Mexican Lamb Fajitas w/ Quinoa Salad & Charred Corn Salsa

I’m a great big fan of Mexican food. Those delicious flavours and colours really cheer me up on a grey day and make a meal that much more exciting. Of all Mexican food, I especially love fajitas. All the bowls of different ingredients lined up and just waiting to be assembled into a dreamy, spicy, juicy, creamy, tasty wrap *swoon*.

They make a perfect interactive dinner for a big group of people, but I have been known – when the craving overtakes me – to make fajitas for one. I can’t decide whether that’s a story of dedication or desperation. Maybe don’t dwell on that now.

These particular fajitas are awesome. They are the Daddy of fajitas. I know, humble is my middle name, but they really are epic.  They’re a bit of hard work, but not as much as you’d think to be honest, and the end result will impress even the most hard to please guest.  The marinade is – not to put too fine a point on it – magic (I really am all over the humble today, but I made it up and I don’t care)! It’s addictive. Like green crack. You can use it with any meat or fish really (much better than crack), but in our opinion it works particularly well with the robust flavour of lamb.

The quinoa* salad is the perfect accompaniment to the tasty, marinated meat, as the gentle heat and warmth of the smoked paprika make a really nice contrast. When you have this in a soft wrap with the creamy guac and the lovely salsa the whole meal is just a party in your mouth. You can save yourself a bit of time and effort by buying salsa and guac rather than making your own but I’d really urge you not to. They are SO simple to make and taste about a million times better then shop bought stuff. I think they must be loads better for you as well, with no preservatives or other nasties to spoil your enjoyment. Give it a go just once and I promise you’ll be converted.

*If eating quinoa makes you feel a bit too hipster, rice or couscous works just as well FYI.

Obviously this recipe has a lot of different parts. I’ve tried to be as user friendly as I can but please read the whole thing through first so there are no surprises! If you have all the time in the world the marinating can be done well before cooking (obviously) and the salsa can also be made in advance. The guacamole can be made in advance but no more than a couple of hours as you don’t want it to go brown (it won’t taste any different, but you lose sexy points for brown guac). I like having the quinoa salad warm but if you’re not too fussed there’s no reason you can’t pre-make that as well.

What you need (serves 3):

For the marinade and meat:

3 lamb steaks (or other meat/fish of your choice)

A small bunch of coriander

6 anchovies

1 egg yolk

Juice of 2 limes

1 red chilli (de-seeded)

For the quinoa salad:

60g quinoa

120ml veg stock

1 courgette, roughly chopped

1 pepper, roughly chopped

A generous amount of smoked paprika – at least 1 tbsp

Salt & pepper

For the guac:

2 ripe avocados

c. 100g cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 small chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

A handful of chopped coriander

Juice of 1 lime

Salt

For the salsa:

2 corn-on-the-cobs

c. 200g cherry tomatoes, quartered

A small bunch of psring onions, finely chopped

A squeeze of lime juice

Salt & pepper

What to do:

1.  FIRST, you need to make your marinade. This is dead easy, as all you need to do is stick all the ingredients in a blender and whizz them up.

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There, done.  Don’t be tempted to be a wuss and leave out the anchovies – we promise your marinade won’t taste fishy.

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2.  Next, give your meat of choice a good old massage with the marinade. Really get in there.  When you’re done, put clingfilm over the dish and put everything in the fridge.  You want this to marinade for at least an hour, but the longer the better really.  You could even leave it overnight if you were being very organised.

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3.  NEXT put your corn on a dry griddle pan (or frying pan) to char.  This actually takes a surprisingly long time so be patient.  You want it to be cooked through and slightly burned in places.

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4.  While that’s getting on with that, assemble the rest of your salsa. Put your quartered toms and finely chopped spring onions in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lime juice and give it a thorough mix.

5.  NEXT we’re starting on the quinoa salad (but make sure your sweetcorn is getting on nicely first). Roughly chop your courgette and pepper and lay out on a baking tray.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a generous amount of smoked paprika.  Roast these in a 200ºC/gas mark 7 oven for about 20 minutes or until they’re cooked

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6.  While your veggies are roasting, turn to the quinoa itself. Drizzle a little olive oil in a small saucepan. When this is hot, add your quinoa and stir it around for a bit to ‘toast’ it.

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7.  Add your stock to the saucepan and bring it to the boil.  Turn it down to a simmer and leave for about 20m or until the little grains look like the photo below, with the inside and then the little ring outside. Taste it; it should be slightly firmer than rice but not too crunchy.  Technical, I know.

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8.  While your quinoa is cooking, check on your sweetcorn. It should be done, so cut it off the cob (stand it upright on a chopping board and run a sharp knife down the sides) and stir it into your salsa.  Give it a taste and add more lime juice if required. Congratulations, you’ve made salsa. High five.

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9.  NEXT make your guac.  So, so easy; first smush your avo in a bowl, add salt, pepper and lime juice, stir.  Add quartered cherry tomatoes and chilli, stir.  Add coriander, stir, taste, add more lime juice if necessary.  DONE.  You are now ruined for all shop bought guac and salsa.  My work here is done…

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10. Now we’re going to take stock. Your salsa is done, as is your guac. They can go on the table.  Your veggies will be roasting away and your quinoa simmering happily.  Time to do the meat!  REMEMBER TO TAKE THE MEAT OUT OF THE FRIDGE ABOUT HALF AN HOUR BEFORE YOU COOK IT.  Thanks. Told you to read the whole recipe first…

11. If you’re doing lamb steaks like what we did, take your marinated meat (don’t worry if it looks a bit funny, the lime juice starts to ‘cook’ it while it marinades) and cut off the fatty bits.  Take a griddle pan and put the heat under it until it’s hot, hot, hot.

12. Place the steaks gently on the pan, and pour over the rest of the marinade (waste not, want not).  Cook the lamb as you would a normal steak; we like our meat twitching, so Caroline griddled it for about 3 minutes on each side.

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13. When that’s done, leave the meat to rest for a few minutes.  De-glaze the pan with a splash of wine to get all that lovely marinade off.  Scrape it into a bowl, you can serve your meat in that.

14. NOW your quinoa and veggies are probably done.  Stir these together in a bowl.  DONE.

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15. Cut your rested meat into strips and stir into the rest of the marinade in that bowl. DONE.

16. SO, on the table you should have, a bowl of lovely lamb strips stirred into the leftover marinade, warm quinoa salad, corn salsa and guac. All made with buckets of love and your own fair hands.  Give yourself a pat on the back, that’s an impressive spread!  You should also have soured cream (optional) and tortillas (not optional – kind of key, really). TOP TIP: make sure you have plenty of napkins handy, things could get messy…

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17. After all that effort, you’re finally ready to assemble your fajitas! Hurrah! Obviously this is personal choice – and I would NEVER presume to tell you to change a tried and tested fajita strategy – but if you need inspiration, this is how I do it… 1) smear of guac 2) salsa, 3) pieces of meat (and a cheeky bit of marinade) evenly spaced, 4) quinoa then 5) soured cream on top.  Wrap it up tight and take a bite.

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18. That plus a large Sauvignon = actual, real life bliss. Sigh.

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