authentic mexican

Authentic Mexican

I love getting a new cookbook. I read them from cover to cover, much like a good novel, as I delve into the techniques and imagine the flavours, cooking the many delicious recipes all in my head. An old friend in America recently sent me a Mexican cookbook, featuring authentic Mexican recipes.

I’ve always loved the idea of Mexican food, with its bold fresh flavours, yet I knew that I was missing the real thing. Now, as I read through the book, it was being slowly revealed and I couldn’t wait to get started. Firstly, it meant searching for a good food store that had the right ingredients. Luckily, in Melbourne, we have Casa Iberica in Fitzroy. You can also find good quality Mexican sauces and spice blends in good food stores and supermarkets, so keep an eye out. Ordering packaged food online is another option.

Start your Mexican cooking with the roasted tomato chipotle sauce. Chipotles are jalapeno chillies that have been dried. I found some tinned in an adobo sauce, a red chilli marinade that gives a rich and complex flavour. Roasting the tomatoes and garlic gives added depth to the sauce. Next, add some meat or beans to the sauce to create a delicious filling for tacos. I used shredded pork, but you could even use a roast chicken. A fresh, simple salsa tops it off. Serve with extra hot sauce if you like it spicy. I prefer soft tortillas and have to admit that I have bought a tortilla press to make my own (and it’s easy). You can also buy excellent quality soft tortillas at supermarkets and food stores.

Be sure to try the refried beans. A quick and easy recipe, flavoured with chorizo, that can be served as part of your Mexican feast.

Roasted tomato chipotle sauce

Use this authentic Mexican sauce as the basis for your tacos fillings. Try with shredded roast chicken, beef mince or even firm fish pieces. The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week. The chillies are spicy, so you may only need one or two.

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

9 roma tomatoes

3 chipotle chillies in Adobo sauce (available from Casa Iberica)

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

Heat a heavy based pan over high heat, add the unpeeled garlic and roast for 15 minutes, turning half way through, until the outside is blackened. Remove from heat, squeeze the garlic out of the skins and roughly chop. Discard the skins.

Place whole tomatoes under an oven grill and cook until the skins are dark and blistered, turn and cook on the other side. Remove from grill, allow to cool, then peel and discard skins.

Place peeled tomatoes and garlic in a food processor and blend. Add chillies, one at a time, and process to combine. I suggest that you taste the sauce and only add more chillies if you like it hot and spicy. One or two chillies may be enough.

Heat oil in a wide based pan, add sauce and cook over medium heat to thicken. Add salt to season, if required.

The sauce is now ready to be used or refrigerated for a later date.

Serves four.

Soft tacos with smoky shredded pork

The sweet, tender shredded pork and the smoky flavour of the chipotles make a delicious combination in a soft tortilla. The raisins and almonds provide an interesting and unexpected texture, balancing the heat with sweetness.

800g boneless pork shoulder

4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 onion, peeled and cut in half

sea salt to season

2 tbsp olive oil

tomato chipotle sauce (see recipe above)

½ (half) cup raisins

100g toasted flaked almonds

to serve:

16 corn tortillas

Mexican salsa (see recipe)

guacamole

hot sauce (optional)

Place the pork in a medium saucepan with the garlic and onion. Cover with water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1½ (one and a half) hours on medium low heat, until the pork is really tender. Allow to cool a little, then shred with your fingers. Reserve the broth for another use.

Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan, add the pork and cook for 10 minutes, stirring, until the pork is crispy and golden. Add the tomato chipotle sauce, raisins and almonds and cook for a further 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

To serve, wrap the tortillas in two stacks in clean teatowels and steam in a chinese steamer basket to heat through for a few minutes (or microwave on a plate covered with clingfilm for about 20 seconds).

Place a large spoonful of filling in each warm tortilla, top with some salsa or guacamole and serve with extra hot sauce.

Serves 4-6.

Salsa Mexicana

A fresh and zingy salsa to add to tacos. Also delicious with grilled fish or meat. Jalapeno chillies are available from markets and supermarkets. If you can’t find fresh jalapenos, use good quality pickled jalapenos in a jar, found in the Mexican section of the supermarket.

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 fresh jalapeno chilli, chopped (or substitute jalapeno in a jar)

¼ (quarter) cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 large white onion, diced

2 tsp fresh lime juice

sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Allow the flavours to infuse.

Makes approximately 1 ½ cups.

Refried beans with chorizo

Refried, or recooked beans, are quick and easy to make. Choose the chorizo, depending on how spicy you want it to be.

2 tbsp olive oil

1 spicy chorizo sausage, semi cured (approx 320g)

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 x 400g organic red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

sea salt to season

fresh cheese* or feta, crumbled to serve

coriander sprigs, to serve

Squeeze small chunks of chorizo out of the casing and set aside.

Heat oil in a frypan and gently fry the chorizo for 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes to soften. Add the beans and mash roughly with a potato masher, or the back of a wooden spoon. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Taste and season with salt, if required.

Spoon out into a large serving bowl and top with crumbled cheese and coriander.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

*Fresh cheese is available from Casa Iberica. It is a mild cheese. You could substitute mozzarella. In this recipe, feta gives an interesting, if not authentic, flavour.

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