I felt truly lucky that a few weekends ago, I was able to have some friends come over for a barbecue and we didn't end up eating inside. With that in mind, I had been reading over one of my favorite cookbooks, The Mexican Mama's Kitchen, by Sofia Larrinua-Craxton.
I took a class with Sofia in London at my favorite haunt, Books for Cooks, and I was felt as if I had finally been let in on some of the secrets that Mexican food has always held from me. Firstly, by the time I had my own kitchen to start experimenting in, I was living in London- the land of people who think Tex-Mex is real Mexican food. I swear that I became so desperate for some authentic Mexican cuisine that I nearly cried when I saw Sofia's class turn up on the summer schedule.
She showed us how to make tortillas from scratch and I ran directly from the class across the street to buy two bags of masa de harina. She also made the tastiest Sopa de Tortilla, Salsa Cruda and Coffee Creme Caramel from evaporated milk that I showered my friends and family with little fiestas for months.
The trick to Sofia's salsa was grilling the onions, tomatoes, chillies and garlic before pounding them into a delicious salsa. The difference in taste was incredible.
Guacamole is a staple at my house. I make different batches at least once every two weeks in the summer. Every time it's different. Along with it, I adapted some of Sofia's recipes and my sister, Stacia's, to come up with a Sunday fiesta lunch for six.
Adapted from Sofia Larrinua-Craxton
1 medium red onion, quartered
1 clove of garlic, skin on
4 large ripe red tomatoes
1 red chilli, left whole with stalk removed (keep the seeds in)
a handful of cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
juice of half a lime
Heat a grill pan over high heat. Pierce the skins of your tomatoes and grill with garlic, chilli and red onion until black lines appear on all sides.
Add all of the grilled vegetables to a food processor with the rest of the ingredients and pulse until combined. You can play with the heat of this salsa by adding more chilli or removing the seeds if you'd like it very mild. One chilli makes for a nice level of heat in my opinion, but chilli is really a personal taste!
Adapted from The Mexican Mama's Kitchen by Sofia Larrinua-Craxton
1 lb fresh tomatillos
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1tbsp corn or vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash thoroughly. Halve each and lay on a baking sheet skin side up. Place under a hot broiler or oven grill for about 10 minutes until the skins start to blister.
You'll see them pop and start to blacken. Remove and cool for a few minutes before adding them to your food processor.
In the mean time, add the oil to a pan and over medium heat, saute the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and saute for a further 2 minutes making sure it doesn't brown. Add the onions and garlic to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.
Pulse until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Serves 6 to dip with tortilla chips before dinner and have enough to spread on tortillas during your meal.
4 ripe avocados (I prefer the Hass variety)
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro including stalks, finely chopped
juice of 1-2 limes
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp cumin
I love the earthy flavor of cumin, so I always add it to my guacamole. Peel your avocados and remove the stone. Take a spoon and remove all of the flesh. Combine the avocado and lime juice immediately- I usually use one at the beginning to ensure the avocado doesn't turn brown, and then taste it when it's combined to see if I need any more tangy lime juice.
Again, combine all ingredients with a fork so that the avocado is still chunky, not completely pureed. Test your seasoning at the end.
This is another of my sister, Stacia's, recipe. I had it first when she and her husband, Andy, made it for Cinco de Mayo. I tweaked the rub by using so
me of the Mexican spices I picked up at Dean & Deluca on a trip to NYC. You'll see this is the second flank steak I've posted- it's honestly my favorite meat to grill and you can marinate with practically anything.
2 x 1-1.5 lb flank steak
1 tbsp each of cumin, sea salt, ancho powder and Mexican oregano (if you don't have the oregano or ancho powder, my sister uses garlic powder and red pepper and it's delicious)
1 beer of choice- I use Modelo or Corona
juice of 1 large orange
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 green chili, sliced with seeds
Combine all the spices. Lay the flank steaks flat in a baking dish. Score them diagonally with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub both sides with 1-2 tbsp of the spice mixture. Combine the grapeseed oil, beer, orange and lime juice, garlic and green chili and pour over the steaks. Cover and leave to marinade in the refrigerator 30 minutes - 2 hours.
Cook over hot coals for 4-5 minutes each side for medium rare. Rest 5 minutes under foil and cut diagonally. Serve with salsas, guacamole, peppers, scallions and some sour cream.
Grilled Peppers and Scallions
This isn't really a recipe, more of a method.
The peppers can be done before the fiesta begins. Take 4 peppers- yellow, orange, red or green. Place directly over hot coals and rotate until each side is black and blistered. I've done this many times on my stove top right over the gas flame. It works just as well, but it takes a little longer and has slightly more potential to catch fire. As soon as all sides are charred, put peppers in a bowl and cover immediately with cling film. The steam allows the skins to peel off easily.
I usually leave these about 15-30 minutes so they cool enough for me to be able to handle them. Then I peel off the blackened skins and tear them up lengthwise. They are extremely tasty in the tortilla along with the Carne Asada and grilled scallions.
The scallions can be popped on the grill when the meat is cooking so they're served warm. Turn them over the coals until they are marked with blackened lines on all sides.
For a refreshing dessert after a spicy meal, try both of these recipes.
Stacia's Citrus Salad with Honey & Mint
2 large pink grapefruits
2 large navel oranges
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp mint, chopped
Peel the citrus fruits and remove all of the white pith. Slice into large circles and lay on a platter. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle over the chopped mint.
Maguie's Lime Ice Cream
Adapted from The Mexican Mama's Kitchen, by Sofia Larrinua-Craxton
340g canned evaporated milk
( I used the equivalent of 1% milk and it worked well)
1 1/4 cups of sugar
juice of 3 limes
2 large eggs separated
3 drops of green food coloring
1 drop of yellow food coloring
Put the milk in a large Tupperware bowl, put the lid on and freeze for 1 hour or more until ice crystals form on the surface.
Remove the milk and beat with a hand-held blender until it doubles in size. Add half the sugar and the lime juice and mix together.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with half of the remaining sugar until pale in color. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. With a metal spoon, add the milk, sugar and lime mixture and the beaten egg yolks together. Fold in the egg whites carefully. Add the food coloring and gently mix together.
Transfer to a shallow dish and cover. Freeze for 4-5 hours, until set. I like to do this over night just to make sure I don't serve lime soup.
I like this recipe because it doesn't call for an ice cream maker, something I haven't invested in yet!