When I was a kid growing up, the week before Thanksgiving was a study in organized chaos.  My mother worked as a nurse, so it wasn’t like she had a full day to make pies and treats while we were out of her hair – basically, every evening after dinner was a couple of hours of baking and assembling dishes for the Big Event. 

So, asking mom “what’s for dinner?” the Sunday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving Week was … well … a bit of a red rag to a bull – particularly as we got closer to mid-week.  While she had her repetoir of hey, presto! dishes, feeding 3 kids and one hungry dad must have been more aggro than she needed or wanted.

I wish she could have known about Aztec Soup and quesadillas – it’s such an incredibly easy and tasty meal and it’s so NOT a Thanksgiving meal that it’s a great way to feed the masses without feeling like you’re pre-empting the dinner that you want to be special.  I go whole hog and make my own guacamole and salsa, as well, which I’ll include here (because I’m telling you now, it is the best guacamole recipe you’ll ever try – take it from one who used to hate the stuff until I had this recipe).

I really like the soup because, despite its name, it isn’t going to blow the top of your head off with heat.  In fact, it’s rather mild – it’s something you could serve as a first course without worrying that everyone would be too full to eat a main course after.  And, it’s something you can faff around with – add tortilla chips to it, add chunks of avocado, serve it with a few crumbles of feta – it’s incredibly flexible. 

The soup is adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen, and no, it isn’t made with real Aztecs …

Aztec Soup

  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, small dice
  • 1/2 red pepper, small dice
  • 2 red chillies, seeded and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 6 thighs, skinned, trimmed and cubed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Tomato salsa

In a good sized pot, heat the olive oil over low-to-medium heat, adding the onions, pepper and chillies to slowly sweat and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant, then season with salt and pepper, add the stock and chicken, and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Check for seasoning.  Just before you serve, add the zest and juice of the lime, then, in each bowl, add a tablespoon of tomato salsa.

Tomato Salsa

  • 1 basket cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 1 chilli, seeded and minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped fine
  • Juice of 1 or 2 limes (depending on how juicy they are)
  • Handful of chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

What can I say – put everything in a bowl and mix, then taste to adjust the seasoning (the salt, especially).

The World’s Best Guacamole.  Ever.

  • 4 ripe Haas avocadoes, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • good tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, minced
  • handful chopped cilantro

I learned this tip from Nigella – in a cup, dissolve the salt into the lime juice while you’re peeling and pitting your avocado.  Then, in a bowl, mash the avocado with the salty lime juice, but leave it half mushy, half chunky.  Add the pepper, chilli, garlic and cilantro and mix well.  Check for salt.

And, in any of these, feel free to add more chillies if you want a little more fiyah – the amount I put down will give you a little heat, but is mostly mild.

good weekend eatin’!