As a kid, fajitas were always a treat food in our family. I think with the exception of oriental starter nibbles from Marks & Spencer the only form of semi-pre made or processed food that ever crossed the threshold of my Mother's kitchen was the little red and yellow sachets of fajita spice mix that became popular just as I was entering my teens. There is just something about having a big bowl of something hot and meaty for you to make up your own wrap with, adding condiments and fillings out of little bowls to your own specific requirements that really appeals to a kid who usually has everything laid out for them on a plate, all of it to be eaten, including vegetables. I think that is why Crispy Oriental Duck was also a favourite.
Fajitas were also a treat when we went out to eat, too. I remember there were two places in Canterbury where you could order a serving of still sizzling fajitas on their hot dish with a big bowl of salsas and dips, and one of those round little pancake dishes with the lid to keep your tortillas warm as you worked your way through the stack. At Marlowe's on Canterbury High Street it was all about getting crispy duck fajitas; a special treat version of an already 'treat' meal because they were only ever made with chicken at home. They also had a fantastic Mississippi Mud Pie mousse cake for dessert. I am still upset to this day that Marlowe's changed owners, because the food is just not very good anymore. Luckily, my second fajita location, Cafe des Amis by Westgate Towers is still doing good business and serving up great food (or they were when I left town last year, but the food has been pretty consistant for years); there it is all about all the different things to go in the fajita. While at home we only have our favourites of salsa and soured cream, at Cafe des you get served up a massive pinwheel of options of different types of beans, jalapeños etc. Their nachos and chocolate fondu for two are also to be recommended as are their fantastically potent passion fruit margaritas.
Anyway, back to homemade fajitas. Because we always got fajita mix in a packet, and in our house we usually make most things from scratch, even most oriental dishes I always thought it must be a pretty complex mix with loads of hard to find ingredients in, but when I stumbled across a few variations of fajita recipes online I started experimenting with spice blends, and I could not believe how easy, and how much cheaper it was to make your own fajitas at home. This latest edition of my 'Student Suppers' column of easy, simple and delicious meals great for students makes a serves two fajita meal with just one chicken breast, but I have found it does not heat up two badly so you can enjoy it two evenings in a row if you are just cooking for one and not a boyfriend, girlfriend or flatmate. Simply just add large flour tortillas and your choice of additions; I personally enjoy fresh salsa and soured cream, but I know cheese, lime wedges and guacamole are also popular.
- 1 Large Chicken Breast
- Juice 1/2 Lime
- 1 tsp Chili Powder
- 1/4 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Light Olive or Vegetable Oil, plus extra for frying
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper (it is this, not the chili powder so much that give this spice mix its kick, so if you prefer less spice, add only a pinch of this instead of the full amount)
- 1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 White Onion
- 1 Red Pepper
Combine the spices, oregano, olive oil, lime juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Slice the chicken into small bite sized strips and add to the bowl. Mix well so all the chicken is covered in spice marinade. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour to marinate. This can be done in advance, for example before you leave for class in the morning so your dinner will be relatively quick to put together in the evening after a long day even if you are multiplying the recipe up a couple of times to feed a lot of friends.
When you are ready to cook, slice your onion very thin wedge style, about a centimetre each in thickness. Slice the red pepper into salad style strips. Add a little oil to a large pan and over a medium to high heat fry the onions and the peppers together for a few minutes until the onions are almost soft and have a bit of colour. Now, as anyone who follows me on Instagram will know my fajitas happen in a Wok. While when you are cooking the usually proportion of ingredients for this recipe for the two of you everything will fit into most big saucepans, once you quantities start to get a bit bigger most of us don't have a (preferably non stick) pan big enough for the operation except for our Woks. Ever since my Dad figured out this was the only way we would be serving up fajitas for all three of us when we first started making them, now even if there are bigger and better pans on hand, when making fajitas I will always reach for my Wok; it works really well!
Add the chicken and any of its juices out of the marinade bowl and cook on a high heat for about 6 to 10 minutes until all the chicken is cooked and white all through. The exact timing will really depend on how thick you cooked your chicken pieces. Serve still in the pan to keep the chicken and vegetables warm, with warmed tortillas and everything in small bowls so people can help themselves. Coronas with lime wedges or homemade frozen margaritas recommended.
What is your favourite kind of Mexican food, either to enjoy out with friends or at home? I think it is the warmer weather and some great Mexican food I have been eating in LA over the last two weeks when the 'Summer' weather really started (I reviewed Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica yesterday) but I have really been experimenting with Mexican foodstuffs at home more than ever.