In praise of Mexican food, with a Moroccan twist - three recipes for a small, simple feast of Huevos
I adore Mexican food. I would eat it every day if I could – lime, avocado, beans, rice, coriander… heaven. I want to share these three recipes which go together perfectly to make this feast. Sadly it’s a FODMAP, nightshade, AIP nightmare so I don’t eat it often anymore. If you have no digestive complaints then tuck in! Please, do it for me. This is a colourful, healthy and satisfying meal.
And in case you never use the recipes below (foolish) here is a thing I learned this week which pleased me very much indeed: the word burrito (another favourite) means “little donkey” in Spanish. How lovely is that? Now you have already benefitted from this post.
The other half and I both love Huevos Rancheros – it’s a Mexican breakfast meal for when you’ve been up since dawn and have worked hard to earn a rich and
replenishing breakfast, but we tend to eat this meal in front of Netflix after a long day of chasing a toddler around.
It’s quick and simple once you have the accompaniments ready, and very filling. For brunch, lunch, dinner – anytime. For me it’s a perfect meal. When I eat it I utter its praise after every mouthful, and our guests always seem politely bemused when we present them with it for dinner, and then grateful after they've eaten. A very satisfying combination: delicious with a side of surprising.
The first of the components is salsa, and for this I use my grandmother’s recipe. I almost feel like a traitor passing on this recipe, because it’s sort of not mine to pass on. I feel like I stole it. Actually I earned it, coaxing it out of my grandma, who doesn’t really understand what the big deal is. It’s very simple, and I don’t think my grandma would think there was much worth stealing.
When I was a child I would sit in her kitchen, next to a baguette, and eat it with spoon and bread in hand, jar to bread to mouth, and make my way through it at quite a pace.
When I eventually asked her for the recipe she did that thing my mum also does – looked at me questioningly and said “You put in a handful of this, you cook it, you add a few of these, you cook it some more, bada bing, badaboom, and voilà. ” She didn’t actually say that but her air implied it – there’s really nothing to it, she meant.
I can’t work that way. I need a recipe, I need measurements, temperatures, timings. Eventually I got the whole thing out of her, and now when someone asks me I say, "oh you know, you take some of this, you add some of that, how ever much you like…" The thing I’ve realised is that you just need to learn how to be a confident cook with a few basic recipes and principles, and once you have the hang of those, you can build on them to make most things with reasonable success. You fine-tune ratios and cooking times over the course of years. The hilarious thing is that to me my grandmother is an intuitive, natural kitchen genius, but she asks me repeatedly to explain how to make simple cakes, and listens with genuine fascination, and sincere questions about baking powder. Such is the culinary chasm which separates my way of cooking from that of my North African-born grandma.
Anyway the recipe is called salade cuite, which means cooked salad in French. It’s a staple condiment from my mother’s childhood in Morocco and it’s wonderful. I make a jar every now and then, and we eat it with salad, on potatoes, with pasta, and with huevos rancheros, because it goes perfectly where the salsa should be. My grandma keeps the jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks and we’re all still alive so that’s what I do. It’s a good thing to have in reserve for a meal. Just make sure you use a scrupulously clean jar (see method in this post).
So here is the recipe I pieced together from my gran, which makes a large jar’s worth - that's the closest to a measurement I have to offer.
4 red peppers
1 green pepper
three cloves of garlic, minced
2 tins of chopped or plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of light olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Wash, deseed and cut up the peppers into chunks of about 2cm – this is the most labour intensive part of this recipe.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan, and add the peppers and garlic. Mix and allow to cook for a couple of minutes until the peppers start to soften a bit.
3. Then add the tomatoes and the puree, and bring to a simmer.
4. Leave to cook on a very low heat for about an hour, stirring every now and then to stop it sticking to the pan.
5. When the peppers are soft (but still have a bit of a bite) and the sauce is thickened so it’s not liquid but something you would serve in spoonfuls, add the sugar and the cumin and stir. Allow to cook for five more minutes on medium heat, and then add salt and pepper. If you like you can add more cumin, but go easy – too much and it is not very nice.
5. Allow to cool and then decant into a large, very clean jar with a lid.
Keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
The second component is guacamole. There are lot of ways to make it, but we have settled on this way. If you’ve never made your own guacamole you should definitely have a go. It’s hard to permit it to arrive at the table without having eaten half of it first.
Two avocados – it is essential that they be ripe.
Half a red onion, finely chopped
Half a lime
A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic (optional)
Me: mash the avocados with a fork add the other ingredients and mix until it looks like guacamole.
Andy: stick it all the in the food processor and pulse a few times.
I think it’s nicer done by hand, because when you blend it, it becomes too uniform, and it should be chunky.
To stop it going brown cover it in cling film and actually press the cling film onto the guacamole – it works!
And here is the main dish. In a food blog I think you have to avoid repeating that everything is delicious, so I will just say that this probably in my top five favourite meals.
I got this recipe from the Waitrose magazine, maybe? I can’t remember for sure. Either Sainsbury’s, BBC Good Food – all great for ideas and it feels like you basically get a recipe book for a couple of quid. I don’t know how they do it.
Packet of corn tortilla wraps – 1 or 2 per person
Tin of refried beans (could also use some black beans mashed up)
A large tablespoon of salade cuite per person (see above)
A egg per serving – 1-2 per person
Some grated cheddar cheese
A few sliced jalapeño peppers, optional
Handful of coriander
Guacamole (see above)
1. Heat the oven to 180C.
2. First lay the wraps on a baking sheet, and spread them with 2 tablespoons of the refried beans, and spoon a couple spoonfuls of the salade cuite on top of that.
3. Fry the eggs for a minute or two until they are just firm enough to lift out of the pan without the yolk breaking, then place one on each wrap. Sprinkle a little grated cheese on each one and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the eggs are cooked.
4. Remove from the oven and plate each wrap up, topped with some chopped coriander, a couple of sliced jalapeños, a generous dollop of guacamole and a little sour cream.
If you make enough guacamole and salade cuite you can eat this for three days in a row. That's what I would do - a tin of refried beans goes a long way.