A real Mexican heaven in Ireland

Here come the drinks: Piña Colada / Pina Colada April 20, 2012

Filed under: Cocktails,Drinks — Wendy Tapia @ 9:00 am
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Now that we know how to prepare few main courses, surely you may want to start preparing Mexican drinks too. I would like to start with my absolute favorite, because to many this is only a dessert: Pina Colada. Pina Colada is another self-explanatory name of the main ingredients of this drink: “pina” which means “pineapple” and “colada” which means “mixed” or “blended” and it also makes reference to the second main ingredient “coconut” In order to offer you the absolute best recipe, I have tested this myself countless times. The ingredients are all available from any supermarket in Dublin (and certainly anywhere in Ireland)

So, our ingredients are:

– Ice cubes

– 1/3 coconut milk can

– 1/2 ltr. of pineapple juice

– 4 table spoons of Havana Rum (of course, this is optional, feel free to add as much as you prefer)

– Optional: 2 tablespoons of sugar (for those who do not like sweet) or 3 tablespoons of condensed milk (for those who plan to have it as a dessert or have sweet tooth)

– We will also need a good blender

Optional for presentation:

– 2 pineapples

– Cocktail umbrellas

– 2 Cherries

First, place the ice cubes in the blender, the idea is to make a bit of frappe first. Once that you have a nice frappe, add the coconut milk, the pineapple juice, rum and sugar (or condensed milk) Now, let it blend for 3 – 4 mins. It is important that you put all this in the blender as it will give a nice texture with a fluffy top.

Now, it is ready to enjoy! – You can serve it in normal glasses with a straw or if you have special plans for the night, consider buying one pineapple per guest. When choosing the pineapple, ensure that when pressing the fruit with your finger it gently sinks into it, if it feels too hard, the pineapple may not be ready for cocktails. Once at home, simply cut carefully the top and remove the heart of the pineapple (Superquinn sells pineapple heart removers, they are like €3 and do the trick in seconds, plus you can use that natural pineapple for the drink too) When the pineapple is empty in the inside, simply pour the pina colada and present with an umbrella (I generally buy them in “Stock Design” in Stephens Green)



Pina Colada, Salud!


Chilli con carne? – Maybe Picadillo! April 19, 2012

Filed under: Main Course — Wendy Tapia @ 11:33 am
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One of the most popular Mexican dishes I’ve come across while living abroad, has been (to my honest surprise) “Chilli con Carne” this dish seems to be so popular and widely recognized as a Mexican dish but I must confess that my first impression was: what is “Chilli con Carne”? And it was surprising to find out that Chilli con Carne is very similar to what we call in Mexico City: Picadillo.

Picadillo is one of the most common dishes served in Mexican homes, it requires very little preparation and is full of flavour. Unsure of the origin of the name, picadillo could come from the verb “picar” which means “chopping” and picadillo is a diminutive form of the word “picar”, meaning something like “finely chopped” or “chopped in tiny bits” this explanation makes sense considering that the main ingredient is minced beef. Based on the assumption that Chilli con Carne is so similar to Picadillo, Let’s make picadillo!

The great news is that you will easily find all ingredients in Dublin, (and all Ireland) no need to do any food hunting this time. The ingredients for this recipe are:

– 100 grs of bacon chopped in small dices

– 1 tea spoon of vegetable oil

– 1/4 of onion finely chopped

– 3 mashed garlics

– 1 Large carrot chopped in small dices

– 1 Large potato chopped in small dices

– Chipotle chilli (optional, depending on the level of spiciness you like you can add or simply opt out – You can find it in the Epicurean the food court in City Centre)

– Corn

– Handful of Green beans (Note: Picadillo, in comparison with Chilli con Carne does not contain red kidney beans)

– 1/2 Kg. of minced beef

– Salt, garlic salt, chicken stock and rosemary.

– 1 Can of tomato puree or tomato sauce

Once that our ingredients are at hand, place a pan to medium heat. Add the oil and let it heat up. Once that the oil is ready, add the bacon and as soon as the bacon looks half cooked, add the garlic and onions. Stir to prevent the bacon from burning, until it is golden brown and slightly crispy.

Add bacon, onions and garlic

Now, while the bacon gets golden brown, season the minced beef with salt, garlic salt, a little bit of chicken stock, and rosemary. Mix the spices with the meat very well and then add to the pan where the bacon is already golden brown.


