I had my first visit to Wahaca – the restaurant, that is – just a few weeks ago. The place was vibrant and exciting and so was the food. This book is a paper teaser to help limber up the taste buds. Simple dishes to prepare that will give you a hint of what real Mexican food can be, rather than the more common Tex-Mex with which we are more familiar.
Thomasina Miers is the undisputed queen of Mexican food in the UK. She is the founder of the small chain of Mexican restaurants which sport the same monika as this delightfully full-flavoured book. She has lived and worked in Mexico and it seems her love for the food of that region has not diminished with change of geography and climate.
The book is divided by course but the preamble to the recipes is a chapter or two on Mexican store-cupboard essentials and, naturally, chillies. That isn’t a surprise although it should be noted that not all Mexican dishes are strongly spiced, but they are all likely to be well seasoned – nothing bland here.
One might be inclined to think that we can’t get Mexican ingredients in the UK, but Thomasina has included a list of stockists, and there is always online shopping. Chillies are easy to grow even in our iffy climate, and Tomasina offers some pointers so you might consider reserving a hot corner of your garden for some beautiful chilli plants.
A vibrant and quick recipe to get you started is that for Fettuccine with Chilli Guajillo. These particular chillies are valued just as much for their colour as their flavour. They are dried Mirasol chillies, grown in northern and central Mexico and are one of the most widely used chillies in Central America. Lots of these chillies and garlic and a handful of coriander are the main ingredients so it’s suitable for vegetarians; but it’s sufficiently punchy to be appreciated by meat lovers as well.
Recipes that you don’t even have to cook are bound to be attractive. For those who are looking for something refreshing but with a little heat, Sea Bass Ceviche is a fish dish that is “cooked” in the juice of citrus fruit. The secret here is to have the fish thinly and evenly sliced. Don’t be tempted to keep the fish in the marinade more than 45 minutes or it will “over-cook” and the texture will be impaired. Thomasina offers other ceviche recipes for octopus and salmon.
Refried Beans are a classic and on every Mexican menu. They are hearty and comforting and accompany many Mexican dishes but I also serve them with barbecued meats. They are well-flavoured with garlic, bay leaves (3 or 4 but they make a difference so don’t leave them out) and coriander stalks. These beans can be made in advance and re-heated.
My pick of the book is the recipe for Pork Pibil. I have tasted this at Wahaca – the restaurant – and I was immediately impressed by its richness and flavour. It is, unsurprisingly, the best selling dish at Wahaca. It’s a chilli-hot meltingly tender preparation used to top rice or potatoes, though it also works as a filler for flour tortillas and the like. It’s a must try from this book and also the restaurant.
Wahaca – Mexican food at home offers a well-chosen selection of traditional and contemporary Mexican recipes that are simple to replicate at home. A great overview of this colourful and delicious cuisine by Thomasina Miers.
Wahaca – Mexican food at home
Author: Thomasina Miers
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018