So the feast must continue….
In this second, and final, instalment of the Mexican feast I will talk you through cooking the tortillas (the fun sticky part), the filling and the delicious pork which was definitely the show-stopper of the night. But before we get started on these recipes I think we need to make it clear what other components should be present at a Mexican feast. Mine was rather low-key and was hosted at very short notice leaving no time for pinatas, sombreros or maracas but of course these should definitely be on the list if you have time to source them! We stuck to the basics which happened to be chilled coronas with little wedges of lime stuck in the top, fun music and mojitos. But of course the most fundamental necessity is that all of your guests turn up for dinner with hungry bellies because boy oh boy is there a lot of food!
You can’t have Mexican food without these little fellows! It turns out that the European interpretation of Mexican food is all skewed and we think of wraps, tacos and burritos as all being different things, some hard, some soft. But in fact, as Wahaca taught me, they are traditionally all the same thing (just wrapped and served in different ways with typically different fillings). This makes things a lot simpler, it means that there is only one recipe you need to learn!
To make 10 tortillas it says that you will need 250g strong white flour, 4 heaped tbsp of lard, fine sea salt, 500ml warm water and oil for frying, however I ended up making about 16 wraps so I’m sure the quantity depends on size of each one and how it goes. N.B. the recipe book says to use lard and tells you not to chicken out and use butter or oil instead. Apparently using lard will give you the best possible taste and is fine in moderation. I was tentative about using such a gross ingredient but truth be told they did taste fantastic and they are a treat so I think it was justified.
Start off by mixing the flour and lard until you get a paste. Add a pinch of salt. Add half of the water and mix and keep slowly adding the rest until you are left with a nice dough which will then be kneaded for a good 5 minutes (the fun part). Drape a damp tea towel over the bowl of kneaded dough and leave to settle for 20mins. When you are gearing up to eat you can start making the tortillas. Grab golf-ball sized bits of dough, flatten with your fingertips and then roll out over a floury surface until it looks like a very thin pancake. Place in a medium-hot frying pan smeared in a dash of oil and fry til they’re golden and have little brown patches. Et Voila!
Spinach and feta taco filling
So I made this filling to go in some of my tacos. I didn’t have all of the ingredients so had to improvise a bit but the full recipe can be found in the Wahaca cookery book. For this you will need 2 tbsp olive oil, half an onion, half a teaspoon of cumin, 1 chilli, 265g of sweetcorn (frozen or fresh), salt ‘n pepper, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 2 large tomatoes (minus the seeds and watery bit and cut into cubes), 1 big bag of spinach (cooked), handful of mint leaves, juice of a lime, 50g feta cheese and a bit of chopped coriander as a garnish.
To make you need to heat up oil in a big heavy-bottomed pan and add the chopped onion, sliced chilli and corn. Stir for 10mins or until the corn is lovely and golden. At this point season with salt and pepper and then add the garlic, tomatoes and the whole bag full of spinach. The recipe says that the spinach should have been cooked prior to this but I found it fine doing it this way because I was pushed for time and feeling lazy. Keep stirring and add the herbs and lime juice. You can let the mixture cool and keep it in the fridge to reheat later or if you’re ready to eat and have your tortillas at the ready then just pile it in and sprinkle with feta. And don’t forget a sprig of coriander of course! Delicious.
Now this is the part of the feast which I was initially least excited about but it turned out to be my favourite thing! I am already planning on cooking it again. It was so easy and so tasty. There is a sauce that you can make for it (which will be explained below) but I think you could probably add any sauce you like.
You will need 900g of neck end of pork but any lump of good quality pork will do, salt and pepper, several chillies (as many as you can handle), 90ml cider vinegar, 175ml cold water, 8 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp cumin, a small bunch of thyme or oregano and 50g of lard (I used less though).
Cut the meat into chunks about 5cm square and place in a pan with some salt and add water but just enough to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer until all of the water has evaporated. This may take an hour and a half so you’ll have time to go off and cook something else or watch the telly! The meat should then be soft and easy to pull apart and shred. At this point soak the stemmed and seeded chillies (up to 8 I would say) in boiling water for ten minutes and drain. Put the chillies, water, vinegar, cumin and herbs into a blender and whizz. Put this mix back in the chilli pan, melt down with a little bit of lard and then add to the pork so it is all coated in a lovely mix of flavours. Add to soft flour tortillas with salsa!
So that concludes the Mexican feast. It was such a wonderful night and I’m so glad I gave the Mexican cooking a go! It wasn’t as good as the real thing but the flavours were amazing and so different from my usual home cooking and bearing in mind it was my first time trying these recipes they all turned out quite well…the sign of a good simple cook-book. Give them a try for yourself and remember that the key ingredient to a good Mexican feast is being able to share all of your food with a great bunch of people so be sure to invite some friends along!