Great dishes are often made from little, or indeed what little the kitchen had at the time. A cook under pressure to feed a hungry, unannounced crowd can often weave magic in the kitchen with whatever is at hand. That’s exactly what happened to Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya when the wives of soldiers stationed at the US army base of Fort Duncan, stopped by when the restaurant had just closed. The young maître d’, not wanting to disappoint the hungry ladies, fried tortillas cut into triangles, topped with cheese, and finished with sliced jalapeños. Nachos were born.
One of the kings of Tex-Mex, the fusion of Mexican and US cuisines, nachos are the ultimate party food. Deliciously moreish and perfect for sharing, the beauty is in the unrestricted flexibility of the dish. Everything from meat, chilli con carne, cheese, salsa, sour cream, olives, guacamole, refried beans, jalapeños, coriander, corn and more can legitimately be added to constitute nachos, leading to great freedom when it comes to preparing this snack at home. Despite this, as is always my philosophy, there a certain products, preparations, and techniques that go into making the ultimate fully loaded nachos so I’m going to break it down into individual components
The Tortilla Chip
For me simplicity is the key here so it’s much better to go for a bag of lightly salted chips. Flavourings are often so offputtingly artificial that they mask the wonderful taste of the modest tortilla chip. Keep in mind that “Cool” or “Classic” is not lightly salted and often contains an unpalatable cheesy seasoning that may appeal to some but not me. Surprisingly cheaper brands are perfect here with one of the best I’ve found to be the Tesco Value lightly salted tortilla chips 200g for €0.70, or indeed the regular Tesco lightly salted tortilla chips 200g €0.75, and finally Lidl’s Simply lightly salted tortilla chips 200g €0.70 another good option.
The sight of gooey, gloopy, radioactive orange industrial bottle pumped cheese often seen in the cinema or other places where nachos go to die, is enough to send me running in fear. Yet the cheese is a hugely important component here and the stringy lusciousness is an essential part of the nacho experience. So how do we overcome this? Again, simplicity is the better option so opt for a very mild cheddar or rather, as I prefer, a grated mozzarella which supplies mild flavour to accompany the other ingredients and also the stringy cheesiness the is synonymous with this dish.
There are no shop-bought, premade shortcuts here unfortunately. I’ve yet to taste a supermarket guacamole that comes anywhere near the homemade one so you’re just going to have to make it yourself. Luckily for you I have a simple and delicious recipe for you here.
There’s a little more freedom here to grab a shortcut and opt for a supermarket salsa but why would you when you can make my really simple and delightful chargrilled tomato salsa? Recipe here. As can happen if you’re stuck for time most offer acceptable versions. Even if you’re not a major fan of chilli go for a “hot” version, “mild” salsas are so boringly not even on the scale as to be nondescript.
The Sour Cream
It doesn’t matter hugely here but Aldi’s Clonbawn Sour Cream 200g for €0.75 or Lidl’s Coolree Creamery Sour Cream also €0.75 are two products that are good quality and good value with Aldi’s having a slightly thinner consistency that allows it to be spread that bit easier.
Perhaps a bit contentious but I absolutely love olives on my nachos as they add a little nugget of pleasant saltiness that works so well alongside everything else in it’s little magical Mexican marriage. Aldi do jars of Specially Selected Colossal Greek Olives (Green) and Specially Selected Kalamata Olives (Black) both 180g, both €1.49, or obviously use whatever olives you have at hand
Pickled jalapeños are pretty much pickled jalapeños so don’t worry too much here. You might have trouble getting them in some supermarkets but Tesco has an own brand version (€1.89 for 220g) and of course Old El Paso (€1.99 for 215g) sells nationwide. They keep for ages in the fridge too.
*Please note that with some of the ingredients listed the size mentioned is generally the quantity that the product is available in. You may not need that much putting the nachos together and is obviously dependent on the size of the dish/plate that you’re using e.g. with a regular dinner plate size, I’ll use about 100g nachos, maybe 100g cheese, and a few spoonfuls of sour cream.