Slow-cooked Mexican shredded beef recipe

When we get into the early parts of summer, I start to get really lazy and fall out of love with being in the kitchen. It’s hot. I don’t want to be hotter. I haven’t built up my tolerance for warm weather and so I abandon the cooker. I usually end up with lots of grilled food and salads, fresh fruit desserts and sweet corn on the cob. But there’s always the allure of roasted, stewed and baked foods that require a modicum of sweat equity, as it were, if you want to cook for yourself and avoid breaking the budget with takeaways. Enter the crock pot: a delightful convenience that also works magic on meats with the low and slow method.

I used to think it couldn’t be that important to sear meats before putting them in the crock, but for the sake of one dish dirtied, it’s completely worth the additional flavor. The secret to searing is to just leave it alone; place a steak or piece of poultry onto the pan and don’t even think about wiggling it for a couple of minutes at least. It really does make all the difference to the depth of flavor, even after all of the spices added. I use a jar of salsa verde to cover the meat, but if you can’t find green salsa, you can use any tomato-based salsa that you love to the same effect. I add dry spices towards the end of the recipe to taste, based on the flavor of the beef and salsa, after a few hours. Each salsa is unique, so it will flavour the beef in its own right; however, it’s mostly used for the acidity in the tomatoes, which help to break down the beef and keep it super tender.

This is a favorite when steak is on sale. I know I can make it last for many more meals than 6 steak dinners, and the kids will eat it once it’s wrapped in a burrito. I’ll usually make my refried beans to go with this (early in the morning if it’s a scorcher), but you can have a lovely meal with just this beef in a wrap, over a salad, or topping nachos. I used a healthy portion of the shredded beef to make enchilada casserole when my parents came over for dinner: an easy layering of corn tortillas, beef, refried beans, cheese and enchilada sauce. My husband routinely puts the cold beef on a sandwich for lunch, and I’ve been known to toss some into my scrambled eggs. The versatility is endless, and it’s just incredibly delicious. Hope you love it!

Slow-cooked Mexican shredded beef

You’ll need:

  • 4 to 6 good-sized lean steaks, your favourite cut (or whatever is on sale)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 24oz jar of salsa verde (or salsa of choice)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder, to taste (I like chipotle powder)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder, to taste
  • Up to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • Up to 1 teaspoon granulated/caster sugar, to taste
  • ½ cup rough cut, fresh coriander/cilantro, to taste

The method:

Allow your steaks to come to room temperature and dust (dry rub) with the dry spices listed on the first half of the list.

Warm your pan and the oil before adding the steaks for searing. Avoid moving the steaks to allow a good colour to develop, usually 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

steaks in pan

Layer the seared steaks into the crock pot with the salsa, coating the bottom of the crock pot with about 1/3 of the jar of salsa and the remainder over the top of the steaks.

salsa verde

Seal the lid and allow the steaks to stew on high for 4–6 hours. You’ll barely have to look at this until a couple of hours in, when you might want to stir the steaks a bit to make sure everything’s covered.

beef in crock pot

After 3–4 hours, when you get the chance, take two forks and try to pull some of the steaks into smaller pieces. Don’t worry if it still seems a bit tough – just cover it up again and try after another hour. Once it’s easy to pull the meat apart with two forks, go ahead and shred up as much as you like, leaving larger pieces for texture according to your preference.

There should be plenty of beef stock and salsa remaining after 4–5 hours, so that it’s covering the meat in a runny sauce. Taste the sauce to see what you’ve created with your chosen salsa. If you love it as is, leave the sauce to reduce a bit and you’re done. If you want to vamp it up a bit, now’s your chance. I add the second half of the list of dry spices while there’s still a fair bit of liquid, to ensure it’s incorporated. I enjoy the smokiness of chipotle powder and smoked paprika added at the end, and sugar to taste to enhance the spice.

It couldn’t be easier, but you can make this your own by try different salsas, adding shredded carrots and onions, or upping the heat index with fresh chili. Any way you shred it, it’s gonna be a winner.

Restaurant-worthy refried beans for tacos & more

I am a true Mexican food fanatic. I grew up in Los Angeles, so it’s part and parcel of my childhood. I usually rate a restaurant based on their refried beans; maybe it’s silly, but if they can’t get these right, I’m usually less than impressed with the more complex dishes. As the mum of two small children, I don’t have a lot of time to soak beans from scratch, but this recipe using tinned pinto and black beans is so tasty, you’ll hardly know the difference.

