Thursday, 5 January 2012

Q is for... Quesadillas

Having already scoffed down two Scotch quails eggs the size of cricket balls as pre-dinner "nibbles" with our cocktails, a quesadilla starter was clearly asking for trouble. Having lost all reason, I decided to make enough tortilla dough to make 20 tortillas. Yes, that's right. 20. For two people. As a starter. Fortunately, reason returned for long enough to prevent me from actually serving all 20 tortillas. Instead, I popped the rest in an old cake tin to save for later, or, as actually happened, to be forgotten about until they went mouldy and had to be thrown away. 

I stuffed my quesadillas with plenty of cheese (obviously) in the form of Quicke's Cheddar, along with red peppers, chilli, coriander, mushrooms and onion. They were somewhere between a calzone and a toasted sandwich. They were delicious, but, by gum, were they filling. Richard and I fell back in our chairs, rubbing our full bellies, with the resonating notes of Josh Homme ringing in our ears. "Is there very much more to come?" Richard squeaked. "Yes," I replied, "quite a bit". Richard tried to hide his fear with a kindly smile, before suggesting we should "have a bit of a rest first". 

In all honesty, that little rest could have quite happily turned into a carbohydrate and cocktail induced five hour nap, but our training sessions in the form of the letters A to P had stood us in good stead. Several months of multi-course eating meant we were match-fit to continue onwards in the quest of Q. The quesadillas weren't going to stand a chance against old veterans like us. Bring on the remaining quantity of Qs!


If you haven't got the time, or can't be bothered to make your own tortillas, don't beat yourself up for buying them in. I only made the tortillas myself because I'd never made them before and the whole point of this food quest is to make it a bit of a challenge. Making a sandwich out of shop bought tortillas and whacking it under the grill didn't seem much like a challenge, which, of course, is exactly what would make it so appealing the rest of the time.

for the tortillas (makes about 20)

400g/1 lb plain flour
15g/ 1/2 oz butter
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
175ml/ 6 fl.oz boiling water

Sift together the dry ingredients before rubbing in the butter. Slowly, add the water and mix with a knife using a cutting action until you have created a rough dough - you may not need all the water. Once the dough is cool enough to touch, knead it on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl topped with cling film to rest for 15 minutes.

Divide the mixture into small golf ball sized pieces and roll each one on a floured surface until thin and about the size of a dinner plate. Leave the remaining dough covered while you are rolling each piece, to prevent it from drying out.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium to hot flame with no oil. Dry fry each tortillas for 30 seconds to a minute on each side or until the top is slightly bubbly and golden. Stack the tortillas and wrap them in a clean tea towel or a parcel of baking parchment and foil to keep warm.

for the filling (to make 1 quesadilla that serves 2 people as a starter or for lunch)

You can fill your quesadillas with anything you like, as long as it includes cheese. In fact, you can, if you like, only put cheese in them. As long as cheese is featured, it's a quesadilla. It really is the cheese that's the important thing here, in case you hadn't worked that out.

1 onion, finely sliced in half moons
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 handfuls of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, seeds and pith removed and sliced
A handful of fresh coriander
2 generous handfuls of grated Quickes Cheddar (or any other cheese you fancy)

Preheat the grill

Fry the onions in a glug of olive oil until soft. Add the mushrooms, pepper and garlic and fry until everything is soft and golden. Season generously and chuck in the chilli. Continue to fry it for a minute or so before taking the pan off the hat. Take one tortilla and sprinkle over half of the cheese. Pop the fried vegetables on top and scatter over some fresh, chopped coriander. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and place a second tortilla on top. Press it down slightly and place the quesadilla under the grill until the cheese has melted. Cut the quesadilla into quarters and serve.

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