My Favourite Salsa

When I was learning how to cook, back in 2004, I was in France as a Mexican Exchange student, and after four months I started  craving some Mexican food. My cooking knowledge wasn´t great but I knew how to mix some ingredients and just went for it.

Because, you  know, even after a couple of hours away from the country Mexicans start to crave salsa and tamales

Because, you know, even after a couple of hours away from the country Mexicans start to crave salsa and tamales

So I bought fresh tomatoes, onions and some “Indian” Chilies, you know, France. I came back to the dorms and started cooking, suddenly I realized I´ve made something that slightly resembled Mexican food, I was so excited I literally ran down the hall with a spoon full of that salsa just to give everybody a wee try. I know, not really that hygienic, but I was thrilled I´ve made something edible.

My first salsa is super easy to make, and it will not disappoint:

 

Ingredients:choppedonions

  • 1 big ass onion
  • 3 fresh tomatoes
  • 3 chilies (serranos, or Indian chilies will do)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 spoons of canola oil

 

First, heat a medium size pot, pour the oil, and place inside the onion, sliced, let it cook. You will notice that the onion will sizzle and then start to caramelize, don´t add any salt yet. Then put in the chopped chilies and chopped garlic, let them integrate with the onions, open your windows if you are not used to this type of cooking, as the smell will make you cough and sneeze, true story.

SerranosRipe Tomatoes on White with Clipping Path

When you notice that everything is well cooked, add the tomatoes, diced; the juices of the tomatoes will put all the flavours together. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste, and half a cup of water. Let it simmer, the salsa isn´t supposed to be runny, you want it thick and with a curry-ish like texture.

I used to put this salsa on nachos or cous-cous, goes amazing with grilled fish and pork, aye, lots of pork.

Ps.  Non related to this culinary post, I do highly recommend this recent article posted on The Economist, titled: “The Feds Ride Out”, which talks about the Mexican government launching this new police force rather than improving the current crime-fighting forces. As said by some analysts, president Enrique Pena Nieto, seems to lack a national security strategy and keeps on denial that Mexico is under control of criminal forces.

http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21613312-mexico-gets-new-police-force-it-needs-new-policing-strategy-feds-ride-out

Credit to: Peter Schrank

 

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Mexican Satay

This is one my favourite recipes of all, it´s simple, just requires a few ingredients, time, and it goes well with pretty much anything. It must be said that no one taught me how to cook it, I just learnt to make it myself after tasting it throughout my life in its different versions.

That´s right, I´m talking about peanut and dried chillies salsa, or as my Kiwi friends told me once, “Satay”. This recipe was later renamed “Mexican Satay”, for obvious reasons.

 

 
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove chile-de-arbol-pepper-1
  • 2 red tomatoes
  • 4 to 6 dried chillies (known as “chile de arbol”, just look at the pic, bro)
  • Half an onion
  • 1 handful of regular peanuts, unsalted.
  • 4 spoons of canola oil
  • Salt and pepper

Get a good frying pan, put the oil, medium heat, place the onions, now the garlic, wait until the onion sort of sizzles and softens; and you want that garlic a little bit burnt, let the aromas fill your kitchen. Add the peanuts, they will cook really fast, let them brown, now the chillies, you just need to heat them up a little, and as the peanuts, let them brown as well. Finally, add the tomatoes, they must be cut in quarters, you want their juices to deglaze the pan (those sexy sons of bitches juices…).

Oh yeah…. let them drip…

Now the fun part, get that freaking blender of yours, put all the ingredients inside and add maybe half a cup of water, now blend the shit out of it! Remember the salt and the pepper? Well, on the same frying pan, put a spoon of canola oil, salt and pepper, heat it up for a minute and then add the stuff you just blended.

It will be bubbly for a while, lower the flame and let it cook for 5 minutes. Be sure that it has been salted to taste, and serve.

This is what you are looking for… not those droids

This “salsa/satay” goes fantastic as an entrée, with tapas, or just as a regular salsa for your tacos. I once used it to marinate a whole chicken (I know, a whole chicken!), later I put it on the grill, it was delicious!

Ps. Happy non-denominational holidays everyone!