Refried beans can be pretty calorific if you use traditional methods, like including pork fat or lard as your “fat”. For sure it tastes amazing to use drippings, but I can’t handle that much grease, and I don’t keep lard on hand. For this recipe, I use 50/50 butter and veg oil for frying the onions and spices, and the flavour is just as rich. My daughter loves these beans so well, she asked for a bowl to herself. I like them in tacos and burritos, or with a handful of tortilla chips for dipping.  This may be a side dish or the star of the show, but it’s easy and fresh. I doubt you’ll go for tinned refried beans again.

mexican

You’ll need:

  • 425g/15oz tin pinto beans
  • 425g/15oz tin black beans
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon veg oil
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mild diced chilies (I use a small tin of fire roasted diced chilies for flavour, not heat)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chicken stock concentrate, or 1 stock cube
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The method:

Open and drain your beans, but don’t rinse them so that you keep some of their own liquid.

draining-beans

In a wide pan, bring the oil and butter to heat together over a medium-high heat before adding your onions.

Coat the onions in the oil/butter and begin to lightly fry before adding your diced chilies and dry spices.

stirring

Allow the spices and chilies to fry lightly for about a minute before adding the drained beans.

adding-the-spices

Coat the beans with the onion mixture and bring to temperature, allowing the bean liquid to begin to evaporate/reduce. This offers a little frying to some of the beans, before we cover the lot with stock.

Add your chicken stock concentrate and enough water to just cover the beans. Give it all a good stir, cover the pot and reduce to a medium-low heat.

Once the beans are boiling away, covered in a pressure cooker environment, they’ll soften even more, and take on the spices and chicken flavour. I usually allow them to boil for about 20 minutes, topping up the water if it begins to stick on the bottom.

Cooking beans.jpg

After 20 minutes or so, uncover and bring out the potato masher, if you want to crush the beans. You don’t need to do this, but the smooth consistency of restaurant beans won’t be matched without some smashing.

Beans in the pot.jpg

Once I’ve mashed the beans, I add another ¼ or ½ cup of water to loosen the beans and help them cool down. I go another step and use my food processor to blitz the beans once they’ve cooled a little, especially when using black beans. If you’re only using pinto beans, they’ll likely smash easily enough with the masher.

Blended beans.jpg

Once I’ve whizzed the beans, I add salt and pepper to taste, but the chicken stock and butter add sodium, so be sure to taste before piling on the salt.

These refried beans are ready to eat as is, or you can roll them up in a tortilla, serve with rice or chips, or put them into tacos like we did last night. I also made a quick batch of taco meat using ground turkey, and the kids gobbled it up. I hope you’ll enjoy these as well as we do, and have fun making your own restaurant-style beans.

Bean tacos.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Tortilla Soup recipe

Pretty much any restaurant that serves Mexican food serves a version of Tortilla Soup. It’s brothy, fragrant and delicately spiced. Most recipes ask you to have a bit of shredded chicken on hand to pour the broth over when serving. I don’t usually have baked or boiled chicken laying around, unless I have a leftover roast that hasn’t been picked bare, so my recipe includes cooking the chicken in the broth. As per the name, tortillas are usually grilled and sliced to top the soup, but I’ve found a handful or corn or flour tortilla chips add the texture, flavour and namesake without the fuss of grilling my own.

If you haven’t tried Mexican soups, you haven’t truly embraced the winter warmer. This is a simple dish, but the depth of flavour may surprise you. Many recipes for tortilla soup have as little as four spices, keeping a clear broth to pour over shredded chicken. I like to incorporate as many vegetables as possible when cooking for my family, so I load this one up with onion, carrot, white beans and tomato. I also thinly slice chicken breast whilst still slightly frozen, and then boil it in the soup to keep it moist and tender, and add natural chicken flavour to the soup. This allows the chicken to begin to shred after boiling away for just twenty minutes or so. It’s an all in one pot, midweek meal that smells and tastes amazing.

tortilla-soup-in-the-bowl

You’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon oil of choice
  • 1 cup chopped onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (fresh or dried)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 8oz tin diced tomato
  • 1 tin 8oz white/cannellini beans
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional depending on kids’ heat threshold)
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4-6 cups of water
  • 2 cups chopped coriander/cilantro (fresh is best)
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 small bag of corn or flour tortilla chips the break up on top when serving
  • Optional shredded cheese for serving

The method:

It’s easiest to prepare your chicken first, so that you have clean hands for stirring and adding spices. I like to slice chicken breast when it’s slightly frozen, so this dish is perfect for a packet I’ve had out thawing for dinner. Fresh chicken (or no chicken for the vegetarians) is still perfectly wonderful – I just tend to keep small freezer bags with meal-size portions of chicken and minced beef on hand for meal planning. Slice the chicken against the grain in thin strips. I find this works best for the shredding you want to achieve in a short amount of time.

I like to do this in one pot, so I begin with heating the oil, onions and garlic together over a medium high heat in a large soup pot. After a minute or two, the onions should be translucent and the garlic lightly frying.

