COOKING weith FRANCES BISSELL: Take a dip into spicy Mexico
Spicy casual this weekend, I think, with some relaxed entertaining before we reach the end of the summer hols. Nothing does spicy casual for me better than Mexican flavours, so I propose a fabulous margarita while we consider the food. I suggest a buffet
Spicy casual this weekend, I think, with some relaxed entertaining before we reach the end of the summer hols. Nothing does spicy casual for me better than Mexican flavours, so I propose a fabulous margarita while we consider the food.
I suggest a buffet with the kind of food you get in Arizona, California and Texas, where the Mexican influences are strong, the sun is hot, the flavours are lively and appetising and the food fun to assemble and easy to eat. Here the staples are wheat or corn tortillas and the flavours are those of chilli, coriander, limes and fruit.
I'd start with fajitas, marinating a piece of skirt steak or rump steak with onions and pineapple juice. Meanwhile, fry some sliced onions and red and green peppers. Then grill the meat on an iron griddle or barbecue.
While it cooks, warm the tortillas, prepare some guacamole and have shredded lettuce to hand. When the meat is cooked, slice it thinly, pile on a platter with the onion and pepper to one side, and let everyone assemble their own tortillas, not forgetting the final element, a spoonful of home-made salsa. This dish of grilled sliced meat, or fajitas, is also extremely good when made with duck breasts. Cook them with the skin on, but remove the skin before you slice and serve the meat.
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Once you've made salsa yourself, you'll never buy a jar again. It is incredibly easy and much better than the commercial versions, which are mainly tomato and peppers, with stabilising gum and thickeners.
You can vary your salsa ingredients, but the structure should be: fruit - such as papaya, mango, firm peaches, pineapple, kiwi fruit or tomato; hot - red or green chillies; sour - lime juice; savoury - onion, red onion, spring onions shallots or leeks and a little sugar, to bring out the juices. Then you need salt and chopped coriander.
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With this food of the south-west, you might like my melon margarita. However, all these fresh flavours and chilli heat are well-partnered in the summer by crisp German wines, high in natural acidity, with plenty of fruit, yet naturally low in alcohol. I recommend wines from the Mosel, and the best you can afford.
1 ripe and fragrant melon
2 limes or lemons
3 measures Cointreau
6 measures tequila
Fine salt for salting the glass (optional)
Have all the ingredients ice-cold. Halve the melon, discard the seeds and scoop the flesh into a blender. Take off six thin curls of lime or lemon zest, and squeeze the juice into the blender. Add the spirits, and blend until smooth.
If you like, moisten the edge of the glass with the squeezed lime skin, and then dip it into salt. Pour the cocktail into chilled glasses, decorate with lime or lemon zest, and serve.
(serves 8 to 10)
4 or 5 ripe avocados
1 or 2 green or red chillies, or more to taste, seeded
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, optional, peeled and seeded
4 spring onions, trimmed
Lime or lemon juice to taste
Fresh coriander leaves
Halve the avocadoes and discard the seeds. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and roughly crush with a wooden fork or spoon. Traditionally this is done in a stone mortar which grips the avocado, making it easier to crush.
A food processor is likely to blitz the mixture too much, unless you want a smooth guacamole. Finely chop the chilli, dice the tomato quite small and finely slice the spring onion. Stir all these into the mashed avocado, and season with lime juice and salt. Just before serving, chop and stir in the coriander leaves.
o Frances Bissell's latest book is The Scented Kitchen, published by Serif.