Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Comfort Food

Maybe because the weather turned nasty again today, maybe because it's been a long while since I've made good use of my casserole dishes, but today Olly and I were craving comfort food. And for me that means TexMex. Not to be confused with Mexican or even Southwest cuisine. TexMex is one part produce that grows in abundance in the Rio Grande Valley (avocados, limes, peppers!), one part Mexican-influenced spices, and 33% church fundraiser cookbook-style/American simplicity.

My very favourite dish is King Ranch Chicken. It takes its name from a gargantuan expanse of land (825,000 acres according to Wikipedia) that lies between Houston and Corpus Christi - although the origins of the recipe remain mostly a mystery. I've had to adapted this recipe several times over the years depending on available ingredients. England has been slow on the uptake of corn tortillas, but that is changing thanks to Old El Paso and Discovery. I pack massive jar of tomatillo salsa in my suitcase every time I come back from Texas, but I just mainline it as soon as I land so it never makes it into a recipe. Chopped up pickled jalapenos from a jar serve as a substitute. And I married a vegetarian, so Quorn stands in for shredded chicken.

Here it is. My recipe for English King Ranch Vegetarian Chicken.

1 green (sweet) pepper
1 medium onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp paprika
.5 tsp ground corriander
1 jar of jalapeno peppers
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
4 Quorn chicken fillets
1 packet of corn tortillas
250 grams grated cheese (mild white, like cheddar)
vegetarian stock cube

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.

Dice the sweet pepper and onion, and saute them in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Mince the garlic clove and chop 3 tablespoons of the jarred jalapenos. Add them to the pan.

Thinly slice the Quorn fillets diagonally. They should be easy to slice with a sharp knife even if they are still frozen. Add them to the pan, along with the paprika, cumin, corriander, and the can of mushroom soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While your wet ingredients are warming through and blending together, grease a medium-sized casserole dish with oil. You will use the corn tortillas as you would pasta sheets in lasagna. Feel free to slice up the tortillas into strips or quarters to completely line the bottom of your greased dish.

Now layer about a third of the wet ingredients on top of the tortillas. Next, sprinkle a third of the cheese evenly over the dish. Add another layer of tortillas. Repeat the whole process twice, ending with a cheese layer on top.

Disolve half of a vegetable stock cube in about 1 cup of boiling water. Slowly pour the stock over the casserole. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake it for about 20 minutes. When you hear the casserole start to boil, remove the foil and allow the cheese to firm up for about 10 more minutes.

This will be a messy dish to serve up. It's a little bit sloppier than lasagna, but it will look lovely with a fresh corriander garnish. Serve with homemade guacamole for extra fattening comfort!


  1. Wait wait! I need your Texas recipe of this dish. (Celsius? What is that??? (-: )
    My father in law consistently relies on the sh**ty version he orders at Threadgills restaurant and it is horrible (read Velveeta cheese)! I want to make him your delicious version (you made it several times when we lived together at Ave H) for his birthday - post a Texas version for us American readers will ya? (-:

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! I'll have to find that recipe. It involves tomatillo salsa... Hope you recognized the lovely tea towel. :-)

  3. I did recognize that towel for sure ;-)