Add the grated carrot, tomato and salt, and stir into the mixture. Drain and rinse the beans before adding to the pot.

Once the beans are mixed in, add the dry spices and give it a good stir before allowing it to bubble.

Once the tomato and carrots have softened slightly – 5 minutes or so should do the trick – add the chicken slices and just coat with the mixture.

Add the water straight away to avoid frying the chicken, you want the chicken to be submerged to boil.  

Allow the water to come to the boil before adding your chopped coriander.

Once the pot is bubbling nicely, the chicken will go white quickly and the beans will begin to break down. I have been known to add only half of the tin of beans to begin with, and save the second half for later to retain texture, but it’s up to you if you want to add this step.

I allow this soup to boil with the cover on for about 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to a simmer and removing the lid. This helps the chicken to soften and absorb the flavours of the soup.

You can let this simmer for ages, but it’ll be ready after 30 minutes if you’re hungry – even sooner if you just make the broth and pour it over leftover chicken or no chicken at all.

To serve, my kids like this ladled over rice, with a few corn chips broken on top. I love a big, steamy bowl as it is, a couple of corn chips and a small handful of shredded cheese on top. My husband just wants a bowl of soup with a few drops of hot sauce and he’s happy. However you take it, this is a family favourite that offers a Mexican flare and isn’t heavy with refried beans and cheese. It’s veggie packed, bursting with flavour and aroma, and is sure to make your family think you slaved for hours to get such succulent chicken. Buen apetito!

tortilla-soup-in-the-pan-2

Sparkly Mummy
A Mum Track Mind

Layered enchilada casserole recipe

I grew up in Los Angeles, and Mexican and Latin foods are comfort foods for me. For over a decade, I lived in the UK, outside of London (where there would have been wider choice of ingredients), and I struggled to find the ingredients for most of my favourite dishes. I even imported things like roasted, diced chillies, and chipotle spice via home visits or care packages from my mum. These days, however, even a local Tesco has a good chance of having most of the ingredients for this recipe – the times, they are a’changing.

I am a big fan of enchiladas. They’re especially nice for my husband’s wheat/gluten allergy, as they’re a corn tortilla dish instead of flour. The enchilada sauce (basically watery chili powder) can be bought in a tin or jar, and it saves a step and a pan. You can buy enchilada packs in the supermarket, and it should have corn tortillas and the red enchilada sauce. If you prefer to use Quorn over beef, it’s also vegetarian, and you can also substitute refried beans for meat for the same result.

Most of the time, if you order an enchilada plate in a restaurant, it’s dripping with cheese and sauce, and can be a little overwhelming. This recipe misses none of the flavour, but includes the all-important hidden veg and goes a little easier on the cheese. Casserole presentation allows for several more servings in the baking dish, and is so much easier to put together than trying to roll up each enchilada. I even let the kids help me layering the tortillas, meat, cheese and sauce in assembly line fashion. It’s delicious fun, topped off with a bit of soured cream and salsa or a side salad – the whole family will be coming back for more.

Plated enchilada vertical.jpg

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 tsp veg oil of choice
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried garlic minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • 1lb lean minced beef
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup chopped coriander/cilantro (frozen or fresh)
  • I packet of small corn tortillas (approximately 10-15 used)
  • 1 8oz jar or tin of enchilada sauce (if you can’t find ready-made, it’s pretty easy to make)
  • 3-4 cups shredded mild cheese (Double Gloucestershire and Red Leicester are lovely for this)

The method:

To begin, I add the onions and dry spices to a hot pan with a bit of oil. Once the onions are coated, I add the beef and mix it all together in the pan.

Fry off the mixture, browning the beef and onions together. This will keep the spices from burning and allows the meat to absorb all of those flavours.

Enchilada casserole ingredients

Once the beef is mostly browned, add the carrots and coriander with about 1/3 cup of water and reduce heat to simmer.

While the beef simmers and reduces, you can begin to layer the casserole in a baking tray.

Add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce to the bottom of the baking dish before adding a layer of tortillas. I usually cut some of the tortillas in half to fit nicely against the sides.

Add a layer of shredded cheese onto the tortillas, and then a layer of meat, before covering with another layer of tortillas. Top the tortillas with another couple tablespoons of the sauce before the cheese the next time to wet them.

kids helping assemble enchilada casserole

Repeat once or twice, depending the depth of your baking dish. The last layer should be just sauce and cheese, for a nice crispy, gooey cheese top.

Bake uncovered at 180C/350F in the top 1/3 of the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden. Allow to rest for 5 minutes or more to cool before serving.

enchilada-casserole-in-the-oven

I usually add a dollop of soured cream and some hot sauce to mine, but the kids like it just the way it is!

Sparkly Mummy
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