I love Mexican food in all it’s forms. Nachos, burritos, fajitas… and guacamole with everything. So when Zaheeda Sonday from All About Food invited me to one of her cooking classes and I saw she had a Mexican themed one, I was an easy sell.
Zaheeda is an advocate by day with a serious passion for cooking. Despite running a full time practice, this passion pushed her to start offering cooking classes and the occasional daily meals. She is a self taught cook having cut her teeth in her mother’s kitchen from a very young age. Her classes happen from her home in Rylands where one of the rooms have been converted into a studio that can accommodate 4 workstations. This means small and intimate classes with lots of personal attention.
I attended a class on Saturday morning. Her classes are normally about 2 hours long. We had a lot to cram into this class. After a quick, casual welcome and introduction she handed out some notes and a list of recipes we would be making. This included a quesadilla, burrito, baked nachos, tacos and jalapenó chilli poppers. 2hrs? hmmmm…. I wondered how we would fit all that in.
Zaheeda’s style of teaching is very informal. She believes in play and creativity in the kitchen. She did not have a workstation herself but went from one table to another to demonstrate what needed to be done. It was like learning at a friends house. All our ingredients and utensils were neatly laid out for our various dishes and we kicked off straight away with cutting up 2 chicken breasts into strips which would form the base for all our dishes except the nachos. Zaheeda’s tip, cut your breast lengthwise through the middle then cut the strips across the grain. This makes it easy to eat and prevents stringiness.
Into a non stick pan went the strips with some oil, garlic and ginger, bbq spice and paprika. In about 10 minutes this was cooked and ready. We then sauteed some green and red pepper strips with some red onion and when soft moved it to the side and put in red kidney beans and corn with some tomato paste and let that cook together. Another tip from Zaheeda about how to cook in one pan. Less dishes means less water to wash up right! Great for Cape Town being water tight right now.
The chilli poppers were easier than you may think. We combined chopped peppadews, pickled jalapenó chillies, fresh dhunya (coriander) grated cheese and creamed cottage cheese in equal parts except chillies, that was to taste. This was stuffed into the large jalapenó chillies which we had slit down one side and removed the seeds. This part was a little tricky and remember not to rub your eye or pick your nose after this. You will not see or smell for some time…. then flour, egg, crumbs, more flour, egg, crumbs and into the deep fryer. These were yum but you have to have them hot.
Next tacos – We were shown how to use a muffin pan upside down to first toast our tacos. We used mini wraps and not hard shell tacos and after they came out of the oven we filled it with chicken and topped with cheese. Back into the oven to melt the cheese and then we topped it with salsa, lettuce and cream cheese.
The quesadilla was a simple matter of spreading a wrap with some cream cheese and salsa, top with chicken and cheese and another wrap. Pop into your pan and let it toast and the cheese melt. You’ll have to flip this once and then cut into triangles.
Burrito time – this was equally simple. Layer chicken, cheese, peppers and beans down the middle of your wrap. Top with cream cheese. Tuck in the sides and roll it up. Pop this back in the pan fold side down first and allow to toast lightly on both sides. I’ve included a little video to show you how to easily fold a burrito.
For the nachos – we layered Doritos chips topped with the beans and corn mix, the leftover cream cheese mix from the poppers and smothered with cheese. This went into the oven for the cheese to melt. What’s nice about this version is that it’s not too saucy and the nachos don’t get soggy even when they got cold. So this could be reheated and enjoyed later.
In between all this we threw together a guacamole; no Mexican meal is complete without this. We mashed up the avo with garlic, onion, dhanya, lime juice and tomato using a potato masher. Now why had I never thought of doing this with a potato masher? I always use a fork. But the potato masher shaves so much time off making this dish. So obvious you would think.
I felt the class moved very fast. Zaheeda speaks fast and works fast and at times you have to make sure you’re keeping up. I enjoyed the fact that the class was small and very interactive. Her style is unfussy and doesn’t employ fancy processes and cheffy terms that can be intimidating for some. She is all about simple ingredients, and keeping things easy in the kitchen.
We got to take everything we made home. If I had known this, I would have told Zulfi not to have lunch as I was bringing home a Mexican feast. Everything was packed into takeaway containers and popped into a brown paper bag to bring home. And a lovely addition was that we were all spoiled with a little gift to take home at the end. A really sweet way to end a busy and fun morning.
You can find Zaheeda on Instagram at @all_about_food16 where you can find out more about her upcoming classes.
You may also like: Cooking up a storm with The Hot Chef