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Sep 19

Spicy chicken and blackened pepper chimichangas

I first tried a chimichanga in a great little café we happened upon in Sheffield. I think I had a vague idea what to expect but really I just chose it because I liked the name. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the café but I do remember my chimichanga. I’m not sure if they had fried or baked the tortilla (it seemed like a café with a healthy slant so probably the latter) but it was beautifully crisp, filled with spicy butternut squash and smothered in a warm tomato sauce.

Subsequently I started investigating chimichanga recipes, all of which were very different. I definitely wanted to make a meat-based version but was otherwise flummoxed about what other ingredients I should include/omit to make sure I ended up with a reasonably authentic dish. Then I realised: a chimichanga is basically a fried burrito. So, as far as I am now concerned, anything goes.

I decided on chicken (poached to keep it moist), blackened red peppers (my all-time favourite way to cook capsicums) and lots of chilli and spice. I didn’t have any to hand but black beans would definitely make a welcome addition to the filling.

These chimichangas are great served with a simple tomato sauce, or some fresh salsa and guacamole.

If you would like another filling option for have a look at the recipe for Spiced beef and lime chimichangas.

 Recipe: spicy chicken and blackened pepper chimichangas

  • 1tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1-2  tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 red chillis
  • 200g cooked long grain rice
  • 200g cooked chicken, torn into pieces and seasoned
  • 1 blackened red pepper, chopped or torn into strips
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful coriander, leaves removed from stem and roughly chopped
  • 4 – 6 flour tortillas
  • oil for deep frying (if using this cooking method)

Put the cumin and coriander seeds in a frying pan on a high heat and dry roast for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure the seeds don’t burn.

Take the pan off the heat and grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder.

Wipe the pan used to toast the spices. Pour in the oil and place the pan on a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring every now and then.  Add the ground spices, mix well and continue to cook until the onions have softened. Add the garlic and chilli and cook on a gentle heat for another couple of minutes.

Mix the onion mixture with the cooked rice, chicken, and blackened peppers. Season well and stir through the coriander. This mixture is really tasty so feel free to have a sit down and eat a few spoonfuls before continuing.

If your tortillas are a bit dry and brittle you will need to warm them slightly in a dry frying pan, or wrap them in foil and heat briefly in the oven. If they are lovely and soft then you can get on with filling them straight away.

Lay your tortillas out flat and spoon the spicy chicken filling in a line down the centre leaving some space at the top and bottom. Tuck the top and bottom edges over the filling then fold each side over so they are completely wrapped. If you are using the traditional frying method then you will need to use a skewer or cocktail stick to keep the tortilla together. Otherwise, if you are using the more healthy oven-baked method then you can lay them in a baking dish with the edges face-down.

Three methods for cooking chimichangas – you decide:

  • Traditional deep fried chimichangas – If you have a deep-fat fryer you can cook the chimichangas in this at 180/190 °C for around 3 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
  • Shallow fried chimichangas – Pour around 1cm of oil into a frying pan and heat to 180/190 °C (if you do not have a food thermometer use tongs to dip a piece of tortilla into the pan – as soon as the tortilla is submerged the oil should start bubbling around it). Cook for 3-4 minutes each side until the tortilla is crisp and golden brown. Use the tongs to remove the cooked chimichangas from the pan and set on a sheet of paper towel, blotting to remove any excess oil.
  • With either of these frying methods you will need to cook the chimichangas in batches. The temperature needs to be consistently hot to ensure your chimichangas stay nice and crisp on the outside and do not absorb too much oil. 
  • Healthy oven-baked chimichangas – Place the chimichangas in a lightly oiled baking dish or tray, leaving a little space between each one. Cook at 180 °C for 15-20 minutes or until the tortilla is crisp and golden and the filling is piping hot.

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