We chopped, sliced and diced our way through countless onions, too many tomatoes and had tingly fingertips from chiles. The effort paid off as we sat down and chowed on yet more food including Chile Rellenos, Tinga de Pollo, Machaca and Fish Tacos.
Chile Rellenos (pronounced chi-lay ray-enos; picture top and below) are one of my favourites and there is a strong chance that it would be one my last meal ever dishes. It means stuffed chile in Spanish and is usually stuffed with cheese (sometimes it gets a meat filling but that isn't common); it's a great vegetarian dish for those who think that Mexican food is all about meat. When Johanna and I met up to plan the menu, I suggested this and had my fingers crossed hoping that she would agree to it.
Cheese, batter and frying oil don't really make for a healthy meal but it is damn good. The sauce in the recipe below is good but one day I hope to score my Tio Meno's recipe for chile relleno sauce. It's been in the family for years and when my grandmother died she only told one person in the family the recipe- Uncle Meno. If you are ever in San Diego, look him up, order the chile rellenos and marvel at the sauce. Tell him that I sent you.
Chiles rellenos (Stuffed Chiles)
6 large pasilla, poblanos or Anaheim chiles (fresh)
150 g Mozzarella or other quick-melting cheese, thinly sliced
100 g gouda (grated)
60 g self-raising flour
6 raw eggs, separated
flour for rolling (ca. 100 g)
1/4 tsp salt
250 ml grapeseed oil (for frying)
For the sauce (you can also use Mexican Salsa in a jar, green or red to taste):
500 ml passata (pureed tomato)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
oregano or epazote
chile to taste
50 ml single cream (optional)
Preheat your oven to grill.
Rinse the chiles. Place them in on baking tray and place on the top shelf of your oven under the grill. When the chiles are charring and popping their skins, turn them over to grill in the other side. Pay close attention, as this might not take more than a few minutes, depending on the strength of your grill.
When both sides are fairly evenly charred, remove them from the oven and place straight into a large bowl, covering tightly with clingfilm so the chiles “sweat”. Leave for about 30 minutes, then peel.Cut a slit almost the full length of each chile. Carefully remove all the seeds and membranes, making sure the stem of the chile stays intact. Fill with the cheese.
You can set these aside, for a few minutes or a few hours if you put them in the refrigerator.
To prepare the sauce, fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until starting to brown. Add the chile (if using) and fry for a further minute. Pour in the passata and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and work until smooth. Return to the pan and season with salt, pepper and the herbs. The sauce should be quite runny. Set aside for re-heating later.Heat the oil in a skillet (or a deep-frier) until a drop of water sizzles when dropped into the pan.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed. Beat the egg yolks with one tablespoon flour and salt. Mix the yolks into egg whites and stir until you have a thick paste.Roll the chiles in flour and dip each one in the egg batter. Coat evenly.
Fry, seam side down on both sides until golden brown. Place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, re-heat the salsa in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cream (if using) and adjust the seasoning.
Place one or two Rellenos on each plate and pour salsa over them. Serve
(Recipe Jo Wagner: Chiles (not sauce) adapted from a recipe on Mexgrocer.com)
Tinga de pollo (pronounced teen-ga de poy-yo; picture left) is another favourite and makes a very regular appearance in my house. This version has chorizo and potato in it which makes it heartier.
However, there are many variations on this theme; mine has neither chorizo nor potatoes and is quicker to make. The next time I make it I promise to write it up. It is extra work to shred the chicken but it is a great way to make a small amount of meat go further. If buying organic chicken is usually out of your budget, buying chicken thighs and then shredding them means that you get quality meat and a yummy meal.
Tinga de pollo (Chicken with chorizo and potatoes)
750 g chicken breast
150 g chorizo (finely diced)
4 tomatoes (finely diced)
2 large potatoes (peeled and finely diced)
2 medium onions (1 half set aside, the rest finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (1 set aside, the other crushed)
2 tbsp chipotle chili in vinegar, finely chopped
1 dash vinegar
2 handful fresh coriander or oregano
To serve: 2 avocados, chopped lettuce, corn tortillas or tostadas
Clean the chicken breast thoroughly. Cook it in boiling water with half of the onion and a garlic cloves. Once cooked, let the meat cool and shred into thin strips with your fingers or two forks.
Cook the potatoes in salt water until soft, but retaining a bite.
Fry the chorizo (no oil required) in a big pan, when it’s browning, lift the sausage out with a slotted spoon and reserve. Fry the chopped onions and garlic clove as well as the shredded chicken in the oil from the chorizo. Add the tomatoes, the potatoes, and the chili.
Put the sausage back in the pan. Add vinegar and herbs and season with salt. Let cook until slightly dry.
Serve with tacos or tostadas, shredded lettuce or avocado.
Recipe adapted from: http://mexico.udg.mx/cocina/cocinamex.html Universidad de Guadalajara
I know this is not the most attractive photo you will ever have seen and I highly doubt that it fills you up with so much excitement that you want to rush out and make it, however, Asado de puerco is good. Asado de puerco (pronounced ah-sah-do de pu-erco) has a lovely and deep smokey flavour. This is be a great weeknight meal with a bit of rice on the side (especially if it is cold out).
Asado de puerco
1 kg pork (fillet or escalope)
250 g Chile Colorado (cut open and stems and seeds removed)
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
Toast the chiles lightly in a pan without burning, then bring to a boil in a pot of water. Remove from the heat and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
When the chiles are soft, chop finely in a magimix or using a hand-held blender – add a little water, if necessary.
Meanwhile, clean the pork and cut into small, bite-sized cubes. Fry it in oil until well browned.
Add the chile sauce and the bay leaves, bring to a boil and season with salt. Set aside until serving, then re-heat.
Serve with tacos or simply with rice, frijoles (black beans) and a salad.
(Recipe Iliana Villareal)
I was slaving away in the kitchen and didn't manage to get a photo of this salad. Nopales (cactus) are not to everyone's liking but if you are in th emood for a culinary adventure give this a go. Ensalada de Nopales (pronounced en-sa-lada de no-pal-ess) is a change from the usual iceberg wedge salad; make it in advance so that the cactus marinates in the dressing.
Ensalada de Nopales (Salad with Cactus Leaves)
6 tinned cactus leaves (nopales)
100 g Lancashire Crumbly (or other crumbly cheese – like Feta)
2 jalapeno chiles (membranes and seeds removed and finely chopped)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
1 handful fresh coriander (chopped)
half a tbsp of dry oregano
5 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Drain the cactus leaves from the tin, wash thoroughly and (if using whole) cut into thin strips. Mix the oil, vinegar, onion and herbs in a small bowl, then pour over the nopales and mix thoroughly, Leave to infuse (you can prepare this well ahead).When ready to serve, toss the salad again and adjust the seasoning. Crumble over the cheese and serve.
(Recipe Iliana Villareal)
That's it for part two of my Mexican Fiesta. Still to come are Fish Tacos, Machaca and, to sweeten things up and prove that Mexican food is not just about spice, Flan. Stay tuned.