The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Friday, 6 August 2010

La Rosa Mexicana

My trip to Mexico that was scheduled for September has been now cancelled. I admit, this news came with mix feelings: relieved of not having to spend three weeks away from home, annoyed as other trips had been organised around this one, and disappointed as I could have taken advantage of this time and gone to Tulum. Never mind.

So, I thought of sharing with you a couple of healthy, yummy and easy - what else can you ask? -recipes from la coocina Mexicana.
Mexican food is overall not my favourite, despite having been there seven times already! I mean, there is nothing wrong in it per se, but I find it reasonably heavy and fatty (grasosa) which after a while doesn't agree with my body. And the amount of chilli they can put on it...WOAAH...your stomach can burn for hours! So always ask for "poco picante por favor"! and as they see you are a foreigner, they might have pity on you and spare you from their flames.

Everywhere you go is a real explosion of colours, smells, and noises (probably this sounds a bit like a Lonely Planet description - I should then add also cheerful!). Besides the evil chillies, which in any case I can tolerate if taken in small doses, Mexico is probably one of my favourite countries. And it is a shame that most tourists head directly to Yucatan forgetting about everything else. Don't! Puebla, Oaxaca (pronounced Huaaca), Taxco etc. etc. are FANTASTIC places and if you don't stop there you will burn in the chilly flames for the rest of your life...

I had the best guacamole (and yes you do have to pronounce the final e without turning the word into some sort of skin abnormality - tip: replace the ending e with an a and you'll have the perfect pronounciation!) in a restaurant in Condesa, one of the best neighbourhoods of Mexico City, or D.F. as locals call it, as it is very leafy and embellished with Liberty style houses.

The trick for the guacamole is to have really ripen avocados and use a mortar and sqush all the ingredients by hand. If you, like me, end up buying hard rock avocados (because they are cheaper...), I would suggest that you leave them in a brown bag and in a warm place. It will take them a couple of days to soften up (and not simply overnight as many websites seem to say). So what do you need for the best ever guacamole?

For 4 people


> 2 avocados; half white onion (please don't use a red onion or everything will turn purple...unless you like playing with colours!); juice of half a lemon; 5-6 mature vine tomatoes; salt & pepper


> Chop very finely the onion, and chop into half or quarters the tomatoes. Set aside.

> Peel and remove the stone from the avocados; squash them roughly in a mortar and then add the rest of the ingredients. Salt & pepper at your teste.

> Don't leave the guacamole in the fridge (maximum for 20 minutes) as otherwise everything becomes mushy. The fresher it is and the better!

I did say it was really really easy!

Crab Tortilla with green mole

If you feel in the mood of cooking more Mexican food, I also recommend this fabulous variation of the typical tortilla - which is with seafood rather than with meat (is crab seafood?)

For 4 people

> For the filling: 400g crab meat; 150g fresh cheddar cheese (as you probably cannot find Mexican cheese, and the one you need here is a slightly tasteless one); a knob of butter; a small shot glass of tequila (perhaps the one you are also using to make your Margarita while you're cooking...); crème fraiche;

> For the mole: 2 dried chillies; 1 white onion; 2 handful of fresh coriander; 4-5 garlic cloves; 2 green peppers; tomatillos (or green tomatoes); Romain lettuce; salt & pepper.

> 4 wheat tortilla; cheddar cheese; few handfuls of coriander; fresh and very mature red vine tomatoes.


> In a pan cook quickly and on vivid flames the crab meat with the tequila and the butter - the tequila will evaporate and be absorbed by the meat. Set aside.

> Make the mole (remember the pronunciation I taught you before...and yes! there is some link between the two names, in fact mole means concoction and so guacamole means "avocado concoction"!). In a mixer, blend all the mole ingredients. Add coriander or peppers according to the taste. If you find the green chilies, even better! Set aside for a few hours.

> Pan fry with little oil or butter each tortilla to make it reasonably warm.

> Place on half of each tortilla the mix of crab meat, creme fraiche, cheese, salt & pepper, and a touch of extra coriander. Fold the other half of the tortilla and make sure the ingredients mix together and the cheese melts. Roll the tortilla into cigars.

> Serve the tortilla with a generous spoonful of the green mole, a touch of extra cheese, a few chopped tomatoes, and chopped coriander as a final topping.

I thought I would spare a couple of words on Condesa, one of the neighbourhoods of D.F.

It is true that it can be easy to lose yourself in it because of its long and curvy roads (but that could be a pleaseure in itself) but the discoveries you make at every corner are surely rewarding! Its many Art Deco houses all differ from each other and give a sense of past chic and quite elegance. I love particularly a house with a flat roof and on top a white giant perching over the balcony and glancing at the road as if it were policing the area and protecting the household.
Once you are tired of aimlessly ambling around, you can rest at one of the many cafes or restaurants.

If you want to complete your Mexican experience, I would recommend a recent novel which gives a really good depiction of the country during the 30's and helps understand the political and social background of today's Mexico.

There is also a film based on the book, which I must, is very faithful to it. The title in Spanish is "Arrancame la Vida" which has been translated as "Tear this Heart Out" - the original title refers to the entire life rather than only to the the main character's is completely bouleverse' by the encounter of the two leading men.

Also the film is shot, as the book requires, in DF and Puebla - a town 2 hours away where you can find the best talavera (the Mexican tiles and painted pottery). So if you want some preview of the places, watch it! It is seriously gripping.

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