Not long before I came to live in Slovakia, I spent a couple of months travelling in Mexico, Guatemala and America. There were so many great things about that holiday, but, to those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that the food was one of the highlights.
My memory of those days is pretty impressionistic – actually, my memory of life before Slovakia is pretty impressionistic – but (I’m pretty sure) I have very fond memories of standing next to an open-sided van, almost certainly with my good friend, Max, eating taco after taco. Not hard ones, but little soft tortillas, topped with meat and salsa, maybe guacamole, definitely coriander and onions. Something like this:
Fold it over, pop it in your mouth, and aaaaahhhhhhhh……….
A couple of years later, in September 1998, I arrived in the East of Slovakia. While the days of queueing for bananas were long past, the range of products available in the shops was definitely a bit limited, and certainly didn’t stretch to anything as exotic as tortillas or coriander. Keen to recreate the tastes of Mexico, and also to make my curries more aromatic, I did try to grow coriander on my balcony more than once, but with little success. And for some reason, I didn’t think to even try making tortillas.
Time passed. Very slowly, more and more things that I missed became available, including, eventually, tortillas, and, occasionally, coriander. To this day, though, that most wonderful of herbs is still ridiculously expensive here – more than a euro for a tiny plastic packet, half of which will almost certainly be wilted, if not rotten, and the other half of which would barely suffice to make one single taco.
Anyway, the other day, I made slow roasted pork shoulder (140 degrees for about 5 hours), and the end result was begging to be wrapped in a tortilla and stuffed in my face. But I had no tortillas. What to do? Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Or, in this case, research. One quick google and about half an hour later, I had made some of the easiest tortillas the world has ever seen. My wife and daughter loved them, and I could only wonder ‘Why on earth didn’t I do that sooner?’
Update (4/5/21): Tortillas can be made from wheat flour or maize (corn) flour. I made wheat ones, as you can see in the picture below, because I generally only have regular wheat flour in the house. Fun fact (probably obvious, but I hadn’t realised, somehow!):
Tortilla, from Spanish torta, cake, plus the diminutive -illa, literally means “little cake”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour_tortilla
Also, since I wrote this blog, I am pleased to say the range of food available here has broadened still further: there are now (or were, last I looked) at least three places to but Mexican food in Košice, and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them!
- Burrito More of a fast-food place, but the burrito I had was certainly tasty, and very filling for €5
- Bistro Ranchero I’ve also only been here once, as it’s not really my part of town, but I had absolutely fantastic tacos, which were worth every second of the wait.
- La Hacienda I had lunch here every week for a year before the pandemic, and it was delicious, if a little pricey. Here’s my Google review of their excellent fajitas, and a photo:
Anyway, without further ado, here is the tortilla recipe I used, adapted from here:
280g (2 cups) plain flour (I used ‘hladka’)
1/2 teaspoon salt
180 ml (3/4 cup) water
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Stir in the water and oil.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes, adding a little flour or water if needed, till you have a nice smooth dough.
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes (quite important I think).
- Divide the dough into eight balls.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a circle the size of your pan. It should be pretty thin, and not too covered in flour (brush off any excess).
- In a large nonstick frying pan (either dry or rubbed with a little vegetable oil), cook tortillas over a medium heat for 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned.
Fill with salsa, chillis, sour cream, cheese, lettuce and meat. Stuff in face.
This blog originally appeared on James’s personal blog on 23/01/2014