food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘mexican food


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Hanger steak is a cut of beef (from the lower belly of a steer or heifer) prized for its flavour and tenderness. In the past it was sometimes known as butcher’s steak because butchers would keep it for themselves. In Mexico it’s known as Arrachera and is generally marinated, grilled and served with a squeeze of lime juice, accompanied by guacamole, salsa and tortillas.

For 1½ kilos (3 lbs) of hanger steak whisk together 3 tablespoons of finely chopped garlic, 3 tablespoons of corn oil, ½ a cup of tequila, ¼ of a cup fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon of coarse salt, ½ a tablespoon of ground cumin and ½ a tablespoon ground black pepper. Place the steak in the marinade and leave for 1 hour (or up to 24 in the fridge), turning often. When you’re ready to cook the steak heat a heavy (peferably cast iron) pan or griddle until very hot. Cook the steak for 2-4 minutes a side depending how you like your steak. Serve sliced and garnished with coriander (cilantro).

* this marinade recipe comes from Galley Wench on


Written by michelle picker

August 1, 2017 at 5:44 am


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The history of flan begins with the ancient Romans who spread their culinary traditions throughout Europe. Originally a savoury dish, it became popular as a sweet dish of slowly cooked custard with caramelised sugar. Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America brought flan with it and nearly all of Central and South America loves flan in one form or another. It has become particularly associated with Mexico where it is an absolute classic. This rather more modern recipe comes from a Mexican family member.


Blend 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 4 eggs. Allow this mixture to rest. In the pan in which you will cook the flan, put 8 tablespoons of sugar and heat carefully to make a caramel. Allow the caramel to cool then pour the milk mixture over it. Cover the pan with foil and place it in a large baking tray in the oven. Pour boiling water around the flan dish at least half-way up the sides and bake in a moderate oven until the custard is set. If you have a pressure cooker, place the covered flan on a trivet with some water below and cook at pressure for 20 minutes. Chill before turning out and serving.

Written by michelle picker

January 17, 2017 at 5:48 am

blue corn tamales

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Tamales originated as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. The Aztec and Mayan civilisations, as well as the Olmec and Toltec before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travellers. Tamales are generally wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves before being steamed. In Mexico they are a favourite comfort food, eaten as both breakfast and dinner. Tamales exist in various forms throughout Central and South America and even in the Phillipines and Guam, once Spanish provinces of Mexico. They also made their way to Spain with the Conquistadors who took them there as proof of civilisation. This recipe is adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe and even though I had no corn husks and had to make do with baking paper, the result was excellent.


To make these tamales you will first need some blue corn masa. For 6 tamales combine 1½ cups of blue corn masa with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk. In a large bowl or stand mixer whisk 250g (9 oz) of butter with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Incorporate the masa mixture into the butter 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking to keep the mixture light. Fold in 1 cup of cooked corn kernels, 1 diced chorizo and ½ a cup of chopped coriander (cilantro) until well combined. Divide the mixture between 6 corn husks, or baking paper. Roll the tamales and tie the ends. Steam them for 30 minutes and serve with a fresh salad and some refried black beans. For this salad I first pickled a finely sliced red onion and 2 green chillies. In a small saucepan combine ½ a cup each of white vinegar, water and sugar and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the onion and chillies and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Heat some oil in a small frypan and add ¼ of a cup of pepita (pumpkin) seeds, some smoky paprika and some salt. Fry until they just begin to colour and remove them to a plate. To assemble the salad lay out rows of tomato and avocado wedges. Spread the pickled onion over the top and garnish with the pepita seeds.


To make refried beans, 1 cup of beans and 4 cups of water will produce 2½ cups of cooked beans. If you remember, you can soak them overnight but a quicker method is to boil them for 4 minutes and then soak them for 1 hour. Next they need to be cooked for 45-60 minutes (or 10 minutes in a pressure cooker) until tender. Drain, retaining the liquid, and set aside. In a saucepan, heat a generous amount of vegetable oil and sauté 1 finely diced onion and 1-2 cloves of garlic until translucent. Add any or all of the following dry herbs and spices to your taste: cumin, oregano, chilli, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper. Add the beans and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Now add some of the liquid and salt to taste.


Written by michelle picker

August 14, 2016 at 5:49 am


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These juicy Mexican beef and pork albondigas (meatballs) are enhanced by a smoky and fiery chipotle sauce.