Season the meat and place in the pan

Let the meat cook on that side without mixing until the bottom starts getting golden brown, then turn around the meat and start breaking the minced beef in smaller bits, once that the meat is close to be fully cooked, add all the vegetables and stir.


Add the potato and carrot

At this point the meat should look juicy, so it is now time to add the tomato sauce and stir again. If you like spicy food add 2 – 3 tea spoons of the chipotle chilli to the tomato sauce (Note: use only the juice in the chipotle chilli can, do not use the actual chillies, unless you like very spicy food)


Add the tomate sauce and reduce the heat

Finally, add the tender vegetables: corn and green beans and proceed to lower the heat then cover with a lid.


Add tender vegetables, reduce heat and cover with a lid

Leave it there for about 15 mins or until all the vegetables are tender. If for any reason your sauce starts reducing too much, simply add a bit of chicken stock and water.

Listo! picadillo is ready to be served. In Mexico, as the majority of the dishes, picadillo is served with corn tortillas, so you can use flour tortillas or simply get a fresh baguette and Buen Provecho!


Picadillo ready!


Arroz con Platano Frito – Rice with Fried Banana October 17, 2011

Filed under: Side,Starter — Wendy Tapia @ 6:00 am
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Many childhood memories come to my mind when I think about this recipe. I cannot speak on behalf of every Mexican family, but in mine, white rice was like a ‘children’s dish’ the one that everybody could eat because it had no spices, it had some sweetness to it and it would prepare you to deal better with any spices that the main course could contain.

In Mexico, rice is a versatile accompaniment to countless main courses, this is why we always ensure that it has a colour. Today, we will get started with a lazy version of the white rice, and we will progress by increasing the level of complexity in each post related to rice. I will also explain what rice-colour-style is the most appropriate for certain dishes.

A funny fact is that due to popular believe that cooking a ‘beautiful’ rice is complex, this is recognized as one of the dishes that if well executed, then people will throw compliments linked to marriage: Yes, marriage! We often use a funny and casual expression when it comes to cooking: she is ready to get married! (they say, as they enjoy a nicely prepared meal) I know this may sound disturbing for some people, but it means no offense in Mexican culture, it is actually a great compliment.

We require just a few ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • Salt
  • 1 Plantain (In Dublin, you can find this in the Asian shops, I recommend the ‘Asia Market’ in Drury Street, you will get 3 of them for about 1 or 2 euros)
  • 1 Cup of oil
The ingredients
The first step is to place the rice with the water in a pot or in a rice maker and add salt.

Boiling the rice

Simply cover and leave it to cook, in Mexico it is believed (at least in Mexico City) that ‘rice is jealous’ this means, do not get too busy while you leave the rice cooking or it will burn! but do not move it with a spoon either, this will spoil its shape and consistency, simply keep an eye in it and keep the lid always covering the rice.

While our rice is cooking, peel the plantain* and cut it in slices. In a pot pour cooking oil, just enough for frying, but I would not recommend that you use a fryer at home because the oil may not be as fresh and this will change the flavour of the chips.


*Note: The best plantains for frying, are those that are nearly black and feel soft when you touch them, you will find plantains very green, avoid them or simply wrap them in a paper bag and place them close to a warm place. After a couple of days they will mature and then they will be ready for frying.

Once that the oil is hot, throw the slices of plantain to fry.

Frying plantains

Turn the plantains from time to time, until golden.

Golden plantains

Once golden, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel in order to absorb the excess of oil. When your rice is ready, simply serve the rice and the plantain chips on top. White rice is generally served in coast-style food and seafood dishes.

Buen Provecho!


Pescado a la Veracruzana – Veracruzana Fish October 16, 2011

Filed under: Main Course — Wendy Tapia @ 6:42 pm
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Sundays are a very special day in Mexico; it is time to gather, time to visit family, friends or both. Today’s recipe is a Sunday classic or a great dish to cook for a weekend with friends. Many families actually gather at an early hour of the day to help cooking just doing bits of chopping and chatting away while the pots heat up, so I hope this recipe gives you an excuse to call everybody to the kitchen and chat away while cooking a delicious fish.

