Tex-Mex love affair

Good Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, like well-made Chinese food, are always a crowd pleaser


The 1980s sure have a lot to answer for. As someone who suffered through that decade as an angry teen with an impressive set of braces and a dubious sense of fashion, I know what I’m talking about.

Who can forget the big hair, the blue eyeliner, the stone-washed denim and the shoulder pads? The one small mercy is that we didn’t have fake tan and we were too broke to go on a sunbed. Style that bad coupled with oompa-loompa skin tones would have been too much to bear.

During this time, my love affair with Tex-Mex food started. I remember my first night out in Judge Roy Beans, which used to be near the bottom of Grafton Street in Dublin, eating fajitas and sipping a frozen margarita and thinking it was about the nicest thing ever – especially as they cooked vegetarian fajitas.

Back then, staunch pescatarians still had to put up with sneering looks and derisory comments which were usually followed by aggressive interrogation followed by passive-aggressive withdrawal.

“What do you mean you don’t eat meat?”

Then, there would be lots of mumbling about nonsense and back in my day, yadda yadda.

My best pal and fellow pescatarian, Caroline, and I would clutch at each other trying to explain our principles to uninterested parties.

So anywhere that offered vegetarian dishes (and cheap cocktails) was a surefire winner for us. Black bean chilies, here we come. I’ve never lost my taste for good Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes which, like Chinese food made well, are always crowd pleasers. Which is where these two recipes come in. Prawn toasts are the perfect party food but the thought of deep-fat frying white bread is just too unappetising for middle-aged moi.

So these are made with wholewheat bread that’s baked and not fried. It works out fine, and the rich umami hit of soy and prawn is well balanced by the robust crunch of a cucumber dip.

And whether it’s for a midweek supper or a weekend brunch, the black bean chili is versatile, quick to prepare and very, very tasty, especially if you go the whole hog and lay on the accompanying bits and bobs. Then hunker down and get to it.


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