Neil’s Nifty Nachos and Chilli

On our last night at Arcadia Retreat in Rarotonga our friend Neil made this delicious and nifty version of nachos and chilli.

Neil’s Nifty Nachos and chilli

As we know Nachos are usually multi-layers of tortilla chips with cheese and a variety of toppings often including versions of chilli con carne or meatballs. Inevitably the chips go soggy in parts, but with Neil’s Nifty Nachos, there is no danger of that!

The nifty trick is simply serve the cheesy tortillas baked in the oven separately to the chilli, sour cream and guacamole!

His recipe for the chilli con carne is also delicious, imbued with spices such as cinnamon and cloves!

Tips for great nachos

In exploring tips for great nachos I found these two articles which focus on the more traditional multi-layered versions.

This story from the Cape Cod Times suggests using the cheese as a buffer zone to protect the crispiness of the chips. (This story also has some interesting suggestions about the creation and naming of nachos.)

And Bon Appetit lays out 10 rules for making nachos.

But neither suggest Neil’s Nifty Nachos version of simply separating the chips and sauce and completely avoiding any chance of soggy chips in the first place!

So here’s how he does it.

Neil’s Nifty Nachos and Chilli Recipe

Make the chilli first, but don’t forget to get the ingredients for the nachos and sides when you go shopping!

Chilli Ingredients

  • 250g beef mince
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 1 can kidney beans (do not drain, it will go in with the brine!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 3-4 fresh red chillies finely chopped (deseed if you prefer)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander chopped
  • 1 green capsicum diced
  • 1 fresh tomato diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat oil in a large heavy based pot or pan with a lid, and add cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds and bay leaf ..heat until fragrant.

2. Add pork and beef mince, garlic, onion, chopped chilli and chilli powder.

3. Turn up heat frying and breaking up mince continuously with a spoon for about 5 minutes until well coloured and onions are translucent. It’s important to dry fry the mince rather than allow it to stew.

Fry rather than stew the mince mixture

4. Add tinned tomato, tomato paste and can of kidney beans with brine and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or so to allow mince to absorb flavours, adding 1 cup water if mixture is sticking.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste to mince mixture.

5. Add green capsicum, half the fresh coriander and fresh tomato and cook for another 15 minutes until sauce is reduced and capsicum is just cooked.

6. Add the rest of the fresh chopped coriander and mix through.

7. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, pickled jalapeños and guacamole on the side.

Neil’s Nifty Nachos and chilli

Nachos ingredients:

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese (as chunky grate as you can)
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • Baking paper

Method:

1. Turn on your grill to high heat and line baking pan with baking paper.

2. Alternately layer tortilla chips generously sprinkling the two types of cheese between them, saving enough for a thick layer of cheese on top.

Chunky grated cheese for Neil’s tortilla chips

3. Grill chips until cheese is melted and chips are crispy. Serve immediately on the side with Neil’s chilli, sour cream, pickled jalapeños and sour cream on the side.

Crispy, cheesy grilled tortilla chips

Serving Neil’s Nifty Nachos and Chilli

Lift the cheesy tortilla chips with the baking paper onto a platter or just place baking pan (on a placemat) on the table with chilli con carne and sides such as sour cream, guacamole and pickled jalapeños to the side.

Guests serve themselves, layering the chips with the chilli and sides to their taste, but you can be guaranteed that the chips stay crispy and the chilli is delicious!

Neil’s Nifty Nachos and chilli

Zesty Finger Lime Cucumber Salad

This zesty finger lime cucumber salad was a delicious accompaniment to our warm beef salad, and would also be lovely with grilled or poached fish or chicken.

Zesty Finger Lime Salad

A friend of ours had gifted us native Australian finger limes which are becoming a very trendy ingredient on restaurant menus “down-under”, but they are still difficult to find in shops. If you see any, make sure you grab them as you will love their unique “caviar” like texture with tiny balls of lime that pop in your mouth.

You can read more about this intriguing fruit https://tuckerbush.com.au/finger-lime-citrus-australasica/

Australian native finger limes

I really wanted to make a dish that would showcase their flavour n texture ad thought cucumbers would be a good “backdrop” for this purpose.