Pescado a la Vercruzana can be translated as ‘Veracruzana Fish’, the sauce style comes from ‘Veracruz’. Veracruz is a very unique colonial state in Mexico, it is renowned for its seafood cuisine which is a fusion of coast-style-food and Spanish food.  The amazing thing about this recipe is that all ingredients are widely available! The ingredients required are for this delicious fish are:

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion
  • 4 Finely chopped garlics
  • 6 Large tomatos
  • 2 Potatos
  • 1 Large carrot
  • Ground Pepper
  • Garlic Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Oregano
  • Mixed Herbs (Thyme, sage, and parsley)
  • Black Olives
  • Butter
  • 4 Fillets of fish or a large fish (In Mexico we would generally use Huachinango, however, in Ireland an excellent flavorsome substitute is Seabass)
  • Jalapenio chillies
So, once that we have all ingredients around, your preparation table, should look like this:

All ingredients, ready to go

The first thing is to chop the onion and garlic, while the olive oil warms up in a pot. In another pot, put boiling water, three pinches of salt, the carrot and the potatos to boil (we will use this at a later stage)

Once that the oil is hot, we add the finely chopped onions and garlic.

Leave onion and garlic in the oil until they look transparent

While the onion and garlic are giving all its flavour to the oil, chop the tomatos and add them to the pot as soon as the onion and garlic look transparent.

Adding tomatos

Add the tomatos little by little so your sauce starts getting juicy. At this point you may also add a pinch or two of salt, three pinches of garlic salt, oregano and the mix of herbs. Simmer for 3 minutes, moving it with a spoon from time to time. Your sauce should start looking like this:

Tomato sauce

Now, it is time to take the carrot out of the boiling pot and chop it in small cubes. Then, add the carrot cubes and already chopped olives to the sauce.

Adding olives and carrot cubes

Leave the sauce to simmer for another 3 – 5 minutes. Now, it is time to heat up the pan where we will cook the fish, while the pan is heating up, wash the fish and dry it with a paper towel on both sides, then season with garlic salt and pepper. Once that the pan is hot enough add a spoon of butter and let it melt, then add the fish and cook for about 3 – 4 minutes, the fish will then go into the oven, so avoid over cooking it, as this would dry up the sauce. Repeat the process as many times as required, some people prefer to cook once fillet at a time, it is up to you.

Melting the butter

Adding the seasoned fish

While the fish is ready take out a baking tray that is deep enough to contain the fish and sauce. Take out the potatoes that you boiled earlier and chop them in slices. In the baking tray, first, place a layer of sauce, then place the potatoes on the edges of the tray and then place the fish in the middle.

Tray layers

It is time now to cover the fish with the rest of the sauce. The fish should be totally covered with sauce and look like this:

Tray ready to go into the oven

Place the tray in the oven at 180 degrees, for about 12 – 15 minutes. You can simply take the tray straight to the table and let everybody help themselves or here my presentation suggestion with: jalapenios on top, and on the side a bit of white rice, “macho” banana chips (plantain chips) and veg.

Time to enjoy!

Another suggestion for this dish, if you have the facilities at home, is to get a massive fish and grill it! – You will see the impressed faces of your guests.

Buen Provecho!


Pambazo – Pan Basso – Pan Vasco August 18, 2011

It took a while to find guajillo chillies in Dublin, but we can consider it mission accomplished! – I went to every corner of Dublin to find these magic chillies in a very familiar place: Fallon & Byrne and I also found that you can order this chilli from UK, here in terms of price I would be more inclined to walk down to city center and get it in Fallon & Byrne.

This week’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites, not only because of its unique flavour but also because of the stories behind it. Pambazos can be found all year round in central and southern Mexico, but you will find countless stalls that sell pambazos during the Independence Day (which by the way tends to be mixed up with 5 de Mayo, which I am afraid I don’t remember ever celebrating) rumors say that Pambazo was named after the bread that was used in its preparation: ‘Pan Basso’; however, others believe the name was ‘Pan Vasco’ whatever the name was, it always surprises me how many nice dishes came out from the combination: Mexican and Spanish. This may not be a pre-Hispanic dish but it is so good you will want to prepare it every time you have a chance.

