Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Better late than never – my Mexican meal

Firstly I must apologise for the humongous delay in this post. Can you believe that it was over a month ago that I declared Mexican the winner of the recent poll? A month.  That’s just bad. I have been busy, but blah blah, taking a month to get on with posting something requested by you guys is bang out of order.

So I apologise. I’m sorry. On with the post….

Mexican isn’t my top cuisine, so I was surprised when it won the poll. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but I did think Japanese or Indian would win. However, Mexican seems to be on the up in Sheffield. Both Amigos Mexican Kitchen and Street Food Chef have relatively recently come to town and both seem to be doing well. 

I only have one Mexican cook book. It’s ‘Mexican – healthy ways with a favourite cuisine’ by Jane Milton. I have the 2001 edition and it’s done me well over the years so it was my port of call for this feast. All recipes used serve 6 very comfortably. Also note that all chillies used, bar the chipotles in the main, were just bog-standard mixed chillies from the supermarket.

Pre-dinner nibbles - Pepitas

First up were pepitas. These are a fantastic pumpkin seed snack; perfect with drinks. Everyone I know who has tried these loved them so they had to be included on this menu. 

They need to be cooked just before serving, which is fine as they are quick and easy to prepare.


130g pumpkin seeds
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp crushed dried chillies
1 tsp caster sugar
half a lime

I heated up a frying pan and dry fried the pumpkin seeds, stirring continuously so they didn’t burn. Once they had all swollen, which will take less than 5 minutes if the pan is hot enough, I added the garlic and cooked for a couple of minutes, stirring again. Then I mixed in the salt and the chilli flakes. I turned off the heat and stirred in the sugar. Once the sugar was mixed in, I squeezed the juice of half a lime over the seeds and served.

Mmmmmm! The pumpkin seeds are nice and crunchy and the chilli and garlic comes through well. Just make sure you have plenty of drinks on hand for your guests as they can be a bit spicy for some!

Starter – nachos and dips

Wanting to get a variety of Mexican flavourings in one go, I decided to serve nachos and dips for the starter. Of course I could have made my own nachos, but that really does sound like too much hard work. So shop bought nachos sufficed and I served them up with guacamole, salsa and chillies in cheese sauce.

Nachos and Dips


4 tomatoes
4 ripe avocados
1 lime
½ small onion
2 garlic cloves
small bunch of fresh coriander
3 fresh red chillies

I used a slightly different method to that in the book as I used the food processor to chop and mix everything. I also didn’t bother with peeling the tomatoes – life is far too short for peeling tomatoes! So first up I removed the seeds from the chillies, although you could leave them in if you prefer, and added them to the food processor. Next in was the peeled half onion, the garlic cloves, the avocado flesh (keep the stones) and the coriander (leaves and stalks). I blitzed until well mixed, but still a bit chunky and not sloppy. I then halved the tomatoes, scooped the seeds out and added the flesh to the processor, squeezed in the juice of a lime and blitzed again.  

To serve I placed a couple of the avocado stones in a bowl and then spooned the guacamole on top. Keeping the stones in with the mix is supposed to help prevent it from browning. I’m not sure how well this works, but mine did stay nice and green. Just remember to remove them before serving. I didn’t and one guest shot a stone flying from the table. Embarrassed, she was keen to get scrubbing the avocado from the carpet! 

The guacamole itself was good, nice and creamy and flavoured with the coriander and chillies. It’s very fresh tasting and also really healthy. I was a bit unsure of how well some of my guests would cope with chillies which is why I only used 3, but I think it could have done with a couple more.



3 fresh green chillies (you could use more!)
1 large white onion
juice of 2 limes
8 tomatoes
large bunch of fresh coriander
¼ tsp caster sugar

This recipe calls for the blistering and peeling of the skin from the chillies and also the peeling of tomatoes. I didn’t do either; never have and never will. The food processor also came in handy again and I blitzed all the ingredients bar the lime juice, sugar and tomatoes in the processor. The mixture was pretty wet at this stage so I left it draining in a sieve for about half an hour. I then tipped it into a bowl and added the lime juice and stirred in. It was then ready to serve.

This is another light, fresh and healthy dish. Again you can adjust the heat levels with the number of chillies you use.  y book also suggests the use of chipotle chillies for a smoky flavour which I may well try in the future.

