:: About a month ago I signed up for my first cooking course, which saw me spending an enjoyable Saturday morning whipping up traditional Mexican cuisine.
Our chef and teacher learned the tricks of the trade while cooking in America, where a large number of the people he was feeding on tour were Mexicans.
Apparently they weren’t too impressed with his initial interpretations of their native fare, so on their days off they would join him in the kitchen and teach him the authentic recipes their mothers used to make.
It was a rewarding few hours and I took away several key elements that really make a difference when it comes to preparing real Mexican dishes.
Firstly, there are hundreds of varieties of chillies out there and the ones you pick really make a difference to the final flavour. For example, the red and green chillies most commonly available from the supermarkets here in Australia are more suited to Asian style cuisine, whereas it’s the chipotles and habaneros – preserved in adobo sauce or charred over an open flame – which will add the desired smokiness and depth.
Secondly, toasting your spices before adding them to the main dish makes a huge difference. Adding direct heat unlocks their flavour and incredible fragrance, and is well worth the extra time it takes to do so.
This is just one of the dishes we made on the day.
6 chicken marylands 3 red capsicums, halved and de-seeded 2 cinnamon quills 4 star anise 3 tsp smoked paprika half bunch of spring onions 6 cloves garlic sea salt
mole rojo 3 cups chicken stock (use stock from cooking the chicken) 2 tbsp chipotle chilli purée 2 large onions, roughly chopped 4 cloves garlic 4 tomatoes 1 tbsp tahini ½ cup raisins 1 tsp ground coriander 1 tsp freshly ground cloves 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp freshly ground cumin ½ tsp ground black pepper 30g bitter unsweetened chocolate sea salt