I found this great recipe on The Devil Wears Salad but didn’t have all the ingredients to hand so improvised with things I had to hand.

The resulting cucumber salad topped with the caviar-like pearls of finger lime was delicious and the perfect zesty accompaniment to our warm beef salad.

(Thanks Helen for gifting us such a wonderful new ingredient!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 4-5 ripe finger limes
  • 1 red chilli (deseeded if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine or rice vinegar

Method:

1. Slice and chop one cucumber into small chunks. I slice then quarter each slice. Then using a large vegetable peeler, “peel” the second cucumber into long ribbons. Mix the 2 styles of cucumber in a bowl and set aside.

2. Chop the chilli finely and crush the ginger.

3. Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, crushed ginger , chopped chilli, and vinegar in a small bowl.

3. Cut the finger limes in half, horizontally. Onto a plate, Squeeze the end of each half gently but firmly until “pearls” of lime emerge. Repeat with all lime halves until you have a glistening pile of finger lime “caviar”. (You want to do this as close to serving your salad as possible so the finger lime pearls don’t dry up and clump together in lumps)

Finger lime caviar squeezed from halved lime

5. Gently toss dressing through cucumbers, then place the dressed cucumbers on a serving plate and scatter the finger lime caviar over the salad and serve immediately.

Zesty Finger Lime and Cucumber Salad

Bang Bang Chicken Salad

Bang bang chicken is a spicy shredded Chinese chicken salad that we first tasted at the humble but iconic “Chinese Noodle Restaurant” in the Prince Centre in Sydney’s Chinatown. As well as their delicious handmade noodles, their shredded chicken salad is always on one of our menu choices when we visit. It’s been a family favourite since the early 90’s!

Over the years I have also tried to recreate it at home. It’s a great weeknight dinner which can be served with lettuce cups, steamed greens and some jasmine rice if you like, or just delicious on it’s own.

It has the name “bang, bang” because it was traditionally banged with batons to loosen the chicken fibres before shredding. I use a mallet to do this and it works a treat!

Add chopped steamed green beans and lots of cucumber to add a bit more bulk to it as a meal in itself! It’s a great for lunch the next day too.

  • Ingredients
  • 2-3 poached chicken thigh fillets
  • Glad wrap and a meat mallet
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese chilli oil (I use Chiu Chow style)
  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan pepper crushed
  • 1 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger pounded to a paste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced spring onions
  • 1 cucumber sliced and cut into chunks

Method:

1. Place glad wrap over poached chicken laid flat on a chopping board. Use mallet to lightly flatten, then shred into long strips into a bowl.

2. Whizz or pound Szechuan pepper in a spice grinder to a (not too fine) powder, place in bowl, mix with sesame oil, vinegar, chilli oil, sugar and soy sauce.

3. Add spring onion to chicken, then dress, mix well, taste to see if you want to add extra chilli oil or Szechuan pepper, or soy sauce if not salty enough.

4. I add the cucumber last and lightly toss.

#Booji Breakfast: spicy Indian scrambled #eggs

A favourite Indian breakfast and famous street food which is just as good for a quick lunch or dinner. There are lots of different versions and you can experiment by adding chopped bacon bits, tomatoes or even finely diced boiled potato.

I made this today for Father’s Day breakfast served with crunchy sourdough toast and sausages.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion very finely diced
  • 1 large mushroom finely diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic smashed to a paste
  • 2 green birdseye chillies finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cummin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cummin seeds
  • 2-3 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon diced coriander
  • 3 large eggs beaten

Method:

1. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a non stick frying pan over medium heat.

2. Add cumin seeds and curry leaves if using. Heat until fragrant.

3. Add onions and cook slowly over gentle heat until translucent, then add garlic and sauté for a minute.

4. Add turmeric, cumin and chilli powders and sauté until cooked into onions, about 1.5 minutes. Then add green chilli and mushrooms or other ingredients you may choose to add, like cooked bacon bits or finely diced boiled potatoes. Add a sprinkle of salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes until heated through.

