Nachos oozing melted cheese and sour cream, burritos bursting with meat and fried quesadillas dripping with grease: unless you're careful, restaurant-style Mexican food comes with more than its share of calories, saturated fat and salt.
Despite this, a number of key ingredients in this cuisine are naturally healthy (beans, rice, fresh salsa and avocados), so skimp on the cheese, cut out the tortilla chips and forgo the breaded jalapenos (or anything deep fried, for that matter) and you can prepare a healthy, Mexican-inspired meal very easily.
Black beans are a great health food. They are high in fibre and protein, low in fat and contain calcium, iron and potassium. They are also high in antioxidants called anthocyanins (found in red grapes, red cabbage and cranberries) and contain a greater amount of omega-3 fatty acids than other legumes.
Although avocados have a reputation for being high in calories and fat, it's worth bearing in mind that this fat is the "good", monounsaturated type (thought to help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease) and the fruit is high in protein, folate and lutein. Replace sour cream with low-fat yoghurt, load your tortilla with lettuce and homemade tomato salsa and you've got a tasty, nutritionally balanced meal.
Corn tortillas with spiced black beans
For the black beans
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tins black beans, drained
200g tin chopped tomatoes
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
red onion, peeled and finely chopped
juice of lime
large handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 wholewheat corn tortillas
1 avocado, peeled, stoned and thinly sliced
head lettuce, shredded
low-fat natural yoghurt
salt and black pepper
Heat the groundnut oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-6 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Increase the heat slightly, add the chopped pepper, followed 3 minutes later by the ground spices.
After 30 seconds the spices should start to smell aromatic. Add the black beans, tinned tomatoes and water to the pan. Season with salt and black pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally and using the back of a spoon to mash the beans. After 10-15 minutes, the mixture should be thick and fragrant.
While the beans are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the tomato salsa together in a bowl, season with salt and black pepper and set aside. Heat the tortillas in the oven according to the packet instructions. To serve, fill each tortilla with a generous spoonful of black beans, top with the tomato salsa, avocado slices, lettuce and yoghurt.
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