Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Of the things that I remember about my first job (before this makes me sound like a pensioner reliving old memories, let me clarify that I am currently in my second job), the chicken quesadilla that they served in the office canteen would definitely feature in the top ten. Having just moved from India, quesadillas were new to me. Not the concept of course. A tortilla with a filling is not entirely different from say, an Indian stuffed paratha. The packaging and presentation is different yes, but in essence, both involve breads with a devilishly delicious filling. The name "quesadilla" comes from "queso" which means cheese in Spanish. 

Quesadillas were a weekly affair in my office canteen. Served every Thursday I think. Promptly at 12 noon, I would dash off in the direction of the canteen to beat the inevitably long queue at the quesadilla counter. What a small price to pay for a delicious meal. On a few manically busy Thursdays, I had to skip the quesadilla queue in favour of less tasty but more accessible lunch options. Those were sad days indeed.

This weekend, I had a friend over for brunch. Because I am so familiar with Indian cooking, I usually rustle up an Indian meal if I have company at home. On this ocassion, I decided to be a little adventurous and go with a Mexican theme. I did serve a couple of starters, but let's cut to the chase shall we, and talk about the quesadilla main course.

I didn't refer to any particular recipe, but relied on my trusty guide to Mexican food, Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers for inspiration. The book has simple but delicious recipes, with easy-to-follow instructions and droolworthy photographs. Thomasina Miers is the owner of Wahaca, a chain of Mexican restaurants in London, where I have enjoyed many a delicious meal with friends. Of the many recipes in the book, Chicken and Chorizo in an Almond Mole caught my attention for the chicken-chorizo combination. I am a chorizo addict, thanks to my weakness for sour-spicy flavours. That provided the inspiration for my quesadilla filling - chicken-chorizo it was.

Chicken chorizo quesadilla

Here's the recipe for the filling. I cannot claim that this is authentic in any way (erm, especially because it involves Nando's hot peri peri sauce) but the results will not disappoint.

Chicken-Chorizo Quesadillas
(My own recipe)

500 grams cubed baby chicken fillets
100 grams chorizo (slices)
5-6 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 medium onion finely sliced
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 tbsp Nando's hot peri peri sauce (I am sure any other spicy sauce will work equally well)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp oil
finely chopped coriander

Heat the oil and fry the onion slices until golden brown. Set aside. Into the same pan, add in the sliced chorizo, which will gradually release oil. Now add the chopped garlic and stir the mix until the garlic turns golden brown. Now add the chicken, mixed herbs, the peri peri sauce, tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste. Cook till the chicken is cooked through (it should turn to white in colour from pink) and the moisture has evaporated. It should be a fairly dry mixture. Now add the sliced onions and stire together for a few minutes to let the whole mixture come together. Add in the coriander and mix. Done.

Tomato salsa

4 medium tomatoes chopped
1 medium red onion finely chopped
finely chopped coriander - a handful
2-3 green chillis finely chopped (de-seed if you are not fond of spicy food or omit altogether, although I would not recommend the latter option unless you are a complete sissy when it comes to spice)
lime juice to taste
sea salt to taste
powdered sugar - 1/2 tsp

For the salsa, simply throw in the onion and tomatoes into a large bowl. Add the coriander and chillis, and mix in the sugar. Next comes the lime juice and the salt. I would just advise that you add a little lemon juice and salt at a time and keep tasting the mix from time to time until you get exactly the right mix of salty-sour that you want.  

Corn Salsa

As a variation, I threw in a small tin of canned sweet corn (drained) to make a corn salsa. The crunch of the sweet corn was definitely a good addition to the salsa.

To assemble the quesadillas

A bunch of spring onions (finely chopped)
Grated cheddar cheese (as much as you please)
Guacamole (optional - I used store bought)

Heat a non-stick pan and spread the tortilla - once warmed on both sides, spread some of the spring onions, then a little salsa, guacamole (if using) the chicken chorizo filling, and finally a layer of grated cheese on one half of the tortilla. The other half should be left plain so you can fold this over the half with the filling. Once you have folded the plain half over the other, leave for a couple of minutes on medium or low heat (to prevent the tortilla from burning). Once the cheese starts melting, flip the quesadilla and cook the other side until brown spots appear. Flip out of the pan with a flourish onto a serving dish. Serve with extra salsa on the side.

Tortilla chips with corn salsa

For the health concious, I can say with some authority that you can safely avoid the cheese with pretty good results, having tried this myself. This would of course, take away the "queso" out of quesadilla, which is probably an unforgivable distortion. But better to try quesadilla without the queso, than not try it out at all! Happy chomping.

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