5. Add the other tablespoon of butter, add eggs and scramble until egg is cooked to your liking.

6. Toast bread and pile on booji, garnish with coriander and enjoy!

Durban-style Fish and Potato #Samosas #crispy

Fish filled samosas are a great alternative to Mince and Pea Samosas.

This recipe teams white fish fillets with finely diced potato and herbs for a delicious light filling, that truly shines when dipped in a zesty mint, garlic and chilli sauce.

Fish and potato samosas with zesty lime dipping sauce

The crispy pastry, using spring roll pastry, which is substantially different to the thicker crusty version of Indian samosas is light and adds just the right amount of crunch to these delicious taste parcels.

Ensuring the triangles are firmly sealed with no “gaps” or “holes” to prevent the hot oil to be absorbed into the parcels, then shallow frying rather than deep frying makes for the least oily version possible.

These samosas freeze really well, so you can make ahead and impress guests when they arrive or have a stash to treat yourselves at your pleasing.

Prep time: 2 hours (including making filling) Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 -10 sheets spring roll pastry (thawed to room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 200 g white fish fillets such as flathead, diced into small chunks
  • 1 small potato diced finely
  • 1 onion very finely diced
  • handful of curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic and equal amount of ginger pounded to a paste
  • 1-2 small red chillies finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced coriander
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and then 1 cup of vegetable oil for shallow frying
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon and 2 pinches Salt
  • 1/2 cup or so of water
  • Handful of mint, coriander, 1 cloves garlic and 2 chillies
  • Juice of 1 lime and 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Method

1. Boil finely diced potatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt until just tender, about 5 minutes

2. Heat oil in non-stick frying pan. Add mustard seed, fennel seeds and curry leaves and heat until fragrant.

3. Add onion and cook slowly until transparent.

4. Add ginger and garlic paste add mix through onions, then add fish, salt and white pepper and 1/4 cup water.

5. Simmer until water has totally evaporated and the fish is sealed, just turning white.

6. Remove from heat add potato, chilli and coriander and mix through, slightly break up potatoes and fish as you do, but do not mash. Taste to see if extra salt required.

7. Allow mixture to cool.

8. Mix flour in a small bowl with 3-4 tablespoons of water, adding slowly to create a thick flour “glue”.

9. Take 2 sheets of the spring roll pastry, keeping rest between dampened tea towel to avoid drying out. I have discovered that using a double layer of the pastry creates a more robust case and crispier casing for these samosas.

10. Place each sheet neatly aligned on top of each other, then cut into 3 even strips.

11. Starting at one end, place 1-1.5 teaspoons of mixture on the pastry and then turn pastry over to create a neat triangle. Ensure there are no gaps when you turn the pastry – use the glue to seal openings or gaps between the 2 sheets of pastry as you go. This will ensure the oil doesn’t enter the package when you fry it and make your samosas less oily.

Making fish and potato samosas with spring roll pastry

12. Repeat process until all mixture is used up. Makes about 12-15 samosas.

13. Samosas can be frozen at this point and shallow fried directly from the freezer when you require. They freeze really well.

14. Heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a small non-stick frying pan over high heat, add 3-4 samosas, allowing oil to come back to temperature, then lower heat to medium and cook until samosas are golden and filling is hot.

15. Finely dice mint, coriander, garlic and chilli – I used a mandolin. Place in a small bowl. Add healthy pinch of salt, add lime juice a dash of oil to create a zesty dipping sauce.

16.serve samosas with lime dipping sauce and other sauces as suits.

#Samosas for Xmas Parties

Xmas is coming. We are preparing for small covid safe gatherings here in Sydney. Thought I’d organise myself by making extra of the filling for samosas tonight …and then make the actual samosas tomorrow night.

So i doubled the filling from Samosas and served with Red lentil dhal with rice and salad.

Mince and pea for samosa filling
Red lentil dhal

Now tomorrow I will use the rest of the filling to make the samosas, and freeze them so I have a supply to freeze up for drinks and gatherings over the weekend.

Durban style Samosas