At the end of October it is Halloween, celebrated in Mexico as the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos. If like me, you are a fan of Mexican food, this is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your Mexican cooking skills, while trying out a few Latin American wines. Make a Halloween party of it, paint the kids’ faces like skulls, and get out your most colourful tableware.
What we often think of as Mexican food in the UK is in fact Tex-Mex. Dominated by beans, cheese and baked dishes such as enchilladas, Tex-Mex is heavier than the regional cuisine of Mexico which, depending on where it comes from, is varied and lighter. By the coast you will eat fish tacos and wonderful seafood, but elsewhere there are different influences. In the Mexican food destination town of Oaxaca, they make moles of different tastes and colours: red, green, yellow, brown – including chocolate mole. Mexicans use chocolate, a new world discovery like chilli, potatoes and tobacco, in savoury dishes. Mole means sauce but it derives from the ancient word for ‘mix’.
I’ve been dutifully tasting (sometimes guzzling) on your behalf (dirty job but someone’s gotta do it) WineTrust’s Latin American wines and have been duly impressed. These wines deliver big flavours and heavy weight varieties, which match beautifully with the singular ingredients of Mexican cooking.
2014 Casas del Bosque Blanc Reserva £8.75 Casas del bosque is a Chilean winery run by a Kiwi, Grant Phelps. This guy knows his stuff, the wines are superb.
2013 Casas del Bosque Chardonnay £9.95p …oh la la, I bloody loved this. I’m not ashamed to like an oaky chardonnay, however 80s or unfashionable it may be considered by wine experts. This was also really good value for just under a tenner for this quality.
2014 Amalaya, Torrontes-Riesling: £8.95p from Argentina. Quite acidic and dry, good with spicy foods, stands up to chilli and curry.
2014 Calbuco Merlot £8.95 Another Chilean wine that merits a sip or two or more. Easy to drink on its own or with food, creamy and lighter bodied.
2014 La flor Malbec Pulenta £9.95 from Argentina. Balanced wine, not too heavy, not too light, from organic grapes. Perfect though with big flavours.
2011 Kadil Cabernet Sauvignon currently on sale, £11.95 down from £15. From Chile but also possessing an old world Bordeaux classicism. This is a wine that would also go with Tex-Mex cuisine, refried beans and cheese and enchiladas.
2012 Casas del Bosque Syrah Gran Reserva £12.95 A little more expensive but anything from this winemaker is worth trying, he has a subtle take on oakiness that isn’t too overwhelming. In terms of Mexican food, this would be lovely with a chocolate mole dish.
2011 Gran Cabernet Franc XI Pulenta Estate £25.00 A powerful wine from Argentina, worth the price, tasting of forest fruits, perfumed woods and fragrant spice. Delicious.
Pumpkin or squash flower tacos recipe (gluten-free)
This recipe makes three or four tortillas so scale up for how many you want. Remember these are small homemade tortillas not large shop bought ones. It’s best if you have a tortilla press but otherwise you can use a rolling pin.
- 100g cup masa harina, blue or white
- 100ml water
- 3 tbsps of cornflour
- 1 tsp of salt
Mix the masa with the water, cornflour and salt. Form into balls the size of golf balls, the dough should not be too sticky or too dry. If using a tortilla press then use a ziplock plastic bag split in two to press the tortilla ball flat.
If using a rolling pin, the way to get perfect circles is to roll from the centre upwards then do a quarter turn, keep doing this until you have turned the dough all the way around 360º. (This works for pastry too). Try it, it’s easy and kind of magical the way you end up with a circle.
So your finalised tortilla should be about 5mm thick.
Now cook it on a heavyweight flat frying pan on a medium heat until the edges start to lift off when you try to turn it. You will end up turning it twice. Then stack all your tortillas in a non-fluffy tea towel (or a tortilla warmer if you have one) to keep them warm while you are cooking them.
Now to turn the tortillas into tacos you have the choice of a variety of fillings. This is a collaborative meal you can build at the table. You can have a pile of steaming tortillas and put all the toppings in bowls and let people make their own combinations by sprinkling a variety of the following fillings down the centre of each taco. Add a dollop of salsa and chipotle mayonnaise and you are eating like a true Mexican.
- It’s pumpkin season so try using pumpkin slices. Don’t use the large orange Jack O’Lantern pumpkins that the supermarkets mostly stock, these aren’t good eating, being watery and stringy. Try using butternut squash, munchkin pumpkins, acorn squash or any of the more interesting varieties. These are dense, sweet and nutty tasting. You can spice up the pumpkin with a little sweet smoked paprika.
- In this recipe I used slices of munchkin pumpkin, grilled slowly either on a barbecue, under a grill, or placed in the oven at 180ºc for 15 minutes until soft inside.
- You can also use mozzarella strips, torn off a ball of mozzarella.
- I’ve also made fish tacos (recipe here)
- I use finely sliced white cabbage tossed in chipotle mayonnaise (recipe below) which is delicious. Add in some finely shredded carrot, some finely cut red onion strips, a big squeeze of lime juice and you have Mexican ‘slaw.
- Add some avocado slices, or guacamole.
- Add different salsas such as tomatillo salsa or tomato salsa
- Add courgette or squash flowers
- You could also try making chipotle en adobo sauce (recipe at this link) which is a deeply aromatic but not too hot chilli sauce (I’m irritated by the emphasis on heat when it comes to chillies. What I want is flavour and different chillies have very different tastes.). It’s really easy to make I promise.
Recipe for Chipotle mayo:
100ml of mayonnaise
1 ancho, seeds and stem removed, toasted, soaked, finely chopped
1 chipotle chilli en adobe (available here), finely chopped
(Or…you could use a teaspoon of Gran Luchito’s smoked chipotle paste.)
A squeeze of lime
Mix all the ingredients together. Keeps for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. You’ll find you are squirting it on everything! You can buy dried chillies in most supermarkets now or order them online.