Cheese and pepper quesadillas

Cheese and pepper quesadillas
My favourite recipes are ones that come from other cultures, but I don’t bog myself down with worrying about authenticity. I thought I should mention that before posting these quesadillas – as someone is bound to point out that quesadillas (or “casio dears” as a colleague once referred to them in a text message) aren’t supposed to be three tier, as these are, or they would never be flavoured with cumin and coriander, or something… When I first made these, years ago, I didn’t refer to Google to see how they were made – I just did it, my way. So, I have no idea whether or not they are that authentic. If they are, it’s a fluke!
They make a great midweek dinner for the family. Although it’s not that quick to make them. Still, it’s easy enough, and you could get the kids involved. You just need a little time to cook the peppers down (I hate crunchy peppers, unless you are eating them raw as crudités or something, in which case raw peppers are fine). If you can’t be bothered with that, then leave out peppers (or use those roasted ones in jars). They’d still be good with just cheese – or why not try strips of ham? Or thinly sliced, deli style chorizo! Yes, I know, like I need another recipe with chorizo on here! (I already have quite a lot.)

I used basil in my little tomato salsa, but it should have coriander – it’s pretty much essential. The village greengrocer however didn’t have any in. Please use coriander if you can. Like most of these types of Mexican / South American inspired dishes, it’s the sides that make it; I wouldn’t bother eating quesadillas without guacamole, a salsa of some description, or sour cream to eat alongside. I would describe the sides as essential in fact! What isn’t essential though, is cooking the peppers with a spice mix. I just did that for an extra but of flavour. A Cajun spice mix or similar would be just as good – or nothing at all.

Serves: 3/4 adults (or 2 adults and 2 kids)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients: 
6 large, soft, white tortillas
250g mature cheddar, grated
3 peppers, red, green and yellow, sliced into chunky strips

Spice mix (optional):
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of salt

To serve: 
Tomato salsa:
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of coriander chopped (I used basil here as I couldn’t get any coriander)
Squeeze of lime
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar

Sour cream

Simple guacamole:
2 avocados, mashed chunkily
Pinch of salt
Squeeze of lime

Instructions:

  1. First, with a large heavy bottomed frying pan and a little oil, crisp up 2 tortillas (these will make the middle layers of the 2 quesadillas). Fry them for about 4/5 minutes on each side so they have a little colour and are crispier. Set aside. 
  2. In another pan start frying off the peppers simultaneously. Grind the spices in a pestle and mortar and toss in with them to flavour. Soften over a low to medium heat for about 30 minutes. 
  3. Make your salsa: simply mix all the ingredients together and set aside. Don’t make your guacamole until the last minute, to avoid any browning. 
  4. When your peppers are ready and you have your middle layers ready too, you can grate your cheese and start to make your quesadillas. Put one tortilla down in a lightly oiled pan, sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over and a quarter of the peppers, add the middle layer and repeat on top of it (another quarter of cheese and same of peppers), add the top layer of the tortilla and weight it down with a plate. Let it fry, and the cheese inside melt, for about 10-12 minutes. 
  5. Now, the flip. Using a towel, with a protected hand holding the plate, carefully turn the pan upside down (watch for any hot grease which may burn). It will turn out onto the plate, cooked side up. Slide it back into the pan, uncooked side down. Give it another 10-12 minutes.
  6. Time for the guacamole: scoop out avocados, mash a little, mix with salt and lime.
  7. To serve, simply slice up quesadillas, and place all accompaniments on a big board for people to help themselves. Drink cold beer with lime alongside! 
Cheese and pepper quesadillas
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