Mexican food is surprisingly easy to make at home, though it’s not something I’ve done very often in the past. Since going to Mexico earlier this year though my eyes were opened to a whole range of dishes that would appeal to even my super-fussy fiancé and most importantly are quick and easy to cook.
I thought that might be the thinking behind Old El Paso’s “Taco Tuesday” campaign – you can make midweek meals quick and easy by doing tacos or something similar. But a quick Google has actually revealed that the phrase comes from a happy hour event where bars and restaurants offer cheap tacos and beer on Tuesdays.
Even so, I’ll go with the ‘midweek made easy’ idea which Old El Paso is promoting. They invited me to a cookery evening recently at Food at 52, a cookery school in London’s Clerkenwell, which is a great little place. Upstairs, there are comfy sofas where we got to know each other over drinks and nachos, and then you go downstairs to the kitchen area. Each person had a workstation – Foodat52 runs a range of classes and can be hired for private events (from hen nights to corporate team building sessions) and the people running it were great. They demonstrated, we cooked, the wine flowed then we ate.
So what did we cook? We were divided into pairs or groups of three, with each making either a vegetarian or meat-based dish. We were all trying out the Stand ‘n’ Stuff soft taco kit, which apparently is being relaunched rather than a totally new product, but I’ve never come across it before. And it’s genius! In the past I’ve eaten tacos in those crispy shells, which don’t stand up by themselves so you have to lay them down and half the filling falls out, and you take one bite which cracks the shell and then the rest of the filling falls out. Or, I’ve eaten soft tortillas, which I prefer, but am hopeless at wrapping them properly and have to eat them with a knife and fork – if I pick them up, the filling falls out (are you starting to see a pattern here?).
These tacos are like little boats – they are soft, but stand up by themselves and allow you to pile in the filling, and when you hold it in your fingers and bite, you don’t lose any of the filling. I will definitely be using these from now on!
I was using beef mince and my recipe was very straightforward – brown the mince first. I learnt that you shouldn’t actually move the meat around while it’s browning, and you need the pan (and oil) to be very hot first. Once it’s browned, drain the mince and add the Old El Paso seasoning mix, which you either get in the meal kits or can buy separately, and a little water.
While the meat was cooking I chopped some lettuce and grated some cheese, while my partner chopped tomatoes. To serve, pile the mince into the taco shell, top with lettuce, tomato and grated cheese, and enjoy.
The pairs making the vegetarian recipe had a little more to do; they chopped courgette, red pepper, onion and sweet potato and added a jar of Old El Paso cooking sauce and a little water. The veg cooked for about ten minutes until the sauce had reduced, then they added some kidney beans. I don’t like kidney beans so didn’t try this particular dish but it looked very colourful and healthy and this has given me a great idea for the next time my vegan friend comes to dinner.
The Stand ‘N’ Stuff kits come in a variety of flavours – garlic & paprika; extra mild and smoky BBQ and retail at £3.79 (though Tesco has them for £2 at the moment) and you can buy the tortillas separately, for £1.89 for 8, if you want to make up your own flavour combinations. I will definitely be using these again for a quick midweek dinner and maybe trying shredded chicken instead of the mince next time.
Thanks to Old El Paso for inviting me to the event at Foodat52.