Cynthia's Quesadillas for Happy Mexican Independence Day
Instalment 2 of And So To Recipes is here! Each month, we're getting different team members to share their favourite recipes. This month, our lovely Cynthia is sharing how to make traditional Quesadillas from her native Mexico - the perfect way to celebrate Mexican Independence Day! Scroll down to get Cynthia's recipe, or save the picture above - we know, we're too good to you!
I’m not a stranger to people asking me what I eat for each of my meals. This is not due to me being a vegetarian or to my perfectly glowing skin (I wish!), but because I am from Mexico.
I believe people have an image of meals in Mexico consisting of a large wooden table, covered in a multi-coloured tablecloth, where terracotta dishes are laid out, full of both sweet and savoury thingamabobs covered in all kinds of sauces. The picture is completed by a large family sitting together around this feast inside a yellow-coloured house.
Whilst this is not totally untrue, it is the kind of thing usually reserved for when a visit to your grandparents’ house is due or when the occasion calls for it. Growing up in the chaotic metropolis that is Mexico City, I learnt to be quick and practical, to never take too long to leave the house because “you never know how traffic is going to be”.
The day-to-day in my household consisted of my mum waking up a pair of sleepy girls and leaving them to put on their uniforms whilst she ran back to the kitchen to prepare the lunch we would be taking to school that day. The main course usually consisted of…quesadillas!
Quesadillas are a funny dish in Mexico, their simplicity being the topic of a never-ending debate between Mexico City and the rest of the country. You see, queso is Spanish for cheese, so it only makes sense that a quesadilla would be a folded tortilla with cheese inside. However, in Mexico City we like to be inclusive and to exploit our creative license by adding anything to the cheese base, from mushrooms and squash blossoms to chorizo. In some parts of the city, you’ll even find these fillings with no cheese at all and that’s where the confusion lies.
Seeing that September is now upon us (when did this happen?!), and that Mexico will be officially celebrating 207 years of independence from Spain, I thought it was perfect timing to share the super simple recipe that divides the nation from time to time! As it is so easy and quick to make, I’ll also show you how to make pico de gallo (literally rooster beak, I don’t know why that’s the name). In Spanish, we call it a sauce, but it’s really more of a garnish that goes really well with the quesadillas.
I made these for a couple of American friends who loved them so don’t fret if you’re not into hot, spicy food!
- Each tortilla makes one quesadilla so it’s your call! Usually, people would have between 2 and 3 depending on how big the tortilla is. I’ve found that the tortilla wraps sold at any shop work just fine, but if you want a more authentic feel to yours, try to find some made with corn flour.
- Oaxaca cheese. This one can be trickier to find. The main thing you want is a stringy cheese that melts quickly as you don’t want to burn your tortillas! Mozzarella or Monterey Jack are good alternatives that can be easily found in supermarkets.
Pico de gallo
- One tomato, diced
- One onion, chopped
- One green chilli or jalapeno. I know, I know. People would tell you not to trust a Mexican when they say something isn’t spicy, but, when I made this for my American friends, I used the mild ones from Asda and they were fine. Just enough to add flavour but not so much that it made the pico inedible. Make sure to take out the seeds if you don’t want fire in your mouth!
- One bunch of cilantro, chopped
- The juice of half a lime (or more, if preferred)
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat a pan on the stove.
2. Cut the cheese in a way that will make it easy to fit in half of your tortilla.
3. Put your tortilla on the pan and then add the cheese on just one half. There’s no need to add anything extra to the pan as the tortilla won’t stick.
4. Carefully lift the other half from the pan and fold it over. Press gently on it with a spatula and hold it there until the cheese starts to melt so that it can “glue” the tortilla down and keep it in shape.
5. Keep an eye on the tortilla. You want it to become slightly crispy but not to burn. When some areas of it start looking light brown, it’s time to flip the whole thing over and wait until the other side gets to this stage.
6. And you’re done! Repeat as many times as you like for as many quesadillas as you’re planning on making.
Pico de gallo
1.Chop the vegetables and the cilantro and toss together in a bowl.
2. Add the lime juice, salt and pepper and mix it so as to coat everything.
3. Some people (like my sister) would open their quesadilla and put a small spoonful of the pico inside before folding it back up. Others (like me) just put it on top.
There is really no right or wrong way to enjoy this super simple meal that would remind many of school lunches wrapped in aluminium foil, of quick mornings where you just need to get out of the house or of street vendors, who would have all kinds of fillings and salsas at your disposal.