Monday 26 June 2006

fiesta mexicana

Hola amigos! This weekend was a Mexican fiesta (partly Tex Mex) at my house.

I’m not sure whether I’m stretching the Weekend Herb Blogging theme by including pulses and grains as my “herb, vegetable, flower or plant” but since I tried out some really interesting recipes this weekend I’m going to attempt to pass chick peas, kidney beans and rice off as my "greens". If no one buys that, there’s plenty of tomatoes, onions, citrus and coriander in the recipes too.

This week's WHB recap is hosted by Virginie of Absolutely Green in France.

My Mexican inspired feast was shared with my friend, Em, who came up to Sydney from her southern coast home. I cooked chile con carne, horchata (ground rice drink) and torta del garbanzo (chickpea cake).

I have always thought of chile con carne as comfort food, even though I haven’t eaten it in some time since the “con carne” part isn’t really conducive to my vegetarian lover’s diet.

I really miss chile con carne, although Jonas makes a good vegetarian version which we named chilli sin carne. Mexican Robot laughs hysterically at this and wonders what’s in it without the meat! To answer that intriguing question, Jonas uses a soy sausage sliced into thin rounds – otherwise the recipe is pretty much the same as the carnivorous one.

Still, nothing beats the food of your childhood.

I remember Dad would make chile con carne all year round, a wonderful warm and filling meal that seemed to take forever to my young eyes. I used to watch him making it, smell the frying beef and the stewing tomatoes and grow increasingly hungry with anticipation. The time it took to simmer always seemed like hours and when making it for the very first time this weekend I was shocked at how fast it actually took.

The traditional recipe probably calls for stewing beef so that the chunks will flake apart after the long simmer, but I used my father’s own mince based recipe, devised from the Tex Mex he grew up on in California (the US state not Baja).

I made some slight alterations to my father’s recipe. I substituted a teaspoon of sugar for the sweet, smoky flavour of a chipotle; I added more lemon juice and a garlic clove and I garnished my food with sour cream and coriander (cilantro), which is a herb my father cannot stomach ever since, as a teen, I made him a Thai style tomato and coriander salsa that was so overloaded with coriander he swore off the stuff forever. Sorry Dad!

Chile con Carne
Paul's recipe. Serves 5-6 people if served with rice.
500g minced beef
500g can crushed tomatoes
750g can kidney beans
Packet of Mexican style power (eg Old El Paso chilli, taco or burrito powder)
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 chipotle chilli (from a can in adobo), chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Jalapeños, chopped (to taste)
Sour cream and coriander to garnish
1. In a large pot, fry the garlic, chipotle and onions until soft.
2. Add the mince and cooked until browned.
3. Add the Mexican powder and stir through.
4. Add all the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice (including the juices from the bean can) and let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 5 more minutes.
6. Garnish with some sour cream and coriander. Serve with rice, flour tortillas or corn chips.


Next recipe off the rank was a tasty beverage called horchata. It’s a creamy Mexican drink flavoured with cinnamon, almond and lime and is completely dairy free.

I had never made it before, and unfortunately the texture of my first attempt was not quite right. Having tried a good version at a Mexican Christmas party thrown by Bicky and Robot, I knew mine was much too gritty. I’m not sure how to combat this either, since I used a food processor and a blender and couldn’t seem to turn the rice into a fine enough paste. Nonetheless it tasted delicious and fresh so I know I’m almost there.

Em, who arrived at my home with an upset tummy, vouched for the drink’s famed ability to cure indigestion and even Jonas, who didn’t like it when he tried it at breakfast this on Sunday morning, said he could feel it doing good things for his body.

This recipe came from a cookbook called 'Mexican' by Jane Milton (published by Hermes House).

From Jane Milton’s ‘Mexican’. Makes approximately 1.25 litres.
2¼ cups long-grain rice
3 cups water
1¼ cups blanched whole almonds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
¼ cup sugar
1. In a sieve, rinse the rice thoroughly under cold water. Drain and place in a bowl. Top with the water, cover and leave to soak overnight.
2. Drain the rice, reserving the soaking liquid.
3. In a food processor or blender, grind the rice as finely as possible.
4. Add the almonds and as finely as possible again.
5. Add the cinnamon, lime zest and sugar. Also add 2½ cups of the reserved soaking liquid. Blend until sugar is dissolved.
6. Serve garnished with cinnamon or lime zest and some ice cubes.


And finally, dinner ended with a strange and extremely easy to make dessert that happens to be gluten free. Torta del garbanzo is a very moist cake made out of chickpeas and flavoured by orange and cinnamon (although I used cinnamon’s stronger cousin cassia).

I got this recipe from Jane Milton’s ‘Mexican’ book as well, although I halved the ingredients to make a smaller cake and unfortunately forgot to halve the orange juice too. Even though the mixture was like water when I poured it into the baking tin, it still turned into an excellent cake with a crunchy top and a syrupy base flavoured with orange. I am giving you my amended version below.

Torta del Garbanzo
Based on a recipe from Jane Milton’s ‘Mexican’. Serves 6.
300g can chickpeas/garbanzo
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder (bicarb soda)
1 heaped teaspoon cassia (or cinnamon)
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1. Preheat the oven to 180’C (or 350’F). Grease and line a baking loaf pan.
2. Drain the chickpeas thoroughly, and then rub them with your fingers to remove the papery skins. Puree in a food processor.
3. In a bowl, mix the chickpeas, sugar, eggs, baking powder, cinnamon, orange juice and rind.
4. Pour into baking loaf pan and bake for 1hr and 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
5. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cooling on a wire rack. Allow cake to cool completely before serving.
6. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and or serve in thin slices with fresh pineapple and yoghurt.


  1. Not to worry, any kind of plant food is fine for WHB. This is one of the dishes I remember from childhood. And thanks for the comment with the pronunciation tip on Bruschetta!! I hate pronouncing things wrong.

  2. I'm craving for your Horchata. In Spain they make one they call "Horchata de chufas", and put Chufas (a nut) instead of almonds. This is so delicious. I was looking for the recipe. You posted it. Thank you very much.

  3. Spooky.I have just bought a fabulous mexican and caribbean cookbook.Your blog has inspired me to get my act together and cook something from it.

  4. Hi Anna, a friend found your blog and sent it to me, I am Jane Milton and I am delighted you enjoyed my book so much is still being reprinted 8 years on from when i wrote it which is pleasing testimony too...I am writing a new book just now on food advertising and other things that have influenced what we eat....i am really enjoying writing it so am sure it will make a great read too....

    keep cooking , jane

  5. jane - thanks so much for taking the time to check out my blog and leave a comment! we love your book and use it all the time. our mexican friends also love it because they say it's so authentic!

  6. Hello Anna

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I am going to try it out tomorrow. I would really like to try some of Jane's other recipe's and find out where/how she found them. Can you recommend one of her books please.

    Thanks. Hey, its also great to know that I am not the only one that is obsessing about food. For me its the Mr Darcy of the culinary world! Oh my! ;-)

    Would you be interested in a quick cheat fab tomato soup recipe? I conjured it up last week and have been raising some giggles of approval.

    ....because onions are a girls best friend!

  7. I was wondering if you would like to put up a link to this beef recipe in my Food on Friday Series.


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