The best tortillas this side of the atlantic


Freshly made tortillas using an ancient 'metate' in the island of Patzcuaro in Michoacan, Mexico

The ancient art of making fresh corn tortillas is no easy task, to do that in a place like London is actually a real challenge.  Cool Chile Company are the people who have undertaken such a task and finally they have their brand new tortilla making machine in place!  This is good news for tortilla lovers all over the UK.

On an grey, icy and cold January morning Mexican friend Gicela and myself, went to northwest London to meet Dodie who was going to show us her new tortilla machine.  When we arrived to the place, we had no idea that we were going to be transported directly back to the days when –napkin in hand; we used to queue at the local artisan tortilla maker to buy fresh and soft tortillas in Queretaro for Gicela and in Mexico City for me.  For any person who has been to one of these tortilla shops, you will know exactly what I mean by the evocative smell of fresh maize dough being cooked and the rickety sounds that emanate from an over used tortilla machine.

Of course that things are slightly different at Cool Chile, the machine is brand new and the process follows all the rigorous food safety and hygiene standards required by the industry over here.

First there is the mixing process, where water and dehydrated masa harina meet to make the dough or masa.

Then the dough is fed into the machine, cut into identical rounds and then taken through a heated conveyor belt that cooks the tortillas to perfection.

Then fresh tortillas are ready to be packed.

This operation seems very simple, but maybe because of this  simplicity, it is that the whole thing is actually very complicated.  For a start it is very important to access the right masa –by this I mean one which is fine enough for making tortillas with the right texture and of course one that is GMO free.  Then there is the business of the water –a crucial element here.  London water is really hard and I reckon that this is a reason why tortillas over here can turn from soft and pliable to solid cardboard discs in a matter of seconds –in my next post some tips on how to avoid this… And then there is the issue of packaging them under the right conditions so that they arrive to customers still soft and yummy.

Dodie and all the staff at Cool Chile Co., do their best efforts to ensure you get good tortillas over here.  Of course they are not going to be identical to the ones you get off from a stall or a tortilleria in Mexico, simply because conditions are very different: weather, logistics, water etc., however these tortillas are good and very tasty.

When you buy a packet, consume them as soon as possible, warm them up inside a plastic bag in a lower setting in the microwave for just a few seconds until warmed through; if you put a glass of water in the microwave at the same time, the tortillas retain their moisture.

If you are not using them all in one go, wrap them tightly in cling film and keep in the fridge but for no longer than a day or two, otherwise they will go stale.  Tortillas are made to be consumed on the day of purchase.

Leftover tortillas are not good for making soft tacos because they dry up quite quickly.  However there are lots of things you can do with them, you can turn them into totopos or tortilla chips: cut them into triangles and bake them until crispy or fry them in a little oil.  These are good for chilaquiles or tortilla soup.

Leftover tortillas are also very good for making a dish from northern Mexico called Migas.

The recipe will follow in my next post, watch this space…

If you want to buy soft corn tortillas go to http://www.coolchile.co.uk

*With thanks to Dodie Miller and Cool Chile Co. for allowing us the experience of seeing the only tortilla machine in London

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