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A Big Bowl of Comfort

People always ask me what my favourite type of food is. I have no idea... I just love food. Hot food and cold food. Sweet food and savoury food. Crunchy food and soft food. I don't really care what kind of cuisine it is either, as long as it's good. I know a lot of people who can't get enough of one cuisine or other and it tends to be of the Asian variety (Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Korean, Japanese) and one thing they all say is that it's so hard to replicate the food they had on holiday/in a restaurant at home.Why? Because (I'm sorry to say it) British people are afraid of experimenting with ingredients they don't understand.

Probably not the best place for a new paragraph. But I'm sorry to say it's true. Less so now than even 5 years ago, but it's still there. Especially if they're not confident cooks. Think about it, how many people do you know who regularly use lemongrass or tamari or cardamom or summaq in their cooking?

One thing I am guilty of not experimenting with is Continental American food. Let's face it, who doesn't love a taco/burrito? I mean, it's one of the tastiest, more-ish-est (??) types of food there is out there and yet I still have to buy a pack of seasoning to make it taste the way I want to. I do make quesadilla marinades for meat using paprika, cayenne pepper and other such spices but it never tastes the way I think it will. It tastes delicious, just not the same as my imagination thinks it should taste. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, I'm just as guilty as everyone else. I do not have the (American) taco seasoning taste down to a T yet so I resort to a packet.

Is that so bad though? Hands up if you use jarred curried sauce. Put the other hand up if your chow mien sauce comes from a packet. If you make a ragu or bolognese sauce using a jar I want you to let someone else cook (yes, Mum, you too). There is so much sugar in that stuff! Please just use tinned tomatoes and make it delicious with natural stuff like onions and garlic and CARROTS. No need for sugar in your tomato sauce if you grate in a carrot or two.

Sorry, distracted. Ummm, yes. All those sauces have tons of sugar in actually but my point is, we all do it. So when I made taco soup... I used packet seasoning. I know,I know... But it was good and I am so not sorry.

Taco Soup

  • 500g lean beef mince

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 large onion, diced finely

  • 2 tsp chilli flakes

  • Olive oil

  • 1 packet taco seasoning

  • 500 ml beef stock

  • Jalapeno slices

  • 1/2 iceberg lettuce, cut into strips

  • Tomatoes, sliced

  • Grated cheddar

  • 1/2 an avocado per person

  • Coriander leaves

  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil to heat up. Add the garlic and onion and fry off until the onion is soft. Add the chilli flakes and stir them into the mix. Add the beef mince and stir it to break it up. Keep stirring and breaking up the mince, letting out all the liquid and turning the mince into small pieces. Once it's all browned, drain off most of the liquid.

Put the pot back on the heat and stir in the glorious packet seasoning. Enjoy that aroma that is so hard to replicate (for the uneducated such as myself). Stir in the tin of tomatoes and add the beef stock and seasoning. Bring everything to the boil and let it simmer covered for 20 minutes to let all the flavours blend together.

Plate up all the topings in little dishes or ramekins to put on the table. This way people can help themselves to the ones they like. Serve with tortilla wraps or crispy tortilla strips (wraps cut into strips and toasted in the oven until golden - no oil required).


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