Traditionally, tortillas are made by hand from fresh masa, a dough produced from white field corn that can be bought in Central America and the southern United States from tortillerias, the factories which make tortillas commercially. Alas, no such facilities exist in Britain, so we need to make them from masa harina, force-dried finely ground corn meal. Quaker Oats produce one in the USA which you can buy here by mail order, from Made in America (01249 447558), a very useful supplier of otherwise virtually unobtainable food products, like corn syrup.
The finished dough is not easy to work with since it has none of the elasticity of a yeast dough and dries out very quickly to become unworkable.
Put the hot water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Turn on the dough-hook, add the masa harina and knead at slow speed until you have a soft but not sticky dough.
Remove, cling-wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Divide into 15 balls, then roll these out between plastic sheets to a thickness of a 50 p piece or press in a tortilla press between plastic sheets.
Cook in a hot dry frying pan for about 40 seconds on each side, when the bread will have puffed and be speckled brown.
Wrap the tortillas in a cloth and leave them for 15 minutes before serving to allow their steam to soften them slightly.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.