|Pico de gallo, salsa verde, salsa chipotle|
Like most non Mexicans, I grew up imagining that Mexican food was tacos, tacos, tortillas, tacos, beans and rice, tacos... And a little later tacos, tortillas, guacamole, tacos, refried beans, grated tasty cheese, tacos...Then there was something called chocolate mole chicken but that was just a passing plate in the night.
I did also come back with a copy of The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy, and it became the source of my guacamole, well-fried beans (not refried, as Kennedy pointed out, this being a mis-translation of the word refritos, though they continue to be called refried) and a chicken in red sesame seed sauce.
corn chips, and I will confess it was the packet kind, and I will confess also that I have devoured many in the time since. I also confess that I have rarely downed a tequila sunrise, let alone lick, sip, sucked, sipped salt, tequila and lime. (Apropos of nothing, except being cursed with a memory for trivia, one of my favourite bit characters in a Looney Tunes cartoon was named Tequila Mockingbird, now the name of a cocktail (with two distinct flavours), restaurants, blog and music group).
Rider Food. That was my first meeting with nopal salad (a fantastic use to which prickly pear cactus (Opuntia species) has not been put in Australia but could take over from the Cactoblastis cactorum if neo urban foragers and cash-strapped farmers put their minds and gloved hands to it) and also with fajitas.
Next stage of this journey to the Fiesta of the title of this blog, was Chris becoming manager of Beach Burrito cafes in Bondi and Newtown (and Chris and Mary spending time on Mexico on a pre-proposal gap year trip) and discovering the pleasures of frozen margaritas (and as another aside, I did once have down pat all the words to Jimmy Buffet's Wasting Away in Margaritaville) and Coronas with that jaunty slice of lemon stuffed down the neck on a hot summer night in Newtown.
You still with me, we're getting close to the meal reveal!
Then my niece Casey, living with Marilyn and me for a couple of years now, met up with Helen Garcia Garza, chef/proprietor at Fuego de la Tierra, bringing home Mexican sweets Helena made for her stall at the Bondi Farmers Market - guayabate,thinly rolled guava paste with sweet caramel-like cajeta, sprinkled with lightly toasted crumbled pecans; alegrias, a puffed amaranth bar bound together with honey and brown cane sugar and pressed with nuts and raisins; mazapan de cacahuate, soft, creamy and crumbly peanut marzipan; jamoncillo, crumbly fudge made with ground pumpkin seed, ciruelas rellenas de almendras, prunes stuffed with a sweet vanilla and almond crumble, and pellizcos de tamarindo,sweet and sour tamarind blended with guajillo chili. It was fascinating to recognise the last two as sweets I ate as a child in Sri Lanka. I also had the pleasure of dipping into Helena's salsas.
Critical mass was now reached and a dinner to which we all contributed was inevitable. So in January 2013 we came together for La Fiesta de la Cocina Mexican, a celebration of origins, regions, tastes, ingredients, traditions and tweaks. The dishes on the night and their makers were:
Ensalada de nopales (pickled cactus salad)
Ejotes guisados (sauteéd green beans with orange and lime juice)
Bacalao (salted dried cod with almonds, raisins, olives, potatoes, garlic, onion and tomatoes)
Tamales Oaxaqueños (masa steamed in banana leaves and filled with chicken and mole poblano)
Salsa ranchera with habanero
Frijoles refritos (well-fried beans)
Pollo en pipian rojo (chicken in red sesame seed sauce)
Arroz (plain white rice)
Chris and Mary:
Braised goat (cooked in Corona beer, crushed tomatoes and roasted spices)
Pico de gallo (tomato onion and coriander salsa
Home-baked corn chips
Atole de Fresa (a cold strawberry, corn flour and mint soup as dessert)
The extravagance of the meal was balanced by a simpler selection of beverages - red and white wines, Coronas and water. Helena also made horchata (an almond milk drink) which we didn't have on the night but I polished off over the course of the next day.
|Casey's place setting|
Chris was official papparazzo and its his images that grace this blog.
Some slight headaches and sleep ins were reported the following morning.
Muchas gracias todos!
|Helena finishes off the tortillas|