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. Photography, by Clare Winfield, throughout the book is stunning. It would also make a lovely gift (with Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day coming up soon)
To inspire you, too, here are a few of the recipes:
SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH GREEN BEANS (HUEVOS CON EJOTES)
“This is probably one of the less well known Mexican breakfast recipes. It is usually enjoyed in rural areas during the summer months when green beans are in season.”
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
120 g thinly sliced onions
200 g green beans, each cut into 3 pieces
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
warm tortillas, to serve
Place the butter or oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Add the green beans with a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl, add the salt and pepper and beat vigorously with a fork.
Add the beaten eggs to the pan and cook, stirring continuously to keep the eggs moving, until they are cooked to your liking.
Serve the scrambled eggs and green beans immediately with freshly warmed tortillas.
NORTHERN-STYLE STUFFED PEPPERS CHILES RELLENO NORTEÑO
“This is one of the most representative dishes from the northern regions in Mexico. Poblano chillies are stuffed with minced beef or pork, baked and served with a delicious sauce.”
4 poblano chillies (or a similar variety – Anaheim or even bell peppers work)
180 g grated cheese
20 g chopped fresh parsley, to serve
100 ml vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 carrots, peeled and diced
500 g minced beef or pork
pinch of ground cumin
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
40 g chopped fresh parsley
8–9 tomatoes, quartered
¼ onion, cut into 3 pieces
1½ tablespoons salt
50 ml vegetable oil
First, make the filling.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add the garlic, and after another minute, add the potatoes and carrots.
Cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the minced meat and cook while moving it constantly to break up the meat and ensure that it cooks evenly. Lower the heat to avoid burning the meat, then add the cumin, salt, pepper and parsley and cook for a further 15 minutes until the meat has browned.
Continue to cook until the meat juices have reduced by half. Set aside until needed.
Char the chillies over a direct flame or with a blowtorch until the skins have blackened all over.
When the chillies are cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Make a slit in each chilli lengthways, just long enough to be able to stuff them. Carefully clean the insides, keeping the shape of the chillies as far as possible.
Stuff the chillies with the filling mixture and seal them closed with a toothpick. Place the stuffed chillies on a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment paper.
To make the sauce, blend the tomatoes, onion and salt together in a food processor or blender and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a high heat, then add the tomato mixture. Let it boil for about 5 minutes, then add 500 ml water and bring back to the boil. Taste and add more salt if needed. Keep simmering on a low heat.
Preheat the oven to 180∞C/160∞C fan/350∞F/Gas 4.
Sprinkle the stuffed chillies with the cheese and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the chillies have warmed through and the cheese has melted.
Spoon the warm tomato sauce into a deep serving plate and nestle the stuffed chillies in the sauce.
Scatter over the chopped parsley before serving.
MEXICAN-STYLE COURGETTES/ CALABACITAS A LA MEXICANA
“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.