Top tips when cooking Mexican at home!
Do you LOVE Mexican food and want to create genuinely original dishes at home? We’ve got some great tips and tricks to help you make authentic Mexican recipes!
Fresh Cilantro – this lemony herb is a staple in a Mexican kitchen and goes into practically every dish! Avoid the dried variety, which has less flavour, and grab a big bunch of the fresh stuff. Simply chop stems (avoid the harder ones) and leaves together and sprinkle in or on your dishes!
Freshly squeezed lime – considered ‘nectar of the gods’ to Mexicans, lime juice brings out the flavours of a dish making everything tastier. Whether it’s squeezed onto grilled meats, fruits, vegetable salads, soups, drinks and taco’s, this flavour booster adds an extra punch to your recipe. Avoid the bottled stuff and invest in a great juicer!
Real good quality pork lard – we’re not talking about the flavourless commercial lard but the real stuff that adds amazing taste to Mexican dishes. If you don't eat pork, then a good quality vegetable oil is just as good.
Dry roasting – boost your dishes’ flavour and create some complexity by dry roasting ingredients on a low heat without oil. Try doing this with tomatoes, chillies, onions and garlic, nuts and seeds before adding them to a Mexican dish.
Don’t overpower flavour! – many people believe that Mexican food is all about piles of cheese and heaps of sour cream. A modest amount of these does add some additional flavour but make sure you don’t overpower the other ingredients! This also applies to cumin – use it sparingly!
Leftover salsa or mole? – don’t even think about throwing it away! Any extra sauce will bring additional flavour to other dishes – put into soup, add to rice or eggs, use as a spread or add an extra zing to a stew!
Home Cooked Beans – tinned beans are very convenient (just make sure you rinse them thoroughly before cooking) but why not try some homecooked ones instead? Beans take quite a while to cook though, so make a large batch and freeze any leftovers. You then have them ready to use next time you need them!
Also, NEVER discard the leftover bean broth! This is packed with great flavour and can be added to soups and stews - it’s a crime against food to throw it out!
Piloncillo – this delicious sweetening agent is a staple in Mexican dishes. However, piloncillo comes in block form that is hard to crack so simply dissolve into hot water, so it turns into a syrup and is much easier to use. If you can't get Piloncillo, then substitute it for dark brown sugar or gula melaka, not the same but it’s close enough.
Avoid Onion tears - Mexican food uses a lot of onions, and the problem with that is that it brings many of us to tears! Try some of these methods to stem the waterworks when chopping them:
- Refrigerate the onions before cutting.
- Use a very sharp knife to avoid crushing the onion pieces (which releases the irritating substance into the air).
- Cut your onions on the stove, with the extractor fan running.
- Cut your onions next to the sink. Have the cold water running from the tap while you do it.
- Chop your onions next to a lighted candle as this burns away the tear-inducing gases.
- Breathe through your mouth when chopping.
Chillis! – we love the spice a chilli pepper brings but be careful when chopping and cooking fresh chillis. Try and minimise contact with your hands and the inner veins and seeds. Don't touch your face, hair, or eyes. And wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water to get as much of the spicy oil in peppers (called capsaicin) off as possible. When cooking, do not lean over the cooking chillis as the fumes can burn your face and eyes. Mind you, if you do this once – you won't do it again!