My grandma would say, ‘nothing happens in the kitchen unless you stop talking’ so with that in mind, let’s get our hands on preparing pambazos.The first thing is to prepare the filling, we will need:

– 2 Peeled Potatos

– 2 Cooking Chorizo

– 1/2 Small Onion

– 1 Garlic

Put the peeled potatoes to boil with salt to your own taste, once they are soft dice it and put them aside. Now, in a medium heat pan place the chorizo and gently press it with a spoon in order to break it into smaller pieces. Since chorizo has a very high level of fat, you may put on a bowl the fat as it comes out of the chorizo. You will know the chorizo is ready because it will look like crispy crumbles. Now, you can put it aside. In the same fat that you have on the pan, put the onion and finely chopped garlic and wait until they are transparent. Now add the potatoes and chorizo and mix them together. The filling for your pambazos is now ready.

Chorizo & Potato filling

**For my vegetarian friends, I suggest you put the potatoes in a medium heat pan with olive oil, onions and garlic and maybe a spices mix of your preference.

Let’s work now in the sauce. We will need:

– 5 Guajillo chillies

– 1 small onion in two halves

– 2 garlics

– Salt / chicken stock

This is how Guajillo chillies look like

Place the chillies on a medium heat pan, the task is to ‘toast’ the chillies, so simply leave them there and turn them around from time to time. This is to enhance the flavour of the chillies and in many Mexican regions it is believed it brings out passion, so be careful not to leave them for too long on the pan. Once that they look slightly darker, take them out the pan and remove the tail, then open it with a knife and remove the seeds and veins. once that each chilli has been cleaned, put them in boiling water with a pinch of salt, one half of onion and one garlic. Leave them to cook for 5 – 7 mins.

Toasting Guajillos

Cleaning Guajillo chilli

Boiling Guajillos

The next step is to put the chillies, into a blender, the other half of onion and garlic plus a pinch of salt or chicken stock and 1 cup of the water that you used to boil it. Blend it until you have a silky sauce, similar to a thick soup. This sauce can be cooled down and used for tacos, quesadillas and anything you want, in this case we must pour it now in a medium heat pot to keep it warm.

Ready to blend

Blended Guajillos

Silky sauce - Do not panic, it is not that spicy!

Now, let’s get into the final stage of preparation, for your final pambazo you will need:

– 4 – 6 white bread rolls (medium size ones)

– The guajillo sauce

– The chorizo & potato filling

– 2 spoons of oil or the chorizo fat

Get a medium heat pan ready and and add one spoon of oil. Now, simply cut the bread on the side, so you can later place the filling there and sink it in the sauce and slowly turn it around so it absorbs the sauce for about 40 seconds or so.

Use a similar bread roll to this one

Soaking the bread in guajillo sauce

Turning around

Once that the bread is covered in sauce, put it in the pan with oil (some people prefer to oil at all, that will do too) and turn it around, this step is so you can seal the sauce in the bread and it dries up a bit. Now, open the bread and turn it so you can heat it up.

Sealing the sauce to the bread

Warming up the inside

Finally, place the filling and ready to go to the dish! – In Mexico, we then put lettuce and creme with the filling along with green sauce, but this is all up to you. Even in Mexico at a regular Pambazo stall they ask if you want it ‘simple’ or ‘with everything’

Place the filling

Pambazos ready to eat!

Hope you enjoy it, and post pics of your final pambazo if you decide to give it a go.

Buen Provecho!


Queso+Tortilla = Quesadilla August 1, 2011

That’s it! no complex Nahuatl pronunciations this time, simple and straight forward: Quesadillas are a famous and standard breakfast or supper in many Mexican homes, they are prepared with a tortilla and typically cheese, this is where the name comes from: [Queso-Cheese / Tortilla = Quesadilla] However, the filling is up to the cook, it can be cheese and turkey sausage, cheese and mushrooms; or simply mushrooms saute with onions and a bit of garlic, you pick!

Tortillas in Mexico are made of corn flour and in the central and south side of the country you will find that quesadillas are mainly prepared with a tortilla that looks yellowish (just like in the picture below) In the north, people prefer to use wheat tortillas, just like the ones we find in Ireland.

Another interesting element to quesadillas is that in many Mexican homes they are the perfect way to get the family working together: children can do the cheese shredding/grating, adults can work on the fire and other younger people can help setting up the table by bringing the guacamole and other salsas, and this is what makes quesadillas so enjoyable.

Quesadillas made with corn tortilla and Oaxaca cheese.