Chillies in Cheese Sauce

Chillies in cheese sauce

4 fresh green chillies
½ red onion
500g grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbsp crème fraiche
150 mls double cream
2 tomatoes, halved and de-seeded

The recipe in the book also calls for tequila, but I didn’t have any. If you do want to use it, you’ll need 1 tbsp to stir in right at the end. Once again, the recipe also calls for peeling tomatoes and chillies, which was not done! I also used a slightly different method from that in the book.

I chopped up the onion and fried it in a bit of olive oil. As I wasn’t peeling the chillies I wanted to soften these too, so after de-seeding and slicing into strips, I added them to the pan. Once the onion and chillies had softened I removed the chillies and added the cheese, the crème fraiche and the cream. I stirred until it formed a sauce consistency. At this point I removed the sauce from the heat and poured it into a bowl to be re-heated later. This was a bit of a mistake as it took AGES to re-heat again and I had to add more cream to encourage the sauce like consistency. Once warmed through I chopped the tomato flesh roughly and stirred it into the sauce along with the softened strips of chilli.

This went down a treat! Cheese is always a winner in my house and it was gently flavoured with the chillies. It was heavy and rich but perfect along side the fresh guacamole and salsa.

Main – Chicken with Chipotle Sauce

Chicken in chipotle sauce
6 chipotle chillies
about 200 mls chicken stock
3 white onions, sliced
6 skinless chicken breast
salt and pepper for seasoning


To make the chipotle sauce I soaked the chillies in hot water for half an hour. I then chopped the stalks off the chillies and de-seeded them. You must then keep the water used for soaking and add enough chicken stock to it to make it up to 400 mls. Pour this liquid into a food processor, add the chillies and blitz until smooth. You could then refrigerate this to be used later, as I did.

Time to start cooking and I fried the onions with a little olive oil in a casserole dish. Once softened, I seasoned the onions, added the chicken and poured over the sauce. It then sat happily in the oven for an hour, at which point I turned the oven down to about 100C to keep warm whilst we ate our starters.

This was gorgeous. I’d never cooked with chipotles before, but I’m sure that I will do more with them now!  They smell lovely, all smoky and warming. The dish was hotter than I thought it would be too; not too hot, but there’s a nice bit of heat there. I served it up with some bread and a salad of watercress, rocket, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and sweet corn. The bread was needed for the juices and the salad was light and refreshing against the smoky sauce. After the starter, I wanted to keep the main relatively light hence just serving the chicken with bread, but rice would work really well too.

Dessert – Tres Leches cake

For dessert I strayed away from the book and choose to do tre leches. I’d never even heard of it before, never mind tasted it, so it seemed like a good challenge and one to share on the blog. The recipe is from the All Recipes website.

Tres leches

Tres leches
200g caster sugar
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
80 mls milk
1tsp vanilla extract
125g white flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 14oz can of condensed milk
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
475 mls whipping cream


Firstly I buttered and floured a 9 inch cake tin, well I say tin, I’ve invested in those magical silicone ‘tins’ which are fab. I then beat the egg yolks with 150g sugar until they doubled in volume. I added the milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder and stirred until well mixed. Next up, using the food processor again, I whisked the egg whites. When soft peaks were forming I added the remaining sugar and continued to whisk until the mixture was firm.

This was then folded into the yolk mixture and everything went into the cake tin. I then baked it for 45 minutes. On taking it out of the oven it was enormous! Kinda like a soufflé, it had risen well. I wish I’d taken a picture as it soon sunk a bit as it sat cooling. 

Once cool I placed the cake on a plate and used a skewer to poke many holes into the surface of the cake.  I then mixed together the condensed milk, the evaporated milk and 60mls of the whipping cream. This is where the recipe falls down as you then need to discard 225 mls of the liquid mixture.  Of course, the quantities of the ingredients just need altering, but I’m not a lover of numbers so didn’t fancy that task!

The rest of the liquid was slowly poured over the cake. I did this in stages, allowing the milk mixture to soak into the cake before adding more. I was sceptical that the cake would soak up all the milk, but it did. The trick is to do it slowly and to give yourself, and the cake, enough time to soak it all up before serving.

Once the liquid had soaked up I whisked up the whipping cream, again in the food processor, and used this to ‘decorate’ the cake. I used the term decorate loosely as it looked an absolute mess. It really did.

