A real Mexican heaven in Ireland

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!


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!