Did you know that Nachos have been around since 1943? Or that October 21 is the International Day of the Nacho? Or, even, that they were first created for a group of U.S. Army wives who turned up at a restaurant in Mexico just after closing time? Well, just maybe those hungry ladies should be considered the patron saints of unexpected guests, because the Nachos Especiales (Nacho’s special dish) that Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya hurriedly created for them that day started a huge culinary wave that continues across the world today. Anaya’s Mexican original was a simple dish of tortillas with pickled jalapeños and shredded cheese, but thanks to U.S. appetites, we have since become more accustomed to the delights of 'Loaded Nachos', with a multitude of delicious things piled onto the humble tortilla chips that lie beneath.
You can, of course, use a bag of bought tortilla chips to make Nacho dishes, but I quite like to make this easy version in the oven to cut down on the fat and salt inherent in the dish. Just take some corn tortillas (they are usually sold in packs of 8), cut into wedges and spread out on lightly oiled baking sheets. Bake at 200°c for 5 minutes, then turn them and return to the oven for another five minutes. You can make these in advance and keep them in a tin if you like; I normally do them during the day, at some point, for supper in the evening.
Loaded Nachos with Beef and Beans
I have recently found some fab mixed beans for this, labelled 'Mexican Bean Salad', which are a mix of pinto, haricot, red kidney and black turtle beans, but any can of beans will do.
350g Tortilla chips (and see above)
1red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp mild chili powder
250g beef mince
400g can mixed beans (and see above)
fresh parsley, chopped
2 or 3 tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
150g Edam, grated
Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and spice, stir well, then add the beef to the pan, Brown it really well until it is completely cooked, then mix in the bean salad and heat through. Stir in the chopped parsley.
Spread the tortilla chips out across a very large plate, then top with the beef-and-bean mixture. Scatter the tomato dice over, then cover it all with grated cheese. I find Edam best for Nachos, really, because it melts in a way I like without too much oiliness. The cheese flavour is prominent, without becoming overpowering, but feel free to substitute Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack or whatever you fancy. Nachos are such a moveable feast! Flash the plates under the grill to melt the cheese and serve with sour cream or natural yoghurt. I like to serve pickled jalapeños, though I leave them on the side as I'm the only one who goes there. Similarly, you could add other side dishes; some salsa; even a dish of guacamole, or some of my avocado dip if you really want to push the boat out....