I recently discovered that there's nothing better than an authentic Mexican tortilla. After taking part in a Mexican cooking night with Thomasina Miers, last year, nothing else seems to taste the same.
Wheat tortillas are widely available but they don't have that depth of flavour that you get from a corn tortilla. Occasionally I buy the wrap style ones from the supermarket but invariably I make my own, using just white flour, but now I wanted to have the real thing.
It is not easy to obtain the ground corn (masa harina) for making tortillas, where I live, but I found a company on Borough Market called cool chile co. that specialise in all things Mexican. I bought a bag of masa harina from them, and with some initial trepidation set about with some tortilla making.
I've had a metal tortilla press sitting on the kitchen rack, waiting for some action, since buying it on eBay some months ago. It was inexpensive and definitely essential. A simple tool that allows you to clamp your ball of dough between two metal plates, creating the perfect disc of the correct thickness. Well I say perfect, as my first attempts were perhaps a little wonky, but the process got better as I went along.
They were very easy to make, and the smell is just wonderful. I suppose I could describe it as faintly scented, sweet and nutty. The whole process is very therapeutic too, so I'll be making a lot more in the future.
250g masa harina
330ml warm water
Tip the masa harina into a large bowl and mix in the warm water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes. Knead in more water if necessary. The mixture should feel like soft clay but not sticky.
Divide into 10-12 pieces and roll into balls using your hands. Press or roll into circles, about 3mm thick, between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Heat a heavy frying pan and place one tortilla gently into the pan and cook for about 15 seconds. Turn and cook for a further 30 seconds. Turn again and wait for the tortilla to puff.
Remove from the pan and keep warm in a cloth while making the others.Photo: ©childsdesign 2010