In honour of the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May) this Saturday - from what I gather from reading various US-based food blogs, across the pond it's basically known as an excuse to gorge oneself on nachos, tacos, enchiladas and the like - the lovely people at Discovery sent me a load of fajita-themed goodies to celebrate with. I have a bit of a soft spot for Discovery ever since I won a KitchenAid blender at one of their competitions last year, and am still trying to work my way through the huge stash of goodies I picked up then. Included in this treasure trove are their new Green Jalapeño Relish, a fajita kit and their mild and medium salsas; pretty much everything you need to whip up a perfect Mexican celebratory supper. They were even nice enough to send me a pan and a chopping board, so I literally had everything I needed to cook said supper...apart from maybe a hob. (Note to Discovery - I'd like an induction one, please, and you can deliver it any time that's convenient).
Rather than make your standard fajitas, however, I decided to do something a bit different. If you're feeling lazy, it's stupidly easy to whip up fajitas with Discovery's fajita kits, which include basically everything except the meat and veg (it's even easier if you follow their recipe for all-in-one chicken fajitas, where everything is fried in one pan). I love their fajita spice mix, which contains just the right amount of heat, flavour and piquancy to liven up chicken and make an authentic-tasting dinner, and they have a great range of salsa and relish (guacamole, sour cream topping, whole red and green jalapeños...) to make your fajita more interesting on its journey from plate to mouth (the green jalapeño is even better for being green - you can pretend it's one of your five-a-day!)
I've made this Mexican salad on several occasions, though, and figured it was time to blog about it. The photos aren't great, and certainly don't do this vibrant salad any justice, but given that the fifth of May is nearly upon us, I may as well suggest it to you as a dish for the occasion, as it's utterly delicious.
OK, so this is my interpretation of Mexican. I rarely eat Mexican food and have never been to Mexico, but I know what ingredients can be combined to make something vaguely authentic. This salad features all the staples - sweetcorn, beans, red peppers, avocado, lime juice, chilli, coriander and spiced chicken. Only instead of being stuffed into a tortilla, they're served in salad form. The chicken is coated in Discovery fajita spice mix and seared over a high heat, then serve atop its colourful bed of sweet, tangy, crunchy vegetables. The dressing is a mixture of lime juice, coriander, and Discovery chipotle paste. If you've never tried chipotles, you're missing out. They're smoke-dried jalapeños and they have the most incredible addictive aroma and flavour. They lend the salad a real kick. Discovery do them in a handy paste form which is ideal for adding to sauces and stews, but you can also buy them as dried whole chillies.
When I first made this, I used freshly cooked black beans, as they seem more Mexican (and by that, I mean they're normally the kind I find in burritos I buy every now and again). You can use a tin of black beans if you can find them, but I've never succeeded - in which case tinned kidney beans are fine. Discovery also do refried beans, which might work, and cannellini beans would probably work too. The point is to have those pillowy, starchy pulses to contrast with the crisp crunch of the vegetables. This is a pretty easy salad - you just chop stuff and put it in a bowl, and some of it you don't even need to chop because it comes out of a tin (not normally my style of cooking, but sometimes there's something so therapeutic about just opening tins and throwing things into a bowl, particularly when the end result is this good).
The avocado is, in my opinion, essential. It gives a really gorgeous creamy texture to the salad, and I love its mild flavour against the spicy chicken. Avocado, lime and coriander are such an excellent trio, and they feature well in this dish. It's such a healthy-looking and healthy-tasting plate, and pretty filling considering there aren't really any carbohydrates involved, but go ahead and add some nachos or a tortilla if you're that way inclined.
The beauty of this salad is its versatility. If you omit the chicken, you can stir some grated cheese into the vegetable mixture, sandwich it between two tortillas, and fry it in a pan to make a lovely melting quesadilla (be warned, though, that it'll be impossible to flip without at least some of the filling leaking out). That's how I first came across this combination, and it was delicious. You could wrap the whole thing in a tortilla and eat like a fajita, or stuff it into tacos, or maybe even bake it into enchiladas. Add some feta cheese instead of the chicken to make it vegetarian, or even coat slices of halloumi with the spice mixture and fry. Use steak or pork instead of chicken. Change the vegetables a bit. It's up to you.
My version has a bit of yoghurt on top - I didn't have any sour cream, but that would be preferable - and is served with lime wedges and Discovery salsa alongside. I find it quite spicy, but you can add some of that feisty green jalapeño relish if you want to make it hotter. Use it as a template for your own Mexican-themed feast, and enjoy its fresh, tangy, spicy flavours and beautiful vibrant colours.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Will you be cooking up anything to celebrate?
Mexican spiced chicken salad (serves 4):
1 x 400g tin sweetcorn, drained
1 x 400g tin black beans or kidney beans (or cook your own from scratch if you like)
4 sweet pointed red peppers, chopped into 1cm dice
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime
A large bunch of coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp Discovery chipotle paste
2 ripe avocadoes, sliced or cubed
4 chicken breasts
1 sachet Discovery fajita spice mix (mild or medium, depending on your preference)
1 tbsp olive oil
To serve: sour cream or yoghurt, lime wedges, and Discovery salsa
In a large bowl, mix together the sweetcorn, beans, peppers, spring onions, lime juice, coriander and chipotle paste. Toss well and check the seasoning - if you like it spicier, add more chipotle. Gently fold in the avocadoes without turning them to mush. Divide the salad between four plates.
Thinly slice the chicken breasts and coat in a couple of tablespoons of the spice mix and the oil. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat then add the chicken, turning occasionally until slightly charred on the outside and cooked through. Taste - you might want a bit more spice mix if it's not flavoursome enough for you.
Divide the chicken between the plates. Top with a dollop of sour cream, a wedge of lime, and Discovery salsa, if you like. Serve immediately.