cooking, recipes, cookery, food, gourmet cooking . . .


Eating Mexican . . .

SombreroThis week we are going Mexican. This week's column comes after an inquiry from Janie Brown, who had come across the term 'jacquard meat' in a recipe for fajita (pronounced: fah-heat-ahh) and wondered what the term meant.

Jacquard meat is simply meat that has been tenderised by multiple piercings, often used in conjunction with marinating or rubbing in of spices, etc. Jaquarding the meat allows the flavours to penetrate deeper and faster. Commercially this is done with use of a machine with needle attachments. Many of you will have no doubt purchased steaks that have been treated this way. It allows cheaper cuts of beef, etc to be tenderised and used or cooked as grilling steaks, etc.

At home this can be achieved by stabbing the meat with a normal eating fork or similar. As the process breaks down the external and internal cellular walls you will be surprised just how tender the meat becomes.

But just what is a fajita? If it comes to that what about all these other Mexican foods? Are you also confused about what a taco is and how it differs from a tortilla or a burrito, etc?

  • Burrito - a stuffed, rolled tortilla
  • Chalupa - a thick, filled boat shaped tortilla
  • Chilaquiles - corn tortilla pieces marinated in chile, layered with a filling, sauce and cheese, and baked in a casserole (similar to lasagne)
  • Chimichanga - a deep fried burrito
  • Enchilada - corn tortilla cooked in oil, dipped in sauce, filled and baked with more sauce
  • Enfrijoladas - corn tortillas filled and folded in half - topped with frijoles (beans) before baking
  • Fajita - traditionally this is skirt steak that has been marinated in a mixture of oil, lime juice, red pepper and garlic for at least 24 hours before being grilled. The cooked meat is cut into strips that are then served either on or wrapped (burrito style) in warm tortillas. But the marinade, etc can also be used applied to chicken, etc
  • Flauta - a deep fried stuffed corn tortilla
  • Gorditas - a thick tortilla, deep fried. Cut and stuffed as per pita bread
  • Quesadillas - tortillas stuffed with various ingredients (including cheese:
    Quesa meaning cheese) and folded in half. They can be fried, baked, sautéed or grilled until cheese melts forming a seal
  • Taco - a soft tortilla wrapped around foods with no seal either end; normally served in a 'U' shape
  • Tlacoyos - tortilla dough enclosing a simple filling and grilled
  • Topopo - a corn chip like a volcano or pyramid (tortilla/taco chips)
  • Tortilla - a soft, flat bread made of corn or wheat flour

So as you can see for the most part the name reflects how many of them are served physically, whether it is wrapped or rolled, if it is baked or deep fried, etc. For the most part what you fill them with is entirely up to the individuals taste . . . and imagination!


Fajitas apparently originated along the Rio Grande River on the Texas Mexico border and were eaten by the cattle wranglers. The bef skirt steak is the traditional and best cut used but these days many other cuts and meats are used. You might have been served these in restaurants where a cast-iron griddle is used. While this may be dramatic, it is something developed by restaurants and is in no way a part of true fajitas.

The following is the traditional recipe for the method of marinating the jacquard meat for fajitas. There are of course many variations and versions for making this but so you know exactly what fajita should be this is as traditional a recipe as you can get.


skirt steak - beef
onion - thinly sliced
cumin - ground
red chilli - powdered or flaked
garlic cloves - chopped
lime juice
jalapeno chillies - pickled
jalapeno pickling juice
corn oil



  • With a fork, pierce / stab the piece of skirt steak as much as you can on both sides. The more it is pierced the better the flavour and more tender it will be (this is normally quite a tough cut of meat)

  • Another method that can be employed is to take a very sharp knife and score the meat to a depth of 1/2 - 1cm

  • Using parallel lines approximately 1/2 cm apart

  • Turn the skirt steak around and now repeat to form a criss-cross pattern of scores

  • Repeat on the other side


  • Place half of the onions in a glass or stainless steel bowl/tray

  • Combine the remaining ingredients (dry and then wet) together and rub this marinade really well into the meat

  • Place the steak into the dish, on top of the onions and cover with the remaining onions

  • Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight, turning often

Cooking and serving:

  • Preheat a griddle plate or bbq until quite hot (the fajitas must cook on a very high heat source, to seal the outside but still leave the meat medium to rare)

  • Remove the meat from the marinade, cut into 2cm thick strips and toss in the oil

  • Grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the outside is nicely brown and slightly charred

  • Remove the meat to a bowl allow to rest while you cook the remaining strips. Do not attempt to cook too many at once or the necessary heat will be lost - allow the grill to heat up again before cooking the next batch

  • Cut the cooked meat into thinner strips if required so that can be easily rolled into the soft tortillas

  • Serve with warm, soft flour tortillas and your favourite salsa, salad, etc

Enjoy and bon appetit . . . . .

Chef's terminology:

litres   tsp = teaspoon
millelitres   tbs = tablespoon
kilograms   sq = sufficient quantity (add to taste)
grams   pc = piece, meaning a whole one of

Recipe from professional
Chef Tallyrand

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