Mexican food is quite a lot of stodge, cheap carbs, refried beans and corn tortillas etc, spiced up with chilli. A bit of a simplification? Probably. Of course they have avocados and tomatoes and the meats and cheeses introduced by the Spanish conquerors, plus cocoa, vanilla and tropical fruits, and more. Anyway I have been testing out a new Mexican online mail-order company this week, Mexgrocer.co.uk. They sent me a selection (see pic) which was a bit daunting at first – most of the labels being in Spanish. But I Googled myself up, and was soon an expert.
First up, refried beans (£2.75/400g) must be the most unappetising-looking foodstuff on the planet. You can just about see the photo on the label. Uggh. A greyish-blacking sludge, gussied up with a sprinkling of grated cheese and a side order of tortilla chips. Yeah, that ain’t helpin’. I haven’t eaten them yet but I will report back – not sure I can persuade the kids to sample it.
Salse verde was more promising (£2.50/200g) – I used about three dessertspoons from the small tin to mix with cream cheese, to make a VERY simple and quick dip for tortilla chips. You could also use creme fraiche for a looser consistency. Not too spicy plus lovely and fresh tasting. The rest, on the advice of the internet, I froze in an ice-cube tray because otherwise I could foresee it going to waste (and I hate waste, as you know). I would revisit the half-empty tin in a few weeks’ time and it would be covered in mould.
Chipotle Chilles in Adobo Sauce (£2.95/210g) are smoked, hot, jalapeno chillies cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and spices. The internet tells me they’re almost too hot to use so I whizzed them in the blender and froze in ice-cube portions again, lined with a big bit of clingfilm, for later use. Generally, I like the combination of chilli/smokey flavour (as in smoked paprika) but I worried that even one ice-cube’s worth would be too hot for a family recipe (it wasn’t! I made a fabulous chilli con carne).
The 15cm corn tortillas (£1.99/pack of ten) are probably going to be used to make my own tortilla chips (quartered, spritzed with a little oil and baked briefly, then seasoned with salt) and I’ll also use some to make enchiladas (very simply, make a bolognese-type sauce and some kind of white sauce, soften the tortillas briefly in the meat sauce and then fill; and place, seam side down, in a baking dish. Spread over any remaining sauce, top with the white sauce and cheese, then bake 180°C for 20 minutes or so until bubbling and golden brown).
Mexgrocer.co.uk imports over 400 different products direct from Mexico (perhaps that’s why all three of my tins were dented!) and offers foods not generally available in UK and European supermarkets. Customer orders are turned around in 24 hours. There are also recipes.