A real Mexican heaven in Ireland

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!