Authentic Mexican from Cocina Mexicana – While I haven’t actually been to Mexico (yet, but still hoping!) I do know a fair amount about Mexican food, as we had two consecutive Mexican au pairs some years ago, so for over two years, we had a strong Mexican influence in our home. So I was delighted to find Cocina Mexicana, by Adriana Cavita, a recently published cookbook that’s packed with fresh, vibrant recipes for authentic Mexican food.
The author, Adriana, grew up in a small village in Mexico and was inspired to become a chef by her grandmother, who ran a street-food business. She has since travelled extensively around the country, from Mexico City across to Oaxaca and the Yucatán. Visiting the small towns around the coast and perched up in the mountains sparked in Adriana a fascination with traditional cooking methods, and how these vary from region to region. This temptingly illustrated collection of recipes is built around her experiences. Adriana’s take on traditional Mexican recipes tells a story of her heritage and the people who taught her the craft of cooking and will open your eyes to real, authentic Mexican food. She now has her own restaurant – Cavita – in Wigmore Street, London, that I’m keen to visit (in preparation, of course, for a trip to Mexico itself). The book is published by Ryland, Peters & Small at £22 for a beautiful hardback. It would also make a lovely gift (with Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day coming up soon)
To inspire you, too, here are a couple of recipes:
Mushroom Soup (Sopa de Hongos) Serves 4
This soup is very common in the state of Mexico. The region is surrounded by forests and the weather is generally colder, which makes this soup very popular.
200 ml vegetable oil
½ white onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350 g sliced mushrooms (use whatever types are in season)
400 g chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
40 g chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and black pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 8 minutes, then add the stock. Leave it to boil for about 5 minutes, then add the coriander and stir through. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then serve garnished with a little extra chopped coriander if liked.
Mexican-style Courgettes. Calabacitas a la Mexicana. Serves 4
This recipe is a really good vegetarian option. It can be served as a main dish with tortillas and sour cream or as a side with grilled steak or chicken.
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 corn-on-the-cob kernels removed
1 tablespoon sea salt
6 tomatoes, cut into small cubes
2 pinches of Mexican dried oregano
1 kg courgettes, cut into 1-cm/1⁄3-in. cubes
20 g finely chopped fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
Add the corn kernels, season with the salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add the oregano and courgettes and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Finally, add the coriander. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and sour cream on the side.
Chicken Stew (Tinga) Serves 8
This recipe is typically served each year on 16th September as part of the Mexican Independence Day celebrations, but it is also enjoyed as a daily meal. Some people use canned chillies; however I prefer to use dried chillies for their smoky flavour.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes or until they start to take on some colour. Add the strained tomatoes, salt, chipotle paste, allspice berries, black pepper and bay leaves. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, then lower the heat and add the shredded chicken and stock or water. Cook for another 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Serve the stewed chicken on top of tostadas with fresh cheese, sour cream, lettuce and one or two spicy salsas and sauces.
To make your own chipotle paste, blend a 200-g can of chipotles in adobo (available from online stockists) in a food processor or blender. Just be careful when adding it to the stew if you don’t like too much spice.
You can also use the chicken stew as the filling for quesadillas.