - but I was okay with that.
I heated a fry pan with a enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom. (in theory you could deep fry them - but shallow frying is more forgiving; if you deep fry and your taco is imperfectly sealed they will fall apart in the oil and make quite a mess)
Once the fry pan was hot I placed in the tacos Fritos, and gave them a minute or so on each side - I modelled my Tacos Fritos on a rectangular prism- ensuring a deep golden-brown colour is achieved all the way around. As the mixture inside is already cooked and warm, it's just about making sure the bread is cooked through.
I served my tacos fritos in a similar manner to how you'd serve enchiladas - I placed the fried tacos on a plate, and then topped with fresh salsa, guacamole and salad... I just couldn't have a taco without guac. You can eat yours as-is, or with condiments, it's up to you.
As to the taste review - I was really impressed. The home made tortillas had a much more interesting texture and flavour than shop tortillas. Frying them gave a crispy texture on the outside - and definitely was an interesting and different way to eat Tacos. Thanks Honduras for the awesome Tacos Fritos.
I'll also include instructions to prepare the tortillas to use as a regular taco receptacle - as while the Tacos Fritos were good, you may want to make regular tacos with them too. Here's the instructions:
You need a very very hot dry fry pan/wok/grill plate etc. to cook the tortillas. Put your stove top on the highest setting. Also - make sure you've got your window open and/or your fan going. You will make some smoke while doing this, and you won't have time to be distracted by the smoke alarm.
Once your pan is as hot as it's going to get, place the tortilla(s) down on the pan - I fit 2 at a time in my pan, if you have a big pan and can fit more that's okay.
Stay in the kitchen - they will cook quite quickly. Once you see raised "bubbles" or bumps on the tortilla surface it's ready to flip over. There will be black (burnt) spots - they are just extra flavour and character.
Use a spatula to flip them over. Once the pan is super hot they will take between 10 and 30 seconds a side.
As each tortilla cooks stack them up on a plate - it's best if you use them while they're still warm.
Have a great week everyone :-)