We had wraps for dinner last night. I realise this may not sound very interesting or exotic, and we’re not talking elegant or haute cuisine here. But as a crowd pleasing family meal they’re great. These also aren’t your average “a bit of chicken and some lettuce” wraps. These are make your own wraps that suit vegans and carnivores alike, are packed with taste, and most importantly to me satisfy my entire family without a single grumble. The only grumble I got yesterday was “why don’t we have these more often?”
It all started a few years ago with tacos. The man grew up in a household where his mum cooked good Mexican food and he loves tacos, burritos, enchiladas, anything vaguely Mexican. I must say I do as well. It’s another one of those cuisines that’s simple but packed with flavour. Fresh produce, chilies, a bit of spice, lots of lime… mmmm. So we went through a phase for a while where we would make and eat tacos a few times a month. We would diligently make some meat, grate cheese, chop tomatoes, shred lettuce and make guacamole (a key ingredient in my house). Tasty, absolutely, but tacos can be a bit hard going for little ones and almost inevitably break and fall apart. A wee bit frustrating. I can’t remember exactly how we got onto the wrap thing, but I think one day we didn’t have any taco shells but did have a package of tortillas lying around, so taco night became “make your own wrap” night.
The beauty of these is that everyone makes their own. We make up the components and then everyone is left to choose which ones he or she wants. Absolutely perfect in a family with disparate eating preferences. The boy would happily just eat the bowl of guacamole, whereas the girl would take a proprietary interest in the bowl of cheese. The man loves his peppers & onions; I like black beans and salsas. So we set a rule (well, for the kids at least) that everyone’s wraps need to have at least two fillings, one of them being some sort of vegetable based one (and in this case salsa can be considered a vegetable – a bit of a stretch, I know). Still, it gives one a fair bit of freedom. We tend to go a bit crazy on the number of fillings, but leftovers get made into a nice soup so nothing goes to waste. I can’t say we ever have any guacamole left over, which is good because I don’t think it would be very nice in a soup! We love guacamole, and I doubly love it because it’s healthy. Smooth and creamy, with garlic and lots of lime to both accent the avocado but also stand out on their own. I could easily eat it on its own for a meal with just some vegetables to dip into it. I love it whizzed up with chick peas too to make a sort of avocahomous.
Anyway, we generally make about 5 fillings to go in our wraps. Some take a bit of time to make. Most are easy. The boy can now make guacamole unaided and the girl is getting pretty good at assisting. Here’s a list of fillings that we tend to pick and choose from:
- Tortillas – flour ones work best because they are more flexible, but if you can get hold of corn ones (my personal favourite) they’re so much more flavourful. Tortillas should be warmed in an oven or microwave make them more pliable.
- Shredded meat – chicken, pork or beef cooked with a bit of spice and some liquid slowly in the oven or on the stove until it falls apart (see basic recipe below)
- Beans, preferably black beans – soak for about 4 hours and boil. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can make refried beans.
- Rice – white or brown long grain (we prefer brown because it’s got a nice chewy consistency)
- Grated cheese
- Guacamole -see recipe below
- Salsa – a simple fresh cut salsa made with tomatoes, a bit of red onion, sea salt, lime juice and coriander (cilantro)
- Carrot salad – a recent addition to our repertoire: grate carrots, add lime juice, a bit of harissa, a small amount of smoky paprika, and salt to taste
- Peppers & onions – sauteed, with a bit of salt and lime juice
Actually wrapping them can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you get over ambitious and overfill yours like a certain boy in my house. This link shows a great technique for filling and wrapping http://www.ehow.com/how_5327072_wrap-perfect-burrito.html The most important bit is to fold the bottom up to form a base and keep the fillings in – we’ve learned the hard way!
Why else do I love this meal? It’s great for different dietary preferences. I go through phases of not eating wheat, and in that case I just make a mountain of fillings on my plate and happily make my way through it. Vegetarians can just avoid the meat. Vegans can drop the cheese as well (or use vegan cheese) and still get plenty of protein from the beans. It also makes a great meal for large groups as long as you’re not concerned about it being elegant. It can actually be quite drippy… I have also learned that wearing white while eating these is not a good idea unless you like to spend a lot of time with stain removers. In fact, bibs all around wouldn’t be a bad idea sometimes… It’s a great meal for having outside.
The boy absolutely loves this meal and will eat more than I do on wrap night. Last night he polished off almost 3 very well filled ones. Absolutely amazing for a skinny almost 8 year old.
Shredded Meat Filling
You can use any meat you like for these. We tend to use chicken or pork but beef is works well too. It takes a while to cook because it needs to be cooked until it falls apart and shreds easily. However, if you have leftovers from a Sunday roast you can use them and very quickly get your shredded meat.
All measures used here are approximate – don’t feel you have to follow them exactly.
- Vegetable oil for browning meat
- 300g boneless chicken, pork or beef (you can also use leftover cooked meat)
- 2 whole peeled garlic cloves
- 1/2 – 1 tsp ground spices (chili powder, paprika, dry spice rub, cumin – whatever makes sense)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Boiling water
Preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius. Heat an ovenproof pan (big enough so meat is in one layer) over high heat and add the oil. When oil is very hot put meat in pan and brown both sides. Add garlic cloves and brown, but be careful not to burn them. Add enough boiling water to just cover the meat. Add spice and tomato puree, stir in well and bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and put into the oven.
Cook for about 2 hours then remove lid, turn meat over and return to oven. The liquid will then evaporate as it cooks (it will need about another hour). Check meat every so often and as it gets tender use 2 forks to shred it. Leave in oven until the meat is completely shredded and the liquid is gone.
You can also cook this on the stove top over low heat. You want only the gentlest simmer. The cooking time will be a bit less than in the oven. Brown as above, then cover and cook for about 90 minutes before unconvering.
If you’re using already cooked meat, chop it into pieces about 2cm square. Brown the garlic, then put the meat into the pan. Cover the meat about 1/2 way with boiling water, add spices and tomato puree, then cover and cook over low heat for about 1/2 hour. Then try shredding the meat. Return to low heat, uncovered, until liquid evaporates. If meat isn’t ready to shred at this point then return to heat for another 20 minutes or so then try shredding again.
- 2 ripe medium-sized avocados
- 1 small clove garlic, very finely chopped or grated in a cheese grater
- Juice of 1 lime
- Handful of coriander (cilantro), chopped
- Salt to taste
Halve the avocados, remove the stones and scoop flesh into a bowl. Mash with a strong fork or potato masher until it reaches your preferred smoothness. I like mine slightly lumpy. Stir in garlic, lime juice, coriander and salt to taste. Try to refrain from eating the whole bowlful before you get it to the table!