Search This Blog

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Down Mexico Way

 So after my last blog, lamenting that I had been unable to organise a Mexican Feast; I was able to rectify this at the weekend! A dinner catch up with friends was a good excuse to look through my To Cook list, and right at the top was ‘Easy Does it – Tapas’ in the November Delicious magazine; four great simple recipes for your Spanish feast. The two that caught my eye were ‘Sherry-glazed chickpeas and chorizo' and a ‘Patatas Bravas’; the latter I had tried when I went to my first real proper Spanish Tapas restaurant recently; and the former reminded me of a dish from The Black Toro. So, straightaway, I had two dishes and the beginnings of a Spanish Spread.

 To round out the selection, I thought I would take a second try at tacos (click here to reminisce on my first ‘mis-adventure’). I had a “proper” Taco recipe from the Lonely Planet “Street Food” book; which had the filling as mince meat cooked with a bit of salt and pepper. Authentic, I'm sure. Just not very Dinner-Party-esque. Then there was a Lime and Prawn taco which showed promise (except for them wanting prawns with the tail still on – how is that a good thing when munching through a hand held taco?!?!); but it did require canned black beans. I'm sure I could have sourced them, but didn’t have that much free time for scouring my local gourmet food stores and delis. Then I remembered a shredded pork taco recipe that I had stored for a while, because every time I looked at the first set of instructions (that included “cook for 1 and a half hours”), I put it back. Now I am well aware of the benefits of long preparations (my 4 hour slow cooked lamb is testament to that), but for tacos, it seemed like too much work. But then, what is a dinner party if not an excuse to faff about in the kitchen and boil a piece of pork for 90 minutes?!?!  Plus it meant I could finally open the can of Chipotle* chillies in Adobe that I bought a while back for alllllll the Mexican cooking that I would use it with (but hadn’t gotten  around to using yet).

 She kept looking at me every time I went into my spices section,  “ Why haven’t you used me yet? You're just afraid of my Guatamalaness” (with apologies to Hank Azaria)
 And with that , main course was sorted. Throw in some salsa and nacho chips (with carrot and celery) for nibbles and all we needed was a dessert.

 Now, as much as I love Mexican, I have always found the desserts a bit tricky. The Black Toro are quite liberal in their interpretation (last time I had a 'deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake', which I’m sure the conquistadors munched on as they travelled to The New World); though I am looking forward to trying their Crème Catalan. “Jamie’s America” has a chocolate mole tart, which has an amazing spice mix (including cinnamon and chilli) sprinkled over the top, but I’d already made that before. Having the Lonely Planet book out reminded me of the Pastel de Belem (Portuguese Custard Tart) I had earmarked. I know that Portugal is not really a neighbour of Mexico, but I figured as there were a lot of Portuguese speakers in South America, I could probably get away with it.

  I started making the tarts the night before the dinner:  Son 2 has been sick that week and I wasn’t quite sure what sort of mess and time-consuming-task the following day would bring  (Kids always add an extra degree of randomness and uncertainty to your plans!). First step was making a custard from scratch, which I was familiar with from making ice cream. However, this custard had a tablespoon of flour in it, which sped up the thickening process no end! In fact I did end up with a slightly lumpy custard as I didn’t get to stir it as regularly as I should have (reading a bedtime story between stirs is probably not something I’ll repeat next time). The tart cases were made from puff pastry, which the receipe suggested to buy a block and roll out to 0.1 inch thick. I figured my sheets of frozen puff pastry already in the freezer were about 2.5mm so I would go with that! It was all going along swimmingly apart from the actual baking; which seemed to take much longer than specified (15 mins at 150°C). I’m sure they were "cooked" by 15 minutes, but the pastry was not golden (as the instructions specified), nor was the custard browned like the picture illustrated. So another 15 mins (done in 5 minute increments, checking them each time and increasing the temp) got it looking much more like in the book.

  Dinner party morning starting with the boiling of the pork, followed by the cooling of the pork, followed by the shredding of the pork! There was the roasting of the garlic and tomatoes for the chipotle sauce, followed by the all-important Opening of the Chipotle Can. The receipe suggested adding the (3) chillies one at a time and tasting as you go “until you achieve the heat level you require”.  I added two, and nearly singed several layers on skin off my tongue! So I stopped there. And then fished out the pieces of chilli skin that had not blended in! Argh!! So they were as spicy as everyone had suggested! It is tricky as the actual chillies can vary in size, and I’m guessing the amount of sauce that gets added in is also a factor. I could only hope that once it was added to the pork that it would lower the spice rating a bit (and be grateful that my mum wasn't one of the dinner guests!).  Preparations also included par-boiled the potatoes for the bravas, as well as making the sauce to go on top.
 By this time it was beer o’clock and so we opened a few Coronas to assist with the cooking process (with lime for me, lemon for Hubby), and went on to the fourth stage of pork preparation – the frying of the cooled shredded pork! (for so much faffing, this had better taste amazing!). While that was thickening (after the addition of the tomato sauce and some raisins (Raisins? Yes raisins. Not what I would usually associate with pork, but I kept an open mind for the first-time cook through), I fried up the potato for the bravas, as well as cooking up the chorizo. And with the sour cream, aioli and (homemade) salsa and guacamole already of the festively decorated table, we were ready to roll.
 Except our dinner party had slightly decreased. Guest 1 had an impending work assisgnement and was staying home to work on that. Guest 2 had arrived (with her beautiful 3 month old daughter), had a sip of champagne, and then spent the next 45 minutes tring to settle said child who had gottten a bit upset at missing a sleep and being handed around to everyone! (what was I saying about Kids and Plans?!?) So they went home home, leaving Hubby and I with a rather large feast between the two of us. To which I immediately thought of what we could use as leftovers for another dinner (hooray! Another night off cooking!!). But only after savouring THIS dinner.
Tacos, with our special Chilean wine (which we will save for another time)
 I'm happy to report that adding the pork and rasisins did dial the chipotle sauce down a few Scoville units, and made it very super tasty; so all the faffing was worth it. It would be a great recipe to work on through the day, or even cook the pork the night before.
 The Patatas Bravas were great as well; a nice mix between wedges and roast potatoes that will be a great starter or side dish. I'm not sure what to do with the yummy tomato sauce; we seemed to have a lot of that left over ....

All that was left of the chickpeas and chorizo!
 And the chorizo dish was just amazing. It took about 10 minutes to cook and was easily the yummiest dish of the night (it went straight into Hubby’s top 10). Which just goes to show that more time and effort doesn’t always mean better (especially when kids are involved!).

 And after polishing off a few extra serves of that, there wasn't much room for the Pastel de Belem, which we brought out as part of a family lunch the next day. The custard was delicious, but there seemed to be a bit too much pastry. This may have been because I didn’t have it thin enough, or I left too much of a “lip” and the top of the tin. Might just have to make them again to work it out....
 So with the weather finally warming up over here, I look forward to a long summer of tapas inspired meals (and lots of Coronas with lime). But for now, I’m off to find all of those Chipotle recipes to use up the rest of the can! I’m pretty sure I have a grilled corn with chipotle mayonnaise, but lets see what other latino gems I can unearth.


* I am never sure if its Chip-pot-lay or Chip-pottle (as in bottle). I will have to check with my friend who speaks Spanish.  Although she still might be laughing from when I ordered the Jamon (hard J)  croquets rather than the “hamon”.


  1. Oh it looks so yummy!! Extra spewing we missed it now! And after all that hard work! We'll make it up to you!! x

  2. Don't worry! I'm making grilled corn with chipotle mayo this weekend, and you haven't tried the queso fundido so we will have a big tapas feast soon x