Perfect nachos

Does anybody actually need a recipe for nachos? Judging by the state of what passes for nachos in the average English pub, I’d say perhaps a little re-education is in order.

I went to the Porter recently, a pub in Bath that used to be known for its excellent (and cheap) vegetarian food. A few years ago they did great nachos, with a big pile of soya mince chilli in the middle. It was unsophisticated but it really hit the spot.

Lately, though, the Porter has gone the way of the countless lesser pubs that consider a bag of Doritos with some microwaved cheese on top to be an acceptable substitute for nachos. Okay, so there was a little more to it than that, in the form of a blob of chive-speckled sour cream and a spoonful of watery, metallic ‘chilli’ that tasted exactly like tinned tomatoes. Compared to the nachos of old, it’s pretty awful, and at six quid per portion it’s poor value.

So here’s how to make a superior version using basic supermarket ingredients, with very little effort and almost no cooking required.


150g dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
2 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tsp cumin
150g tortilla chips
150g strong Cheddar cheese, grated
tomato salsa
pickled jalapeno chillies

Optional extras

fresh birds eye chillies
sour cream

You could, of course, just buy a can of refried beans to go with this, but I can’t recommend that – I couldn’t really post this recipe if it didn’t involve making at least one component. Also, homemade refried beans are much nicer.

Drain the soaked pinto beans and cover with 3cm of fresh water. Simmer for about an hour, adding more water if it starts to dry out. When the beans are completely soft, with no bite to the skins, add the cumin and stock powder.

Mash the beans roughly. If it’s too wet, boil it some more. If it’s too dry (it absorbs water if you leave it for a while after mashing) add a splash of water. You could use black turtle beans instead of pinto, but they take about twice as long to cook.

Tortilla chips – definitely not Doritos, which are too weedy to scoop anything up when they get hot. And make sure they’re plain salted ones, not covered in flavouring that’ll burn when you put it under the grill.

To assemble, pour the chips onto an ovenproof plate and push them towards the edge to make a well in the centre. Put the beans in the middle. Cover everything with salsa. Cover all that with cheese, and finally the chillies. Grill until the cheese melts, watching to make sure any exposed edges don’t burn.

That’s it. Sorry, it’s not much of a recipe as such. But I make this almost every Sunday night, and if just one local pub could do something as good then I might actually try something new…

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