Fajitas with Chicken, Veg, Spices and Herbs

This isn’t a recipe so much (other than making tortillas): It’s a stepping-stone for you to unleash your own creativity. Go wild with your choice of spices, herbs, and fillings (see footnotes).

Children will LOVE making the flatbreads and filling them with their choice of ingredients, spices, and herbs. This is a fantastic way to introduce them to new flavours, too.

Serves: 6 – 8 depending on appetite

Ingredients
For the flatbreads (tortillas):

  • A palmful of whole spices: coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black/rainbow/Szechuan peppercorns, etc to your taste
  • 300g strong white bread flour, plus additional as required
  • Ground sea salt to taste (start with 1 tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon of very finely chopped tarragon leaves;
    or, 2 Tbsp of chopped flat-leaf parsley;
    or similar of fresh coriander leaf;
    or similar of fresh oregano leaves;
    and/or whatever fresh herb(s) you like (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground sumac (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder or dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • Plain or Greek-style yoghurt
  • 100ml warm water (100g if weighing), plus additional as required
  • Plain flour, for rolling

For the chicken:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless & skinless chicken thighs (400-500g or so), trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and pepper (and chilli powder and/or other spices, optional)

For the raita (NOTE: you could just use 200-300ml soured cream if you prefer):

  • Plain or Greek-style yoghurt
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely crushed and chopped with some salt to make a thick paste
  • 2 shallots (or, 1 banana shallot), very finely chopped
  • 1/2 full (long) cucumber, sliced lengthways; seeds scooped out with a teaspoon, and very finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • Fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley leaves (no stems), chopped or torn roughly
  • Fresh mint leaves, ripped or chopped roughly (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika

For the fillings:

  • 1 Romaine lettuce, hard centre core removed
  • 3 large tomatoes (or 4-5 smaller tomatoes), sliced thickly
  • Red, orange, yellow, and/or green bell pepper, very finely sliced
  • White or chestnut mushrooms (6 or so depending on size), thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 bunch spring onions, green part only: sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 150-200g roughly grated hard white cheese (there are white cheddar and white leicester cheeses which grate well, but if you prefer the orange/red versions, use those)
  • Additional fresh herbs (tarragon, coriander, oregano, rosemary, parsley, mint etc), leaves torn/chopped roughly, to garnish (optional)

Kit

  • 2 non-stick frying pans, 1 small and 1 large
  • A mortar and pestle (or a spice/coffee grinder if you have that)
  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • A dampened tea towel (wet it with very hot water, then wring it out thoroughly)
  • A rolling pin
  • A palette knife
  • Several plates, oven-safe; plus additional bowls/plates for serving
  • A chopping board and sharp knife

Steps

  1. Heat your oven to the lowest heat (50 C) and put an oven-safe plate in.
  2. Toast the whole spices in a very hot, small, dry frying pan for just 1 minute or so until they smell gorgeous but not burnt. Tip into a mortar & pestle and grind well, then pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Measure the bread flour into the bowl. Add salt; add the chopped herbs (if using), ground spices (if using), stir, and make a well in the middle.
  4. Add 3 over-heaped dessertspoonfuls of yoghurt and 100ml warm water to the centre of the bowl. Gently stir with a fork, then mix with your hands until it comes together. Knead in the bowl until it’s smooth and no longer sticking to your fingers: add more strong flour if too sticky, and a teensy bit more warm water if you can’t form a ball. Make a ball and cover the bowl with a dampened tea towel. Leave for 15-20 minutes in a warm, draught-free place to rest whilst you prepare the fillings.
  5. Heat your larger frying pan with 2-3 tablespoons oil until well hot, almost smoking. Thinly slice the chicken thighs, season, then fry for 3 minutes until browned all over, stirring/flipping constantly. Remove to the warmed plate in the oven.

    If you are flash-frying any of your fillings (see Fillings footnote), this is the time to do it. Add a touch more oil, quickly stir-fry, then also put those components on oven-safe plates in the oven.
  6. Mix 4 over-heaped dessertspoonfuls of yoghurt in a small serving bowl with the salted garlic, shallot, cucumber, lime juice, fresh coriander, mint (if using), and paprika, plus more salt to your taste.
    (As per the ingredients note, you could substitute plain soured cream if that ticks your box.)
  7. Roll up and finely shred the lettuce leaves. Leave in a bowl/on a plate for serving.
  8. Slice the tomatoes slightly thickly and put in a bowl/on a plate for serving.
  9. Take 1 whole bell pepper (or parts of several differently-coloured peppers if you like), remove the stem/seeds/membrane, and slice thinly; put in a bowl/on a plate for serving.
  10. Slice your mushrooms (if using), and grate your cheese, and leave both on plates/in bowls for serving.
  11. Reheat your small, dry frying pan to a very high heat. Meanwhile, roll out the dough on a plain-floured surface until it’s quite thin. Use a palette knife to make circles that will fit the bottom of your small pan. Re-roll and cut until all dough is used. (You could also just pinch off pieces of dough and roll each out into a circle.)
  12. Dry-fry one flatbread at a time, for 1 minute or so on each side, until puffed up and browned. Remove to an oven-safe plate, and repeat until all breads are grilled. Put the plate in the warmed oven with the plate of chicken.
  13. To serve, place all filling ingredient plates/bowls on the table and serve alongside the chicken, flatbreads, and raita (or soured cream), so everyone can create their own fajitas.

Spices and Herbs
I’ve said before that Szechuan pepper is my favourite spice, because of its aromatic, almost fruity flavour. If you don’t have this, regular ground black or rainbow peppercorns will always suffice.

You can use any spices/herbs in the flatbreads that you like, and what you think will go well with chicken. Use spices and herbs for garnish that you think go best with your fillings.

Try one of these two online guides to pairing herbs with chicken (and other food).

Filling Options
Goodness, you can go large with this. I highly recommend you think about the Thai rules of sweet-salty-hot-bitter-sour when deciding on your fillings:
Tomatoes are sweet
The raita is sour/salty
The bitter can come from cabbage leaves instead of lettuce leaves (just beware that the ubiquitous kale is really, really bitter so consider flash-frying it with a sprinkling of sugar)
So: you need something hot to balance. Perhaps add a touch of chilli powder or chilli flakes to the flatbreads; or, rub the chicken thighs with chilli powder before slicing and flash-frying; and/or, add finely chopped fresh green chilli either as a separate filling component, or, add to the sliced chicken thighs whilst frying.

Your choice of cheese will also add to the balance of flavours – some are more salty, some less so. Have a nibble and decide how much more salt is required.

But also be aware of textures – you want some crunchy ingredients (lettuce, bell peppers, spring onion greens). You could flash-fry the bell peppers and fresh green chilli to soften them, but then include something crunchy such as raw cucumber spears, or even roughly chopped peanuts.

You need something creamy to bind it all together, so make the raita or just use shop-bought soured cream (or even Greek-style yoghurt well mixed with lime juice). If not making the raita, and using chilli, I’d still finely chop some cucumber for people to sprinkle on their fajitas, as that coolness will counterbalance the heat.

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