Beef quesadillas are Mexican. But when it comes to spicy food we’ve always been a curry family – Indian, Thai, Sri Lankan. We played no favourites. Basically, if it came from the Asian region, and it was spicy, we’d try it. Charmaine Solomon’s Complete Asian Cookbook was really the starting point for this passion. She taught us to use fresh herbs, roasting and frying spices to enhance flavour, before grinding them into a fine powder, to make curries that bore a resemblance to their heritage. It was a long way from past generations who reached for the box of Keen’s curry powder to achieve that exotic flavour. I have very found memories of curried tuna and rice (with boiled eggs and peas, if you were lucky) c.1974, which I’m sure didn’t taste nearly as good as the memory that lingers.
And then something happened. A Mexican takeaway opened that served burritos. The reality is we have never eaten fast-food, so to lure us in, it must have been good. As a result, Asian curries have taken a back seat. Chipotles have infiltrated and not only do we love Chipotle Meatballs, but we have also mastered burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.
Here is the beef version of the filling, which can be used for burritos (put it in the centr
e of a tortilla, add the salsa and lettuce, and fold up); tacos (put it in a taco shell, add some grated cheese and lettuce); or quesadillas. Monterey Jack cheese has only recently become available in our supermarket, which is an indication of the rise of Mexican food locally. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to find the jalapeño version. If not, stick to cheddar. When in doubt, go with what’s in the fridge. Not being lovers of a large amount of melted cheese, we make them with a sprinkling only. Just enough to get that flavour – not enough to have it dripping down your chin. Your choice. And if you don’t like the idea of making quesadillas, turn it into a burrito. Enjoy!
To assemble the quesadillas:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 500 g beef mince
- 1 red capsicum, chopped into small squares
- 1 x 400 g tin crushed tomatoes
- 250ml chicken stock
- 1 x 400g black beans, drained
- iceberg lettuce leaves, shredded
- 1 + ½ cups monterey jack cheese (or cheddar), grated
- sour cream
- 250 g cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 avocado, cut into small chunks
- salt and pepper
- juice of half a lime
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cumin, coriander, paprika and chillies and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add mince. Cook for approximately 8 minutes or until the meat is browned, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the mince. Add the capsicum, tomatoes and stock and stir thoroughly. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened - about 20-25 minutes. Add the black beans, season with salt to taste, and reheat.
- Meanwhile prepare the salsa, by combining all ingredients in a bowl.
- Shred the lettuce and grate the cheese.