Annabel Langbein: Ways with wraps (+recipes)

By Annabel Langbein

Picking up food ideas from around the globe is a Kiwi pastime.
Baledas with black beans and silky scrambled eggs. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Baledas with black beans and silky scrambled eggs. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

When I was in London cooking on the BBC show, Saturday Kitchen, a few weeks ago, the show's host Matt Tebbutt asked me, 'What's New Zealand food about, how do people cook down there, what do you guys eat... there's lots of sheep right?'

I've been asked this kind of question a lot over the years and, as a result, I've thought about it quite a bit. There's often this idea that we are still languishing in the past on a steadfast diet of roast lamb and overcooked veg. Little do they know.

In the nicest possible way, we Kiwis are magpies at heart when it comes to cooking. We travel the globe, tasting new dishes, discovering new ingredients and when we come home, we bring these ingredients into our own kitchens and recreate the tastes of our travels or reinvent them using familiar ingredients.

Being a young, multicultural society means that many enterprising immigrants have gone out of their way to bring the unique foods and flavours of their homeland with them - from Southeast Asian dried shrimp paste and fragrant rosewater to fiery sriracha and tangy pomegranate molasses.

Food writers start using these ingredients and giving us new recipes to try, we eat out at little hole-in-the-wall joints and taste just how good these things can be and then, before we know it, they become mainstream, and we no longer have to drive all over town to find them, we can get them at the local supermarket. Altogether it's a formula for exciting home cooking.

Even something as basic as the bread we can buy has been influenced by the varieties to be found around the world. Not so long ago the bread section of the supermarket was characterised by row upon row of packaged sliced bread, but now there are sourdough, bagels, muffins, raw seed and nut loaves, vegan loaves and gluten-free loaves, to name but a few.

And, of course, wraps. Just about every culture has its own form of flatbread, from Mexican tortillas to Indian roti and Middle Eastern pita bread - and now they're all at our fingertips, ready for us to fill with flavours gleaned from all over the world. And best of all, we get to eat them with our hands.

Baleadas with black beans and silky scrambled eggs

Ready in 25 mins, serves 4

400g can black beans or kidney beans, undrained, or 1½ cups cooked beans mixed with ½ cup water
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 soft flour tortillas, warmed
1 large just-ripe avocado, cut into chunks
½ long red chilli, finely sliced, to serve
Coriander sprigs, to serve
6 eggs
2-3 Tbsp water
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp butter or neutral oil

Place beans and their liquid in a food processor with garlic and cumin and whizz to a smooth puree. Transfer to a pot and cook until the mixture coats the sides of the pot like thick mud and is a spreadable consistency (8-10 minutes). Mix in citrus juice and season. Set aside. To make Silky Scrambled Eggs, whisk eggs, water, salt and pepper. Heat butter or oil in a frying pan over high heat and add eggs, turning in folds as they set. Remove from heat while still creamy and soft. To serve, place tortillas on a board. Divide black beans and eggs between tortillas, top with avocado, sprinkle with chilli and coriander and fold in half to eat.

Annabel says: Throughout Mexico and Central America wraps are an integral part of daily eating. Sometimes they are made with corn, sometimes wheat. This breakfast treat hails from Honduras and is filled with black beans and whatever else you fancy. You can add cheese, or sausage or chicken or pork but I like them best with scrambled eggs and avocado. They are really addictive.

Chicken salad wraps

Ready in 10 mins, serves 6

6 soft flour tortillas or other wraps
1½ cups hummus
2 poached chicken breasts, sliced
3-4 tomatoes, sliced
Flesh of 2 just-ripe avocados, sliced
1 large carrot, grated
1 raw beetroot, grated (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
¼ iceberg lettuce, shredded

Spread wraps with ¼ cup hummus each, then divide chicken, tomatoes, avocado, carrot and beetroot, if using, between them, arranging in a band across the centre. Season with salt and pepper and top with lettuce. Roll, tucking in ends as you go, and securing with a toothpick or kitchen paper and string if desired. Cut in half to serve.

Annabel says: These simple salad wraps are a great way of getting lots of veges into your own lunch or your kids' lunchboxes. I'll often poach a couple of chicken breasts on Sunday evening to use in lunches for the next couple of days.

Quesadillas

Ready in 10-15 mins, serves 1-2

2 fresh flour tortillas
Slices of cheese, to cover
1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced, to cover
5-6 basil leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

If using a frying pan to cook your quesadilla, first heat up the pan. Once it is hot, place a tortilla in the pan. Cover with filling ingredients, then place another tortilla on top. Cook until the bottom of the tortilla starts to turn golden, then carefully flip over and cook the other side until golden. Cut into wedges to serve.

If you are cooking a lot of quesadillas, it's easiest to do it in the oven. Preheat oven to 200C. Sandwich the filling ingredients between tortillas, place quesadillas on a baking tray, weight with another baking tray on top and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Cut into wedges to serve.

Annabel says: Quesadillas (pronounced kay-sa-dee-ya) are toasted sandwiches made with flour or corn tortillas - keep a stash in the freezer to put together these tasty toasties. In their most basic form, quesadillas are made by sprinkling chillies and cheese onto half a tortilla, which is then folded over and fried in a lighty oiled pan on both sides. Sometimes refried beans are also added. Add fillings such as olive paste or pesto, spicy sausage or parma ham and good cheese for a great snack or supper, or an accompaniment to soups or salads.

For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her new winter annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life: Share the Love (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95)

- Canvas

• For more great recipes visit annabel-langbein.com.

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