That´s right… now try to get this mental image off your head today

Organic Chicken is Good Chicken

I might not believe in vegetarianism, (hey! I just don’t, so bugger off) but I do believe in the benefits of consuming organic products. But instead of me ranting about these benefits, let me just wikipedia you:

“Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved…” —International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements[4]
At work we were given a whole organic chicken from Valle Organico , this company is producing and distributing their organic products in Mexico, so, let’s cook with what was given from this great place and see how it goes.  I learnt this recipe in New Zealand. Roasted chicken with kumaras and potatos, with roasted yellow paprika and fresh cherry tomatoes salad.

Ingredients for the roasted chicken:

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

  • 1 whole organic chicken
  • 1 good size golden kumara cut in big pieces (sweet potato)
  • 2 medium size potatoes cut in big pieces
  • 1 white onion cut in quarters
  • 1/2 a lime
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Fresh basil
  • 4 good size spring onions
  • Spice mix made of: pepper, salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, herbs de provence, grounded nutmeg.
  • Extra virgin olive oil

First, get the chicken out of the package, rinse it with water until it is clean. Make sure that your chicken looks and smells right, regardless of the fact that is organic or not. Remember the lime, garlic and basil? Well, put them inside the chicken with a quarter of an onion, trust me, it will give your meat an awesome citrus scent and taste.

Well, look at you...

Well, look at you…

Now, put that organic carcass on a chopping board and rub it gently with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Done? Good on you, now grab that spice mix and rub it all over the chicken, don’t be shy, the chicken had a good life, so rub it good, cover the skin with those great flavours. Put aside.

Oh wait, preheat the oven to 180°C, nice. Now, place the chicken in the centre of a tray, and arrange the potatoes, kumaras and spring onions and white onions around the chicken. Sprinkle some salt on the veggies, and some olive oil, cover the tray with tin foil and put it in the oven for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes you will notice that it smells freaking awesome, right? Now take the tin foil off and let it properly roast for 30 to 40 minutes.

For the fresh salad:??????????

  • 1 yellow paprika cut in bin pieces
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 of rustically sliced red onion
  • 1 avocado
  • Fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • 10 white button mushrooms

Put the mushrooms, the paprika and the onion in a small baking tray, marinate with olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar, put in the oven for 45 minutes (right beside the chicken). Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves and the avocado in big squares and put them in a salad bowl. When the veggies are nicely roast, get them out of the oven and let them rest for 20 minutes, let them cool down and then mix with the rest of the salad ingredients.

Plate a good portion of the chicken, with the roasted veggies, and put some of that amazing salad on the side. What up?

??????????

I cooked it yesterday and let me tell you something, it does taste different, organic chicken is a great alternative to the other non organic products we consume in a daily basis.

Ps. As a Mexican we usually relate the usage of the oven in the kitchen mostly for baking or when you are preparing a massive feast. Don’t be afraid of using your oven for cooking every day, it reduces the amount of oil that we regularly use for preparing our meals.

Ps2. If you want more information of where you can get this amazing chicken, just visit: http://valleorganico.mx/ they have a lot of fabulous recipes for you.

Hot, Hot Tamales!

I know, if you aren’t Mexican you might be wondering what tamales are. Well tamales are… how do I put it?  Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish  made of corn-based starchy dough, which is steamed in a leaf wrapper after being filled with some traditional dish.

Tamales have been around for 8,000 to 5,o0o years in precolonial American continent. Tamales became one of the most representatives dishes of Mexican culinary tradition and, in my opinion, they are unique. An Australian friend has been nagging me about posting a recipe for tamales, but believe me, it will take at least a 3 pages long post for that.

I sort off learnt how to make tamales this Christmas, at the Perez’s house we aren’t kidding when it comes to making tamales. My mum takes these massive pots (steamers) from the covert, mixes 4 to 6 kilos of tamale dough, cooks 3 to 5 different fillings, prepare the leaves and sets the table to start the assembly line. We are able to make from 100 to 200 tamales in a couple of hours, then we cook them for 1.5 hours and voila!

There are several types of tamales: wrapped on corn or banana leaves, filled with pork, chicken, pumpkin and dried shrimp, refried beans and cheese, or mole tamales,  you name it. They usually go well with the green salsa I mentioned before. We eat tamales during the most important festivities in Mexico, like the Day of the Dead, Christmas, Independence Day, and February the 2nd.

Beef tamales in wrapped in corn leaf

There are some recipes I found around the internet that sound about right on how to make this traditional dish. There are vegetarian tamales as well, but hey, who has time for that, right? These are easy to follow recipes, so give it a try and go for it, you’ll be the star of the party if you bring tamales!

