Famed for its fiery heat, Mexican food is inspired by elements from European and Spanish cooking. It is a mix of many cultures and offers something for just about every palate. Think cheesy, spicy and tangy! Mexican dishes are vibrant, fun and easier to make than pronounce. They rely more on flavour than technique. Expert Cook, Nita Mehta suggests the most common ingredients you can stock in your Indian pantry to recreate a Mexican feast any time.
King corn: A staple that can become an obsession. While cornmeal is used for making Tacos and Tortillas, fresh corn is thrown in almost everything - from Mexican rice to wraps. Quick tip - “To make a better taco, you need to make a good tortilla. Use warm water for kneading in order to set the dough. Add some refined flour (maida) to the dough as only cornmeal makes it very hard. Use it in the ratio of 1:2,” she suggests.
Be full of beans: Black beans, black eyed beans, pinto beans and chickpeas are all favoured by the Mexicans. Pinto beans or black beans are cooked till they’re soft and tender and then gently mashed to create refried beans. This can be used as a stuffing in enchiladas or burritos. It offers a sweet and earthy flavour.
Chop it like it’s hot: Jalapenos are bold, beautiful and smokin’ hot. They can add a nice spark to your salsa or marinades. Pickled jalapenos lend a touch of tart to your dish. Use it as a filling for your quesadillas or tacos. Chipotle and Poblano peppers are other signature chillies that can make your taste buds dance and sing.
Armed to tackle home-made salsa: The secret to a great salsa is lies in using juicy tomatoes that are roasted under a grill for maximum flavour. This adds a charred, smoky flavour to your sauce. “Rub some oil on the tomatoes and grill them on the stove. Do not wash the tomatoes after roasting as the flavour goes off. Puree half of your produce and chop the rest into chunky pieces to retain the freshness," she says.
The good kind of fat: Avocado is a Mexican fruit which is also known as ‘Makhanphal’ owing to its buttery flavour. It is used to prepare the famous dip – Guacamole. An important thing to keep in mind is that you need to buy the right kind of avocado to make the perfect guac. “Most people mistake the green variety to be ripe but it is actually bitter and unripe. You should pick the one which has a slightly purplish or blackish skin. It should feel soft to touch. If you can’t find this, buy and unripe one, wrap it in a newspaper and allow it to ripen. Do not place it in the refrigerator,” she explains.