A summer supper down Mexico way
- Credit: Archant
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis says ‘Órale’ to some colourful Mexican dishes for a mid-summer supper. Photography: Sarah Lucy Brown
If, when you think of Mexican food, what first springs to mind is sloppy tacos, oily burritos and memories of that night you had too much tequila, then allow me to change all that.
Behind the Tex-Mex façade is a food culture that’s exciting, fresh and light. And it doesn’t have to be hot.
Mexican food is colourful and punchy, and very varied. Mexico boasts a huge array of cheeses and some parts of the country have up to 40 varieties of tortilla. Like Indian cuisine, there are different culinary regions in Mexico, each with its own specialities. So, I’ve ventured beyond the usual guacamole and enchiladas to bring you some new ideas to try at home. Have a go at this tasty – and easy – supper for four.
Pineapple agua fresca
All around Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean you’ll find these infused waters. Pressed with flowers, fruits, cereals, sugar and water, they’re both refreshing and mouth-watering. You could make this recipe with half water and half coconut water if you like to vary the flavour.
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1 medium pineapple, peeled and cored, 70g caster sugar, 4.5 cups of chilled water, lime juice to taste
Place the pineapple, sugar and half a cup of water (I used a tea cup) in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth and frothy. Sieve into a jug and get rid of any pulp that remains in the sieve (there shouldn’t be much). Stir in the other four cups of water and squeeze in a little lime juice to sharpen if you like. Chill until very cold and serve over ice.
Cod ceviche tostadas
Don’t be scared of eating raw fish. The acidity of the lemons ‘cooks’ it through. These nibbles are typical of what you’d find close to the Mexican coast.
2 firm fresh white fish fillets finely chopped, ½ red onion finely sliced, 1tbsp red pepper minced, 1/2tsp garlic minced, 2tbsps fresh coriander finely chopped, juice of two lemons, seasoning, 1 pack corn tortillas
Mix together the fish, onion, pepper, garlic, coriander and lemon juice. Cover and leave for one hour. Cut bite-sized shapes out of the tortillas and bake at 200°C for about 10 minutes until crisp. Taste the cod and season as you like it. Cool the tortillas and top with the ceviche.
Courgette quesadillas with corn salsa
Courgettes that never seem to stop sprouting in the allotment, or being handed over the fence by a kindly neighbour. Quesadillas are typically made with soft, stringy Mexican cheese such as Chihuahua. You’re not likely to find it in your local supermarket so I’ve offered two alternatives.
1 medium courgette finely sliced, 1tsp cumin seeds toasted, 1/2tsp dried oregano, 1 red onion finely sliced, 1 chipotle chilli chopped, seasoning, squeeze of lime juice, 1 ball mozzarella or 100g Monterey Jack cheese, four tortilla wraps
Marinate the courgette pieces in the cumin, oregano, onion, chilli, seasoning and lime juice for 30 minutes. Grill on a tray until soft and starting to turn golden. Lay out two tortillas and divide the courgettes between them. Crumble over the cheese evenly. Top with the remaining tortillas. Heat a frying pan and add one tortilla. Cook on high for around a minute (lift up the edge to check it hasn’t caught), then turn over and cook for another minute. Cut into four. Repeat with the other tortilla. Top each piece with a little salsa (below).
For the corn salsa mix together 150g fresh or tinned sweetcorn, 4 sliced spring onions, 1 minced red chilli, 1/2tbsp sugar, 2tbsp cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
If you’re eating Mexican a bottle of tequila is a must. Patron Reposado is one of the only tequilas on the market made the traditional way. Unlike the crystal clear, citrusy original Patron, this version is aged for six months and has caramel notes that will pair it well with your main course.
Tequila Casco Viejo Blanco is popular in Mexico and has been made there by the Camerena family since the 40s. It’s smooth, with a hit of vanilla.
Riesling is the ideal partner to this menu, complementing the freshness of the starters, and standing up to the pork dish too. Try Watervale Riesling from Adnams stores (£12.99). It’s made in South Australia’s renowned Clare Valley, and bursts with lemon zest.
THE MAIN EVENT
Pozole rojo with cornbread
Pozole is a pork or beef stew popular along Mexico’s north Pacific coast. It appears at almost all celebrations, and is a deliciously simple one-pot to pull together for dinner.
I have to admit, one of the prime ingredients for this recipe is hominy – a type of white maize that’s gone through a special brining process – and I definitely couldn’t find any of that locally. I’ve substituted fresh corn and served it in a cornbread ring. Simply let everyone dive in and rip of chunks of bread to gather up the soupy sauce and tender meat.
It’s best cooked in the slow cooker. Otherwise cook it on the hob in a covered casserole dish on low for three to four hours. You can find ancho chillies in the speciality sections of many larger supermarkets.
800g pork shoulder steaks, 2 red onions finely chopped, 2 cloves garlic finely chopped, 1tbsp chilli powder (not red chilli powder but the chilli powder blend), 1 dried ancho chilli chopped, 2tsp ground cumin, corn from 4 fresh husks, 700ml chicken stock, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 4tbsps fresh coriander chopped, seasoning, oil for cooking.
Place a little oil in a large frying pan. Add the pork steaks whole and cook on high for a few minutes on each side until browned. Remove to a slow cooker. Add a little more oil to the pan then add the onions. Saute on a medium heat until very soft. Add the garlic, chilli powder, ancho chilli and cumin and cook for a further minute. Pour over the pork. Add the chicken stock, corn, coriander and tinned tomatoes to the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours. Add the coriander at the end and season to taste. Drizzle with crema (sour cream mixed with some spice and lime juice).
For the cornbread: 125g plain flour, 160g fine cornmeal, 1tsp salt, pinch cayenne, 1tbsp sugar, 2tsp baking powder, 150g butter, 2 large eggs, 125g grated mature cheese, 150g tinned sweetcorn (drained weight).
Mix together all the ingredients. Take a large (23cm) casserole dish and arrange the batter around the outside in a ring shape with a big hole in the middle. It’s very stiff so this should be easy. Bake at 200°C for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with the pozole stew in the centre.
These are a fun take on those hard boiled sweets – you know, the ones you either love or loathe. The recipe is based on a sherbet, which is a kind of sorbet made with milk and citrus. When the lime juice mixes with the milk it thickens and sharpens and turns into something quite special. Don’t miss out the touch of salt, which makes them even better. You’ll fill eight lolly moulds with the mixture.
4tsps lime zest (avoid the white rind), 100g caster sugar, 750ml whole milk, juice of 4 limes, ½ cup water, pinch salt, 200g dark chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
Mix together everything apart from the chocolate. Allow to settle for 20 minutes, whisk then pour into lolly moulds and freeze for a few hours. Remove from moulds and dip in the cooled chocolate, then return to the freezer on a lined tray to freeze again.