Ps. Recipe for Pork Tamales here and here 

Ps 2. Tamales with Jalapeños, Cheese, and Corn

Ps3. Recipe for the tamale dough, it is easy to follow and you can add or replace some of the spices in it

Ps4. I might be moving to Mexico City soon, will keep you posted.

Salsa Verde for the Heart

This is a “must learn” recipe if you ever feel like throwing a Mexican dinner night.  The creamy green salsa with avocado is one of the first recipes I learnt. It’s a simple one and it goes fantastic with everything. I’ll give you the hot version, as I know you can handle it if you are already reading this.

Green Creamy Salsa*

Perfection

  • 1 sliced small white onion
  • 4 jalapeños
  • 3 avocados, no skin nor stone
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • The juice of one lime (the green one)
  • Fresh cilantro (a handful will be fine)
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 1 garlic clove

In a hot pan stir fry the sliced onion and the jalapeños with 1/4 cup of canola oil until the onion softens (before it starts browning). When cooked, put them in the blender with the rest of the ingredients, that’s it. At this stage only add 1/4 cup of oil, you’ll be adding the rest during the blending process.

I know, this is the greenest post ever

As you mix these ingredients you’ll notice that the avocado, oil, onions, jalapeños and the water start forming this green and delicious creamy salsa. Add salt and pepper to taste, and water or oil for texture (use the blender), et voila, fiesta!

Now you have a beautiful creamy salsa ideal for tacos or tamales, and a refreshing smooth option on the table for those willing to experience a mildly hot dish. Add some fresh cilantro leaves for presentation.

Ps1. I got some New Zealand news on my local newspaper this week, apparently a guy who got the right to jog naked is the most important thing coming from this great country with plenty of great stories to share with the world.

Ps2. I don’t think that the European Community was strong and clear enough to show Israel their discontent.

* Oh, there’s another version for this salsa which includes green tomatoes (Tomatillos), if you happen to find them, well, add them to the recipe (3 or 4 previously boiled). This variety of tomatoes are very hard to find outside Mexico.

A Binder Full of Crackling

Marry me…

Mini enchiladas, pork crackling, guacamole, seafood spicy broth, dried shrimps, chilli-coated grasshoppers, pico de gallo, green or red salsas, ceviche  or refried beans (Wow, the best opening on any of my posts so far); all these can be found in a botanero. “Botanero” means the place where appetizers (or entrees) are served, something in between a cantina and a restaurant.

In places like my hometown, for every round you order you get one entrée, the more rounds the better the botana. In other places, you just order to the centre of the table and go for it. This type of service was inherited from the Spanish colony, you know them as  Spanish tapas (cured ham, patatas bravas, chipiroles, Spanish tortilla, etc).

Remember to leave the stones in it

La botana is an essential part of Mexican culture, as our ‘get togethers’  and family reunions are events that have food as their basic and most important element. At the kitchen, around the grill or by the oven is where the actual conversations take place, where the gossips are told and the family bonding strengthen.

Peruvians claim this is theirs… nonsense

If you want to have a real Mexican experience, get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich, just kidding, get in the kitchen and listen, smell and taste the flavours that are being created there. While the main dish is prepared, the botanas are served, and with them, stories, anecdotes and juicy information (that will never be shared on the main table).

Ps1. I don’t own the rights of any of the pictures posted here, just saying.

Ps2. The leader of the Mexican Teachers Union (SNTE) Elba Esther Gordillo (If ugly had a face, it will be hers) said that the reason of the deterioration of the individual and Mexican society is due to a (new) shared responsibility for the family income of the mother and her abandonment of the house to go to work. Oh well.

Ps3. This “Binders full of women” thing is funny as hell, just remember, that’s not the most important part of the presidential debate. Neither the ability of Obama of reminding the audience, the Republican Candidate and himself that he is the President. He got his balls back, but still needs to “finish him” on the next debate.

Guadalajara and Tortas Ahogadas

I finally arrived to my beloved Mexico, and what a better place to visit first than Guadalajara. Located five hours to the west of Mexico City, it’s the second largest city in the country.  “Guanatos”, full of historical structures, amazing cuisine and friendly people, it’s a must-do when visiting Mexico.

