The seemingly never-ending dreary weather makes me long for rich, spicy, savoury and satisfying flavours and in these cases, I naturally turn to my Mexican heritage for something to comfort and nourish me, so let me tell you all about tostadas!
Tostar means to toast, and tostadas are a popular Mexican street snack, consisting of a corn tortilla which is ‘toasted’ until it becomes golden, crisp and sturdy enough to support a spicy, savoury topping. While nowadays the tortilla is actually fried, in pre-Hispanic times, before cooking in fat became a traditional method in Mexican food preparation, it is likely that the tortilla was merely toasted on a dry griddle until it dried out and hardened. Tostada shells are available in packets in most supermarkets, but my much healthier and much nicer version can easily be made at home in the oven. I like to give them a bit of shape by moulding them over ramekins while they are cooking, but if it is easier to do them flat, no problem.
BLACK BEAN TOSTADAS WITH MANGO AND POMEGRANATE SALSA
Makes 4 tostadas
5 tbsp olive oil + extra for the tortillas
125 g onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 x 400 g tin/can black turtle beans, drained and well rinsed
4 x 15 cm corn tortillas
Seeds from 1/2 a large pomegranate
1 small mango, peeled and diced
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
40 g red onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
15 g fresh coriander/cilantro, coarsely chopped
250 ml natural coconut yoghurt, well seasoned
Fine sea or Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy frying pan, add the onions, one garlic clove and the red chilli and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Stir in the cumin and cook for a further minute.
To make the tostadas, preheat the oven to 160oC/325oF/gas 3/fan oven 140oC. Brush both sides of each tortilla lightly with olive oil, drape them over upturned oven-proof ramekins on a baking tray, moulding them gently, and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until they are crisp and starting to brown. Set aside to cool.
For the salsa, gently mix 3 tbsp of olive oil, pomegranate seeds, mango, green chilli, red onions, lime juice and mint together in a bowl.
Add the black beans to the frying pan with the onions along with some seasoning and mash the beans coarsely with a potato masher. If the mixture is a bit thick and dry, stir in just enough water to have a soft rather than stiff purée.
To serve, place the tostadas, beans, salsa and yoghurt on the table. Spread each tostada with beans, top with salsa and drizzle with yoghurt.
Eat immediately, before the tostadas go soggy and collapse!
Now let’s look at the dish’s nutritional talent. Beans: packed with protein and fibre; folate, Vitamin B1, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc; olive oil: impressively anti-inflammatory, Vitamins A and K, lowers blood pressure, enhances blood vessel health; onions: a natural antibiotic, packed with polyphenols, flavonoids and sulphur compounds which may aid in cancer prevention and increase bone density, blood sugar balancing, and may even increase fertility; chillies: vitamins A, B6, C and K1, the antioxidant capsanthin, lutein for good eyesight, capsaicin for pain relief and possible weight loss; garlic: powerfully antibacterial, protective of cardiovascular health and high blood pressure as well as the common cold, provides cancer support, regulates blood sugar levels, and its antioxidant properties may help combat dementia; mangoes help to decongest the liver, and are loaded with nutrients: vitamins A, B1, 3, 5 and 6, C, E, copper, potassium, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron and manganese; pomegranates are anti-inflammatory, a rich source of anti-oxidants and Vitamin C and are thought to protect against cancer and dementia as well as offering cardiovascular and cholesterol benefits; and finally coriander/cilantro: coriander removes toxic metals from the body, is high in antioxidants and minerals, lowers cholesterol and improves memory. So, Bon Appétit!