The classic presentation of a quesadilla is a tortilla folded in half and the cheese melted inside. Generally, this is accompanied by a salsa of your choice and a bit of ‘pico de gallo’ (a side salad that I will be posting soon) Now, time to go shopping and source the best possible ingredients to get the best out of such a simple recipe.

In Dublin, you will find wheat tortillas in nearly every supermarket or convenience shops: Tesco, Superquinn, Dunnes, Marks & Spencer, Spar, Mace, Londis, etc. However, I do recommend that you buy the ‘generic’ brand versions of it: they are less expensive and the flavour is exactly the same. For those who are watching their daily calorie intake, prefer the smaller versions.

The cheese used to prepare traditional quesadillas in my native Mexico City is called ‘Oaxaca’ cheese, which its distinctive ball-like presentation makes it stand out from the rest and it is a cheese that can be shredded by hand.  Oaxaca cheese is very mild and creamy in flavour. In Dublin, you can replace Oaxaca cheese for any good quality Mozzarella or Gouda. If you don’t have any of these at home, white mild cheddar will do.

How to prepare them is very simple: grate the cheese, then put a non-stick pan to medium heat, then place the tortilla on it, and turn it around every now and then until it is warm, now it is time to add the grated cheese and fold the tortilla. The absolute key to a very nice quesadilla is that your pan is to medium temperature and that the quesadilla is constantly turned so you don’t burn any side as this will cause the tortilla to become very hard, and a nice quesadilla should be just lightly crispy.

Adding grated cheese and folding

Turning the quesadilla around regularly until lightly crispy

Once you have that, for presentation you can place them on a board with salad, and guacamole. In some Mexican homes, people prefer to place the quesadillas in tea towels, and wrap them to keep them warm and soft. Then, they are placed at the center of the table along with guacamole, chillies and salad so people can help themselves.

Quesadilla ready to eat!

I will post this week how to prepare different fillings for quesadillas, in the meantime… Buen Provecho!


Ahuacamolli – Guacamole July 24, 2011

In the ancient Mexican language, Náhuatl, Ahuacamolli means ‘avocado salsa’ [‘ahuaca’ – avocado / ‘molli’ – salsa/sauce] Until today this recipe is a classic as it adds a lot to a taco, salad or any other dish this is why I wanted this recipe to be the very first one in this blog because you will be able to prepare and eat it in only a few minutes and hopefully remember it for years.

The history of guacamole comes from hundreds of years of tradition and some popular Mexican stories tell that avocados were only to be hand picked by men, women were not allowed to do so. Nowadays, the challenge for those living in Ireland is to actually find suitable avocados, so I have done a bit of research around and selected a number of shops where you will easily find them:

Tesco Dundrum

Fallon & Byrne (Actually this is a nice shop where you will be able to find a few magic ingredients)

Superquinn Ballinteer

I have listed them in order of preference, Tesco seems to have avocados that are suitable for guacamole more often than other places. My definition of ‘suitable’ in this case is that the avocado is black or purplish; your finger should sink nicely in it, not too soft, not too hard and in terms of taste, the closest taste to Mexican Hass avocado are the ones that come from Peru.

Now, let’s get hands on deck – Once you have bought your nice avocados, ensure that they are dark and soft enough to mash them, simply get the following:

– 1/2 small onion

– 1 small tomato

– 1/2 lime

– 1 pinch or 2 of salt, or 1 salt/1 chicken stock powder

Suitable avocado, onion, tomato, and lime.

So the recipe goes like this – Get a bowl and mix in this order: chopped onion, then mash the avocado, add salt (and chicken stock, if you went for that option; this option is not suitable for vegetarians) and gently mix. After that, add the lime juice and the tomato and mix again.

This is how a nice avocado should look like.

Mashed avocado, onion and salt/chicken stock.

Adding tomato and lime.

Tada! guacamole sorted, now a few tips:

1. If you are not going to eat it immediately after preparing, simply make sure to add some lime juice on top to prevent that the guacamole turns dark.

2. Always keep the avocado seed and add it to your guacamole at the very end, this will add a nice touch and it is a belief in Mexico that the guacamole will be preserved green for longer as the seed is he heart of the avocado.

My suggestion? – Quesadillas with guacamole, make a great light supper.

Nice supper ready!

A healthier option for those on diets: guacamole on Ryvita bread. It is also great for parties, simply buy lightly salted tortilla chips (Marks & Spencer sells good ones) and leave the rest to your guests.

Buen Provecho!