For the chipotle sauce put 1 litre (35 fl oz) of tomato passata (sauce) into a saucepan with ½ a cup of canned chipotles in adobo sauce (available from Mexican food stores), 2 teaspoons of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of dried oregano, 30g (1 oz) of unsweetened chopped chocolate and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and place over high heat until the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, being sure to stir every 10 to 15 minutes so it doesn’t burn. Meanwhile to make the meatballs preheat your oven to 205ºC (400ºF). In a large mixing bowl combine 1kg (2¼lbs) of mince making sure to break it into smaller pieces. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup of plain bread crumbs, 1½ tablespoons of minced garlic, 1 small minced onion, 1½ tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro), 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 1½ teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, ¼ of a teaspoon of ground allspice and ½ a teaspoon of ground coriander. Mix until all the ingredients are well blended but don’t overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be mealy. Form into walnut-sized balls and place them closely together on a baking tray. Cook in the top half of the oven for about 10 minutes, until just firm to the touch. Drop them into the chipotle sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with tortillas or rice and any of the usual Mexican accompaniments: black beans, salsa, avocados, pickled onions, cheese.

Written by michelle picker

June 9, 2016 at 5:44 am

fish tacos

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The Mexican state of Baja California lies just south of California USA, hence this fusion of cuisines. These Baja-style fish tacos are a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. These ones were made with Coral Perch (a.k.a. ocean perch, coral cod, rock perch or sea perch), a delicate white-fleshed fish.


You will need tortillas for this recipe and the best ones are definitely freshly made. See how to make them here. Thinly slice a large red onion and place it in a bowl. In a small saucepan heat ½ a cup of white vinegar, ½ a cup of water, ½ of a cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring this mixture to boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the mixture over the onion and allow it to steep as it cools. Finely shred some cabbage and set aside. Chop or tear some fresh coriander (cilantro) and set aside. Make a spicy dressing using mayonnaise, chillies in adobo sauce (including some sauce) and lemon juice. Cut the fresh fish into strips and dredge them in a mixture of flour, salt, freshly ground black pepper and smoky paprika. Although Baja-style fish is normally deep-fried we opted to shallow fry it until just cooked. To assemble, lay the tortillas down and top with cabbage, fish, pickled onion (drained), coriander and dressing. Enjoy!



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This ceviche, in Mexican/American fusion style, was made with King Dory, a delicate flavoured fish with reasonably firm white flesh. Sole or Flounder could be substituted.


Thinly slice 225gm (½ lb) of the fresh fish of your choice and place in a glass, ceramic or stainless bowl. Pour ¼ of a cup of fresh lime juice over the fish and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile dice some tomatoes of different colours (we had red and green ones), dice 1 avocado, mince 1 fresh chilli (serrano or jalapeño) and slice 2 tablespoons of fresh coriander (cilantro). When the fish has marinated, drain the juices and combine the fish with the prepared ingredients as well as 1 tablespoon of pickling juice from a jar  or can of jalapeño chillies, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and ½ a teaspoon of salt. Toss gently and serve with tostadas (tortilla chips).

Written by michelle picker

April 4, 2016 at 5:25 am

prawns in almond sauce + mexican rice

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Nuts have been used to enrich sauces in Mexican cooking since Pre-Columbian times. Peanuts, or cacahuate, are thought to be indigenous to South America and were widely cultivated in Mexico. Almonds were introduced into the cuisine later, after the Spanish conquest in the 16th Century. This way of cooking prawns (shrimp) is quite simple and absolutely delicious.


Soak 1 dried ancho chilli in boiling water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile finely chop 1 onion and 3 cloves of garlic. Heat some oil in a saucepan and cook the onions and garlic over low heat until soft. Peel 8 fresh tomatoes by cutting a cross in the bottom of each tomato and pouring boiling water over them. After 3 minutes the skin should peel off easily. Dice and add them to the onions. Scrape and discard the seeds in the soaked chilli, chop it roughly and add to the saucepan along with 1 teaspoon of ground cumin. Cook for 10 minutes then place in a food processor, add ½ a cup of chicken stock and process until smooth. In a large saucepan combine the sauce with 1 cup of almond meal and ½ a cup of sour cream and stir over low heat for a few minutes. Squeeze in the juice of ½ a lemon and season to taste with salt. Bring to a simmer and add 1 kg (2 lbs) of shrimp, allowing them to cook in the sauce.

Serve the prawns with this Mexican style rice.


Finely dice an onion and cook in a little corn oil until wilted. Add 1½ cups of long-grain rice and heat through, stirring occasionally. Add 3 cups of hot chicken stock, 1 can of drained black beans, 1 cup of corn kernels and salt to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh herbs.

And finally a Mexican vinaigrette for a fresh salad.


Combine 2 parts corn oil with 1 part white wine vinegar. Add some grated garlic, a pinch each of ground allspice (pimento) and ground bay leaf, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, some fresh thyme and salt to taste.