Carnitas, Plátano con Chorizo, Papas con Chorizo, Ensaladita de Nopales, Pollo con Mole, Cilantro, Cebolla, Limón, Tacos, Pastelitos con Cajeta, Cervecitas, Vino Tinto, and a selection of Salsas. Not a nacho or a guacamole in sight. We did end the night with a traditional shot of Tequila, but followed it up with a digestif of Kahlúa. My new-found
love “not-hating” of cooking called for a dinner party, and six weeks in the planning I wasn’t going to let a little bit of a cold stop me.
Starting with antojitos – nibbles – of plantain with chorizo with green chili, we spent the morning in the Bull Ring Markets, getting all the exotic ingredients like plantain and tamarind. It’s so lively down there, the stall-holders shouting all at once, music from a Peruvian pan-pipe group while we sit and have a greasy bacon butty. The recipe came from the Thomasina Miers book, took about half an hour and went down really well. Then comes out the wine, and the beers and the yummy main course of Tacos.
So we had little street-size maize tortillas, wrapped in a tea towel with so many fillings to make little traditional tacos. Daniel made slow-roasted carnitas, pulled pork marinated in oranges as the centrepiece, and chorizo with potatoes for the tacos, with bowls of coriander, onion and salsas to sprinkle on top. We did warn everyone that the salsas were going to be spicy, and the Mole was too. Mole is like a chocolate chili paste, that you mix with chicken broth into a sauce and spread over boiled chicken served a cheese and onion topping. I also made a salad that I’d found on the internet – nopales is the Mexican term for Cactus – tossed with radish, tomato and onion. I’m not a big fan of cactus, but we’d found this website, MexGrocer, that stocks it in the UK. I’ve had it in Mexico in smoothies and mixed with cheese but it just doesn’t taste of anything to me, but I wanted to give it another go. And I was pleasantly surprised, with this salad it brought out a little bit of flavour and looked really bright against the radish and tomato.
Now my favourite part of most meals is pudding, I can be stuffed full but still have room in my “separate pudding stomach”. They are called Wedding Cookies in English, Pasteles de Boda in Spanish, little biscuits with walnuts and orange and rum tossed in icing sugar and sandwiched together with Cajeta, like a caramel sauce. Another Thomasina Miers lovely! I’ve put the link to the recipe there. There wasn’t enough for two each because some of them burned but they tasted like Mexico, according to Daniel. I like making these things from scratch, it made me feel all domestic. There’s always that moment though when you’re mixing the flour and sugar and putter together and you think it’s too crumby oh-my-god it’s never going to stick, then ten minutes and one tired mixing arm later it’s actually formed a dough. Then you freeze, and bake and once they are cool stick them together with the cajeta like little sandwiches that look a bit like Mexican scones.
The time you spend after you eat, just chatting and laughing and putting the world to rights is called sobremesa in Mexico, we had tequila of course, in our mish-mash of shot glasses that don’t match – the hardcore among us didn’t bother with the salt and the lime, Daniel just downed his on one! Then our friends had bought Kahlúa, I remember it from putting in cocktails in bars I’d worked in during a previous life at uni but never really knew what it was but now I really think it’s my drink of choice. You don’t have to down it, just sip its sweet coffee taste as a digestif.
So that was our Mexican evening, proof that you can entertain Mexican style without resorting to Old El Paso’s Burrito kits and cheesy Mariachi music you downloaded from iTunes. None of our table matched and we’ve only got three wine glasses, but six hours cooking and cleaning and trying to make sense of the market totally worked!