However, it was delicious. It must be terribly calorific and I did nick-name it the ‘heart attack’, but it went down well with my guests and some had seconds. The sponge was moist but not soggy and it was rich with creamy goodness. It's something I will definitely do again. A word of warning though – this cake will not feed 8 as the recipe suggests – it will serve 12-16 as it is HUGE!
So that was my Mexican feast. I was pleased to have the chance to try a few new things and everything came out as I wanted. My guests enjoyed too and left feeling quite stuffed!

So, what’s your favourite Mexican food?  Any good recipes to share?  Are you going to give any of these a go?


  1. Hi Clare,

    you probably know this already, but since you didn't peel your tomatoes, a quick and easy way to do it, is to cut a cross on the bottoms, then submerge them in freshly boiled water for a couple of minutes. Then rinse them in cold water. The skins will have loosened and shrivelled just enough for you to remove them with your fingers.

    I don't know if this works with chillis.

  2. Hi Neil - that's how I've done them in the past but I still find it an effort. Lazy I know, but I haven't peeled a tomato for about 7 years!!

    As for chillies I'd have to treat them like peppers and roast/char grill them to blister their skin and then put in a plastic bag for 10 mins or so then peel them.

    Again, I just haven't got the motivation to do it!

  3. The dessert looks fantastic! You have inspired me to make one.

    To continue with the tomato peeling debate, Richard and I disagree on this (and as we work in a kitchen together, it can get interesting!) - I cross the bottoms and put them in the oven for 15 mins, almost roasting them and then peel. I maintain that removing the skin improves the texture and taste. Richard thinks it is a waste of time, so it all goes in. The result is that our Salsa Picante (my creation) has no skins and Pico de Gallo (his) has skins. Who says we can't compromise in the kitchen?

    Abi, The Street Food Chef

  4. Abi - thanks for the comment. Interesting to see different views on the peeling of tomatoes!!

    I do hope you try the tre leches. It was delicious - let me know how yours turns out.

  5. The chicken looks yummy, so will be giving this a try! Where did you get the chipotle chillies from?
    I have bought the book you linked on Amazon, thanks looking forward to trying more Mexican food! It is a Country whose food I too have neglected apart from Chilli Con Carne!

  6. Nice looking feast you got there Clare!
    That cheese dip sounds awesome and I've always wondered how you make it. Now i know! Thanks!

  7. Sarah - I got mine from Aldi of all places - they were on one of the special buy deals that they do. That was at least 6 months ago. Waitrose sell a chipotle paste (Discovery) for £6.50, which is expensive. Maybe ordering them online will be a better option - I'll keep an eye out for them in Sheffield and let you know if I find any closer to home!

    Komal - the cheese sauce went down very well! I made gallons, but it was quickly consumed. It's a nice easy recipe - question is - will you be peeling your tomatoes and chillies?!

  8. Thanks Clare, found some on eBay seemed a good price with a 10% weekend discount and some interesting named products in their shop!
    South Devon Chilli Farm is good though, we usually pay them a visit when we are down that way. Their chilli chocolate range is fab!!

  9. Cheers for the link to the ebay shop - some interesting stuff on there. There must be somewhere stocking them in Sheffield though... I'll keep searching!

  10. I could not have read this at a better time; am having people over for a mexican tamale fest tomorrow night. Am loving the pepita trick- think will steal that for starters! My latest trick is to make a whole lot of chipotle puree at once (soaking then blitzing them) and then freezing the rest in ice cubes. That way I can always boost a sauce if I need to.

  11. Gret tip re the chipotle sauce Tori - thanks. Hope you enjoy the pepitas... I love forward to reading your blogpost re your feast!

  12. "As for chillies I'd have to treat them like peppers and roast/char grill them to blister their skin and then put in a plastic bag for 10 mins or so then peel them."

    Ah, just like you do with peppers. I see. I've literally never had the need to peel chillis.

  13. Neil - lucky you! It's a right pain in the bum!

  14. Yay my book arrived today, what a fab read! And as I married such a practical chap he is going to make me a Tortilla Press! See YouTube below.
    All I need now is some Masa Harina flour. Anyone seen this in Sheffield recently?

  15. Sarah - Your book? Is that in addition to the email copy? Can't believe your husband is gonna make a tortilla press - must get onto mine to do the same!!!

  16. The Mexican book you blogged on here, I used your link and got it for 1p + postage!
    I will report back when my press is made, and should I find the flour!