Beef Enchiladas

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If you’ve been following this blog for any time at all, you’ll know that plain old boring stick-to-your-country’s-traditions cooking just isn’t our thing – mostly because choosing what to call “your country” isn’t always quite as easy as it seems. As I mentioned in this post, having multiple cultural backgrounds and dual nationalities is both an extraordinary gift and a bit of a pain in the backside, since being the eternal foreigner can be fairly taxing at times. All the time, really. You’ll find yourself thinking, please, someone, anyone, accept me into the fold of your people and, for once, stop looking dumbstruck when I am able to speak your language fluently. Please let me blend in, and be invisible, just this once.

I guess it is futile for people like me to wish for such a thing. We need to face the fact that we are ultimately too much of everything to ever truly be anything else. And I won’t lie to you: growing up, my life was hell because of it. But neither failure to understand what made me so different, nor loneliness, nor pretending to be what I was not, ever managed to change what I am. And it killed me inside, until one day I woke up and found that I didn’t want to change what I am. That I am blessed, after all. Because these people, those who smiled and turned away, these people taught me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, who your parents are, your ancestors, your language, your blood, your roots. That it does not matter who you are when you are born. All that ultimately matters is who you grow up to be.

A blessing in disguise, indeed. To be honest, I think it’s time for blessings that are not in disguise.

While we wait for that to happen, I dip my German lebkuchen in Irish black tea, while the smell of TexMex enchiladas made with virgin olive oil and Edam cheese wafts from the oven.

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Beef Enchiladas

Adapted from the lovely Julie from Table for Two

Servings: 8 to 10 enchiladas

Prep time: about 1 hour

You will need:

  • 1 pound, or 500 gr, ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped, optional
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup monterey jack cheese, if you can find – otherwise subtitute with Edam cheese
  • 8 to 10 corn tortillas
  • olive oil

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Preheat your oven to high and grease an oven-safe casserole dish.

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We will begin with the enchilada sauce. Sauté the onion and jalapeños, if using any (it will make your enchiladas that much more hot – go for it if you like really spicy food!) until soft and translucent, then quickly stir in the garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and sugar, sauteing for another 30 seconds.

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Add the tomato sauce and water, give it a good whisk and cook for 5 or 6 minutes, until slightly thickened.

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While the sauce is bubbling away, cook your ground beef in olive oil until no pink bits remain, then mix in about half the enchilada sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Microwave the tortillas for about 30 seconds, until they are nice and warm. Place them on a flat surface, one at a time.

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Sprinkle some of both cheeses along the middle of the tortilla, top with the enchilada beef mixture and roll up tightly.

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Place in the casserole dish with the seam facing down. Repeat these steps until all your tortillas are used up and the casserole dish is full.

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Paint the top of the enchiladas with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the tops begin to brown nicely.

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Pour the reserved enchilada sauce over the top, along with any leftover beef.

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Top with the remaining grated cheeses, then cover the dish with aluminium foil and place back in the oven for another 20 minutes. If you want to brown your cheeses, remove foil once the 20 minutes are up, and place the dish back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

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They don’t look pretty, but they sure are good.

Give it a few minutes to cool and settle.

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Then devour.



Shepherd’s Pie

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Back when I was studying in Germany, I had this friend whom I loved dearly. We lost contact after I moved back to Barcelona, but I still think of her often. We had many a crazy adventure in the dark wilderness of the North, and I still remember snippets of a secret language, nicknames for most everyone we knew, and laughing, a lot. One thing in particular has stuck to my mind, though: She had terrible eating habits. So did I, mind you. Oh, to be a young cheesecake-devouring fiend all over again… So many fond, sugar-coma memories.

The one thing she did know how to cook, however, was Shepherd’s Pie. Well, that, and eggs on toast. While she taught me the secret winding paths that lead to the latter, we never did get around to cooking the pie.

Thus, I gathered all my knowledge and wisdom and considerable resourcefulness and hit google. Then I tweaked it a very little bit, and shazzam! I got myself a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that is to die for. If I do say so myself. I’ve made this countless times since, and it never fails to transport me back to those endless, cold winter nights spent longing for a fireplace, or the college equivalent… vodka.

Well, hey, we all have a past. Let this pie be atonement for my college devilries.

Now, I do realize the cheese is not strong with this recipe. In fact, you might even leave it out altogether, should you feel so inclined, but why in the world would you want to do that?

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Shepherd’s Pie

Servings: about 5 0r 6 people, preferably half frozen to death

Prep time: aprox. 1’30h

You will need:

  • 1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 500gr ground beef
  • 2 large diced carrots
  • 2 diced onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 corn
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce
  • grated cheese to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Start with the mashed potato layer. Place the potato chunks in a deep pan and cover with water (I used broth for extra flavor). Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until completely tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them thoroughly with a fork (or if the 21st century has reached your kitchen, use a potato masher). Stir in the butter and milk while still hot, and season with salt and pepper.


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While the potatoes are boiling away, start preparing the filling. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet until thoroughly browned and no pink bits remain. Transfer the meat to a plate or bowl, but reserve some of the drippings in the pan.

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Add onions and carrots to the same pan, and cook until tender.

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Then stir in the peas, corn, tomato sauce and Worcestershire / soy sauce.

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Cook for a few minutes, or until the peas have thawed, then return the ground beef to the pan.

Stir well to mix the ingredients evenly.

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Transfer the filling to an oven-proof dish. Dollop spoonfuls of mashed potatoes evenly over the filling and smooth into an even layer.

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A word of caution: The mash and the spoon will have formed a deep bond of friendship. They will be loath to part, and it will take quite a bit of coaxing, shaking, scratching and/or cursing to get the mash to drop on the filling. If you feel like it and don’t want to toss the whole thing out of the window, create little peaks on the mashed potato layer to get crispy edges later on.

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Bake on medium-high for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with some shredded cheese and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese has begun to brown.

Cool for 10 minutes, then serve immediately.

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Enjoy! 🙂