What’s Cooking – Homemade Corn Tortillas

Homemade Corn Tortillas
Homemade Corn Tortillas

Guest post by Mark 🙂

If on your travels you should happen upon a bag of Masa Harina then I strongly recommend that you slip at least one packet into your basket. Masa Harina is flour made from corn, and as such is full of that delicious corn taste.

So come the day you track a bag down, I went to Mexgrocer an online Mexican food specialist that delivers via courier, what to do with it. Well numerous options become available with a little research but I went for the tortilla option. It is a complex and involved method taking up to several minutes to complete, and you will need the following additional ingredients:

  • 225g Masa Harina
  • ~300ml of warm water
  • 1tsp salt
  • 4tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1tsp of Paprika (or to taste) this is optional, or add a herb/spice you like, just be careful not to overpower the inherent corn taste we are after

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Method

Sift the Masa Harina into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the salt over the top and add the Olive Oil and the Paprika if using.

2Rub the mixture with your finger tips until you have a bowl of course breadcrumbs, let it rest for 10 minutes. Make a well in the flour and pour in most of the water. Now the fun part, dive in and mush it up. Keep grabbing the dough furthest from you in a mechanical digger style and lift it onto the top of the dough nearest you, push down with your palm. Repeat this action till you have a smooth ball of dough. Add more water or Masa Harina if your dough is feeling too wet or dry, as required.

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In the end you will be done when your ball of dough is lovely and smooth, it should be sticky to the touch and if you break a piece of and squash it flat on a worktop it should stretch out without tearing. If it does tear then just add some more water to your bowl and kneed a little longer. When you are happy with your ball of dough leave it in your mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel and let it rest somewhere warm for an hour.

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In that hour you now need to track down two pieces of clear plastic about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, I used a zip lock freezer bag and cut it up accordingly.

Creation

Put your skillet or frying pan onto a high heat to get it really nice and hot. Use a cast iron one if you have it, if not the heaviest frying pan you can find.

Take a piece of dough about the size of a nectarine and place it in your tortilla press (what do you mean you don’t have one…get one they’re brilliant! And cheap to buy). If all else fails, place one sheet of plastic on a work top, place your small ball of dough in the middle and lay the second sheet of plastic over the top. Now take something heavy like a stock pot or a thick dinner plate, don’t use the best china, and press down. Turn the half formed tortilla over and press down again. You should have a disk about 20cm in diameter that is about as thick as a pancake.

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Peel one sheet of plastic of the tortilla. Now lay the tortilla onto your left hand and with your right hand remove gently the second sheet of plastic. In a smooth sweeping motion lay the tortilla down into the hot frying pan. After a minute you should be able to shake the frying pan and the tortilla slide about, you should also notice some bubbling of the surface. It is time to flip the tortilla over. Cook for another minute and then remove to a warm plate. Cover the tortilla with a warm damp cloth whilst you cook the rest of your dough.

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Fill with your heart’s desire and enjoy, just like I did.
Fill with your heart’s desire and enjoy, just like I did.

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What’s Cooking – Russian style pierogi (dumplings)

Polish Pierogi Russian Style

Ohh, I love them. There was a time during my childhood when I did not want to eat anything else, just pierogi – Russian style, or with meat, cabbage and mushrooms or with cherries or strawberries… the possibilities were endless.

So what are pierogi?

This is what Wikipedia have to say on the topic:

Pierogi (Polish pronunciation: [pjɛˈrɔɡʲi]; juvenile diminutive form: Pierożki Polish pronunciation: [pjɛˈrɔʂki] also in use) are dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then they are baked or fried usually in butter with onions – traditionally stuffed with potato filling,sauerkrautground meat, cheese, or fruit. Of central and eastern European provenance, they are usually semicircular, but are rectangular or triangular in some cuisines.

Pierogi are similar to the Russian pelmeni or Ukrainian varenyky and are not to be confused withpirozhki (the Russian word for stuffed fried buns) or a pirog (the Russian word for “pie”). Polish pierogi ruskie are similar to the Ukrainian varenyky in version with potatoes and cottage cheese (quark).

 

So how do you make them?

Pierogi are very easy to make, but quite time consuming.

