More Mexican please

photo Marina Oliphant

A Mexican wave has hit our shores as we fall for the spicy flavours and fast-casual approach to eating that is embodied by this wonderful cuisine.

Best of all, the ingredients are readily available here. Think chillies, limes, fresh coriander, tomatoes, onions, corn and avocadoes and you’re on the right track.

Dried goods, beans and spicy sauces can be picked up from the supermarket, specialist food stores or ordered online.

Corn forms the basis of all Mexican food, whether served grilled on the cob, chopped into salsas and salads or in the flour of soft tortillas and crispy corn chips.

Tacos seem to be the ambassadors of Mexican cuisine. But it’s time to think beyond the hard shells of packaged supermarket tacos. Slightly charred, warm and soft corn tortillas, filled with fresh, zingy flavours make a great healthy snack. Fillings can be as simple or exotic as you like. Slow cooked shredded pork, spicy fried mince, barbecue chicken, or fish, as in the recipe below, show the infinite variety of fillings that can be used.

Quesadillas, filled with melted cheese and anything else you fancy, are cooked in the pan until the tortillas are crispy and crunchy on the outside. Possibly the best toasted sandwich you’ll ever have.

With Mexican food, the simple components are combined to create layers of flavour and texture, resulting in a delicious assault on your tastebuds that will leave you asking for more.

tortillas with fish and black beans

This is a great way to include fish in an unexpected delicious combination with spicy tomatoes and black beans. Use any type of tinned beans when you don’t have time to soak them overnight.


1 cup dried black turtle beans. soaked overnight

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

9 roma tomatoes

1 chipotle chilli in Adobo sauce (available from Casa Iberica)

1 tbsp olive oil

500g white fish fillet, such as flake

1 cup fresh coriander leaves, picked

1 avocado, diced

1 lime

16 soft corn tortillas

hot sauce to serve, optional

Drain the soaked beans and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Cook for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

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 chilli and process to combine. I suggest that you taste the sauce and only add more chillies if you like it hot and spicy.

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

Place fish in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until flesh is opaque. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the liquid. Drain off the liquid and break the flesh into small shreds.

Add to the sauce, heat through and cook until thickened. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

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 fresh coriander, avocado, squeeze over the lime and serve with extra hot sauce.

serves 4-6.

grilled corn with chipotle butter


photo Marina Oliphant


Try cooking corn this way and you may never go back. It’s particularly good at the moment with sweet summer corn. Tins of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce can be found in select supermarkets and specialty food stores.


4 corn on the cob, in their husks

75g softened butter

1 chipotle in adobo, finely chopped

1 lime

Preheat the grill plate to hot.

Peel back the corn husks and remove any strands of silk. Recover with the husks, then place the corn on the hot grill. Cook for 10 minutes, turning to grill on all sides.

Mix the butter with the chilli until combined. Set aside.

Remove corn from grill, pull back the husks and tie together with a piece of husk.

Smother the hot corn with the spicy butter and serve with lime wedges.

serves 4.

Quesadillas with potato and chorizo


photo Marina Oliphant


500g (2 large) potatoes

3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the tortillas

½ (half) onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely diced

175g (1 large) chorizo sausage, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, picked

4 large soft tortillas

150g cheddar cheese, grated

150g mozzarella cheese, grated

fresh tomato salsa to serve

Peel potatoes and cut into 1cm dice. Heat oil in pan and fry potatoes for 10 minutes until soft. Add onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften the onion. Add the chopped chorizo and cook for 5 minutes. Add oregano and stir through.

Place some of the mixture onto half of a tortilla. Sprinkle over a little of each cheese and fold the tortilla in half. Brush with a little oil and place in a heavy based non stick pan over high heat. Cook for a few minutes until golden and crisp. Flip over and cook the other side.

Remove from pan and repeat with remaining tortillas.

Cut into wedges and serve with the salsa.

serves 4.


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