When I got off the plane I was expecting an abrasive heat, due to being used to the North of Mexico’s weather before going to New Zealand; instead, a lovely 25 Celsius and a refreshing breeze welcomed me. Guadalajara is located in the state of Jalisco; for further reference, the municipality of Tequila is located in the same state. That’s right, Jalisco is the home of that famous Mexican spirit: Tequila.

The highlight of my trip, besides visiting the historic sites and going to a football match (Mexican most popular sport), was eating two typical dishes: Torta Ahogada and Birria. If you go to Guadalajara and you don’t try tequila from a local distillery, Birria from “El Chololo” and a torta ahogada, well, you didn’t really visit this Western Pearl.

Torta ahogada, as described in the link, is basically a birote bread (kind of hard and crunchy) filled with pork meat and submerged in a spicy red sauce (with a ‘just tomato’ sauce if you aren’t into spicy food). Maybe Tovin Lapan, from the University of Michigan could explain better the essence of this unforgettable dish in his article: “Ode to the Torta Ahogada“. Everybody has his/her favourite spot where to get the Torta Ahogada, I ate it at the “Las Famosas” at the city centre, and it was amazing, the combination of bread, pork, sauce and onions is a full on experience. If you are planning a trip to Mexico, give Guadalajara a chance and spend a long weekend there, you wont regret it.

Ps. Same sex marriage shouldn’t be an issue; this right should be granted to those who wish to engage in a long term commitment legalized by their government and tolerated by their con-nationals, period.

Ps2. I’m feeling much better, if you were wondering. Moctezuma’s revenge was awful, and I’m a little hesitant to over indulge myself with pork fat, hot sauces and seafood… at least for now.

Eating and Dancing Mexican

Sounds weird doesn’t it? I know, when I meant “eating Mexican” I meant “eating Mexican food”. So, for all of you looking for a sexual innuendo in my words: well done. Anyway, the point is, people ask me what’s the difference between Mexican spicy and Indian spicy, for example. Well, I think it is like comparing eating Mexican food to dancing with a Mexican.

At first, you are just there, waiting for your meal, something average like enchiladas. At first you see the dish and it looks fine, it looks harmless, right? Now imagine you are at the club, and you see this Mexican guy inviting you for a dance, “Hola señorita, fancy dancing?”, he’ll say. You look at him and think to yourself: “oh well, he looks fine, he is short but cute, harmless, right?”, but, is he really?

Just like Mexican food, dancing with a Mexican is a matter of going with the flow. At first he reaches for your hand and takes you to the dance floor. The same way you reach for salsa with that crispy nacho.

As soon as he grabs you by the waist (the Mexican guy, not the enchilada) you are feeling a tangling sensation going through your body. You don’t get it at first, but the room feels warmer, your cheeks blush, your pupils widen, and your heart… oh your heart, it’ll be pounding with desire. The same when you have Mexican spicy, it’s just there, hanging out in your mouth, then chemical reactions begin to occur and your body prepares for a domino effect beyond its comprehension.

“Oh yeah… you are next my loverrrr”

The tiny Mexican spins you around, gracefully touches your hips, whispers “corazon” while turning you right and left in the middle of the song, holds your body closer to his. You begin to sweat, to transpire desire (please read this with a strong Mexican accent, c’mon, I know you can), you want this sensations to stop, but you hope they never end. It becomes addictive, you want more, but you don’t know if you can handle it.

The same with Mexican food, you keep on munching, it seems harmless, tiny chilli seeds can be seen in the mix, but you don’t mind. You think you can handle it. The heat rises, your sight goes blurry, you need some air, some refreshments, but it’s to late, the chain reaction has began.

The song keeps on playing the bodies keep on touching, perspiration finds no rest, and the way he handles your horizontal desires are always in a refine vertical way. The melody ends, he lets you go, whispers “gracias señorita” and walks away. There you are, hanging there, all turned on, sweaty and built up. The same with Mexican food, you look at the cause of this reaction, and can’t understand how a little taste of Mexican spiced up your night.

Ps: Enchiladas are soft tortilla tacos filled with meat, chicken, cheese or beans, covered with red or green sauce, crowned with melted cheese.

Ps2. I just realized this is still a much better story than Twilight and grammatically better written than 50 Shades of Grey

Ps3. It is said that what happened in Russia could have been a lot worse, except that most of the meteorite was deflected back into space by Putin, who was casually riding his bear around the area when that happened.