You will need to make dough and some filling. This time let’s focus on Russian style pierogi, which means filled with potatoes and farmer cheese mix.

1kg of flour will make around 100 pierogi, yes that’s a lot, but they freeze very well.

We normally do the filling in proportions of 3:1 (three times more potatoes than farmer cheese).

Ingredients:

Filling: Dough:
1kg of potatoes 1kg of flour
0.33kg of farmer cheese Warm water
1 large onion Salt
Salt
Pepper Toppings:
2tbs of oil 2tbs of butter
1 large onion

First we need to make our filling.

  1. Clean the potatoes, cook, peel and mash
  2. Finely chop the onion and brown in cooking oil until golden, let it cool and add into potatoes
  3. Add farmer cheese
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix everything together

The filling is made at this point and we can now move on to making the dough.

And this is how you make it:

1.Add some flour into a big bowl. 0.25kg per batch as we will make 4 lots of dough. If you make all the dough in one batch, it will dry out and crumble by the time your half way through using it. 2.Add a little luke warm water into it
1. Add some flour into a big bowl. 0.25kg per batch as we will make 4 lots of dough. If you make all the dough in one batch, it will dry out and crumble by the time your half way through using it.
2. Add a little luke warm water into it
3.Start kneading and add more water if too dry
3. Start kneading and add more water if too dry
4.When you able to lift it, take the mixture out of the bowl and knead it some more
4. When you able to lift it, take the mixture out of the bowl and knead it some more
5.Keep kneading until you get a nicely formed smooth dough
5. Keep kneading until you get a nicely formed smooth dough
6.When you see something like this you are ready to start rolling
6. When you see something like this you are ready to start rolling
7.Roll out your dough until it is nice and thin
7. Roll out your dough until it is nice and thin

When your dough is well kneaded and rolled it is ready to be cut into shape. For this you will need a large cup or a pint glass or a cookie cutter. Just like this.

Cutting out my circles with a pint glass
Cutting out my circles with a pint glass

Now we have all the components we need to make / build our pierogi. We have our stack of nicely cut dough disks and our filling so it’s time to put them together.

This part may take some practice but I hope these pictures will help.

1.Place one circle of cut out dough on the palm of your left hand.  Add a spoon full of filling
1. Place one circle of cut out dough on the palm of your left hand.
Add a spoon full of filling
2.Bring two edges together and pinch the filling down to keep it central
2. Bring two edges together and pinch the filling down to keep it central
3.Bring the edges together and squeeze them tightly together
3. Bring the edges together and squeeze them tightly together
4.Taadaa you just made your 1st ever pierogi
4. Taadaa you just made your 1st ever pierogi
5.Now if you are feeling a little bit artistic  you can crimp the edges a little to make them look pretty
5. Now if you are feeling a little bit artistic
you can crimp the edges a little to make them look pretty
6.Place your pierogi on the tray sprinkled with flour  where they will await the boiling process
6. Place your pierogi on the tray sprinkled with flour
where they will await the boiling process

Now that we have made our prirogi let us quickly cook them before they totally dry out.

For this you will need a large cooking pot, filled with water, add some salt and bring it up to boil. Once boiling, gently place your pierogi in, just few at a time and cover with a lid. When they rise to the surface grab a slotted spoon and gently “fish them out”.

To fry or not to fry...
To fry or not to fry…

Finally ready to serve – ideally with onions browned in butter, unless you are Mark and hungry and cannot wait no longer…

Dinner time!
Dinner time!

Or you can let them to cool down if you want to serve them golden fried.

Enjoy!

 

Ahh just a few top tips:

  1. Remember don’t be tempted to make the dough in one big batch to save time, because in the end you won’t. The only exception to this tip is if you are part of a large family or have an army of little helpers.
  2. Never over boil them, as they will simply fall apart in the water
  3. To make them even more tasty, fry some meat pieces (bacon or pork belly is best) and add them on top of your golden fried pierogi
  4. Or if you like cheese (like Mark does) you can add some grated cheese on top of freshly golden fried pierogi, so it melts over them
  5. If you planning to freeze them, avoid adding onion into the filling, they will keep for longer