Mexican fiesta

Simple entertaining, so you can enjoy your time with family and friends

By: Lauren Boolkin

We start the new year with a new edition to Jewish Life. Lauren Boolkin is no stranger to our recipe pages, having appeared many times in the past – but this year, we’re trying something new. Lauren is our new In-House Chef and she’ll be appearing in these pages every month, sometimes with guest chefs joining her in the kitchen. We look forward to seeing what she’s got on the stove each month!

It never ceases to astound me how December can whiz by so quickly and, before you know it, we are back in the January rut. Although routine and mundanity stretch ahead of me, I’ve somehow always tried to maintain the relaxed, happy December feel to my meals in January. I guess it makes me feel less sad that the holidays are over. So, here is my Mexican Fiesta. There is no need to serve this meal in courses. Everything can be put out together so that you too can relax and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Please feel free to email me with suggestions and ideas. I’m a bit ‘challah baked’ out but maybe it would be fun to bake hammantaschen together for Purim or kneidlach for Pesach? Looking so forward to hearing from you on

Tortilla Soup

Serves 8

Kosher tortillas are readily available in the supermarket. I often make my own, as it’s that simple and preservative free. I have included the recipe further down with the Chicken Fajitas.


6 Tortillas

90ml olive oil (6 Tbsp)

2 onions chopped

3 cloves of garlic chopped

1½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp coriander

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1 can of chopped tomatoes

8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

250g packet of frozen corn

1 tsp sugar


Cut tortillas into strips about 1cm wide. Sauté in 4 Tbsp of the olive oil until brown and crisp. Put on a paper towel to drain. Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and cook the onions and garlic on a low heat until translucent. (It takes a long time, don’t rush the process!) Add your cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook for another minute until you begin to smell the spices. Add salt, tomatoes, and one third of the tortilla strips. Add stock and cook for 25 minutes. Add corn and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with guacamole and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Corn Bread (Milchik)

I doubled the quantity to fit a standard loaf tin


100g flour (7/8 cup, but rather invest in a scale)

1 Tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

100g mealie meal

75g hard yellow cheese (Tussers is perfect, or cheddar)

Pinch of chilli flakes

2 x-large eggs beaten

300ml milk

50g butter


Preheat your oven to 200C. Grease a loaf tin and line the base with baking paper. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and mealie meal in a bowl. Add the cheese and chilli flakes and mix using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre and pour in the beaten eggs, milk, and melted butter. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour the mixture into a loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.

Leave to cool in the tin and serve warm.

Roasted corn and pumpkin salad

Ingredients for the salad:

1kg pumpkin (or butternut) cut into cubes

4 Tbsp olive oil

5 yellow mealies (corn cobs) sliced off the cob

1 tsp paprika

410g tinned beans drained.

½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

½ cup coriander leaves

3 Tbsp sesame seeds (white and black if you wish)

1 avocado

Salt and black pepper

1 lime cut into wedges

Ingredients for the dressing:

1 clove garlic

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp ground cumin

6 Tbsp olive oil

¼ cup coriander


Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Toss the pumpkin in 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet on the tray lined with baking paper until it is soft and slightly charred. Heat a griddle pan or heat up your braai. Toss the mealies in the remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil. Place the mealies in the griddle pan or on the braai, turning frequently until the corn is cooked and slightly blackened. Allow it to cool and cut it off the cob. Season with salt, pepper, and the paprika.

Whizz the dressing ingredients together in a food processor.

To serve: combine the pumpkin, beans, and mealies. Pour over the dressing. Top with the avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and chopped coriander. Garnish with lime wedges.

Chicken Fajitas:

(My version of Deb Perelman’s recipe)

This is the easiest recipe ever and my go-to recipe when I want to impress, but am horribly short of time. I believe that you really don’t have to make every component of your meal, especially when you are entertaining and would rather be outside with your guests. Buy the ready-chopped cabbage and guacamole if you can, it’s well worth it.


1kg chicken breasts sliced into strips (thighs are juicier, but my family won’t touch them)

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1½ tsp kosher salt

1½ tsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chilli powder

½ tsp paprika

1 clove garlic

1 red pepper cut into strips

1 yellow pepper cut into strips

1 onion sliced thin (a mandolin is great for this)

Coarse salt

Olive oil for cooking


Marinate the chicken in the lime juice, spices, and garlic. You can do this 30 mins before or even the day before. Heat a little olive oil in a wok or a non-stick pan and cook the peppers quickly on a high heat. Once they begin to brown, add the onions and a pinch of salt. It is better not to heap the onions and peppers into the wok. Rather cook them in a single layer. When the onions have softened, place them on a plate together with the peppers. If necessary, add a little more olive oil to your wok and cook your chicken pieces in small batches.

Once you are done, return the peppers and onions to the wok with the chicken.

Serve the chicken on a tortilla with cabbage slaw and guacamole.

Cabbage Slaw

1 pkt white cabbage sliced

2 spring onions, chopped

3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

6 Tbsp olive oil

Scant tsp salt

Combine all of the ingredients.



2 tsp salt

1 cup hot water

3½ cups bread flour

125g Holsum, cubed

½ tsp baking powder


Dissolve the salt in the hot water. Combine the flour, Holsum, and baking powder with your fingertips until it is crumbly in texture. Add the water to this mixture and knead in your Mixmaster using the dough hook attachment. Squeeze into a ball and leave to rest for at least an hour. Roll into 4cm balls, cover with a dishcloth, and allow them to rest for 30-40 minutes. Roll out thin between sheets of wax paper and place in a dry, hot, non-stick pan. Once the tortillas begin to blister, flip them and place under a dishcloth. Cooking should not take longer than 2 minutes or they will dry out.

Chocolate Volcanoes

You will look like a MasterChef when you make these and all you need is a bowl, a spoon, and some ramekins. If it is just the 6 of us, I halve the recipe to stop myself from eating two.


2 cups sugar

3 cups flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 eggs

Pinch of salt

2 cups boiling water

3 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup cocoa

1 cup oil

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp instant coffee

2 slabs dark choc (parev)


Mix dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla essence. Add the boiling water with the coffee. Fill the cups just over ½ way. Add 2 squares of chocolate to each cup and check that they’re submerged. Bake at 220C until the tops are just baked (about 15 mins but you need to watch).

Tip: You can make-up and fill cups up to 2 hours before. Do not refrigerate. For Shabbat I put them on a hot tray after baking. They will lose their inner squishiness a bit, but will still be exceedingly yum.

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