By mere coincidence I’m posting a delightfully simple Mexican soup recipe, well loved in this house, because I’m putting it out there right now – it’s got chocolate in it. This is my take on what is still one of my very favourite cookbooks. Jack has published another book after this, which I still need to see, but I think that her first book deserves to be a classic. There is no need to write a second positive review because by now I’m sure you all know how much I like the recipes and Jack’s honest way of writing. She is a master at turning a few simple ingredients into something special, with the help of a little bit of chocolate. It does make a difference so don’t be afraid to add it.
This is a very easy recipe I make whenever I plan a Mexican-inspired supper. It takes minutes to prepare from start to finish and for me it’s well worth it. I must confess I prefer something like a guacamole than mashed up beans and was quite averse to it when I first tasted it. (Reason behind this: kidney beans are not one of my favourite things!) However I grew to like it; it complements the freshness of guacamole in texture and taste. And it’s pantry-friendly. You don’t really need to go out and buy any special ingredients for this. You might have all the ingredients right now. The traditional recipe calls for pinto beans but I use kidney beans instead, just because they are easier to find. All you need are:
- 1 x 400g can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small shallot
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup vegetable stock (you might need a little bit more as the beans cook)
- salt (preferably coarse and crushed) and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Fresh coriander (or parsley), to sprinkle over the beans in their serving bowl
- Set aside around a third of the kidney beans and in a bowl mash the rest with a fork. Don’t fuss around with this. A rough mash is more than enough.
- Place a pan over the heat and when it’s hot enough add the olive oil and the shallot. (If you don’t have shallots or onions, you could even use a couple of spring onions. Just add them straight with the garlic to avoid any burning.*) Let the shallot cook until it turns a light golden colour.
- Add the garlic (if you didn’t add it before*) and the spices.
- Give everything a good stir and immediately add the mashed kidney beans and half the amount of stock. Let the mixture thicken slightly for around five minutes, and tip in the unmashed beans. Loosen the mixture now by adding the remaining stock slowly, and just enough for the beans to loosen but still stay somewhat thick.** This might take up to two to three minutes.
- Season with the salt and pepper. Taste the mixture and add more if necessary.
- Place the beans in a serving bowl and sprinkle with fresh coriander.
Before I go I must apologise for the lack of a proper photo for this, but in the so-called chaos of my kitchen I totally forgot to take a close-up picture of the finished thing! I hope you can see it clearer in the picture!** Also, don’t let the number of steps put you down. It’s one of the easiest recipes out there. Enjoy!
My only regret while living in the US is the fact that we didn’t travel much. There was no logical reason for this but hey, that’s life sometimes. Having said that, we did enjoy the few places that we went to. We moved straight to Michigan for the first two years of our marriage, and after settling down in campus, we took a trip to Seattle and then Washington DC. I immediately took to Seattle. It only rained once during that week (honest) and we had the most gorgeous view of the mighty Mt. Rainier from our charming B&B. For the first time in ages I didn’t miss my family; being in a foreign country and getting used to married life proved much tougher than I imagined. But I felt relaxed and rested and I couldn’t wait to explore the city.
We ate simply – there was no eating in fancy restaurants during those years but I didn’t mind it that much. Also, since I was just a few months into my culinary journey I didn’t care much for (or rather, I did not yet discover) spices. I was raised in an environment where seasoning meant adding salt and pepper. That. Is. It. Well, perhaps a bit of curry powder or mixed spice. A bit meaning “ponta ta’ kuċċarina” loosely translated as “the tip of a teaspoon”. Do you, the 30-somethings from my little Mediterranean rock, know what I mean? I have a feeling that you do. But that’s another story. All I can say is this: luckily the tables are turning…
My imaginary love of bland food ended pretty quickly right after that trip. While staying with some friends in Washington DC, I discovered the wonderful world of Mexican food. I asked J why we never tried it before. The answer he gave me was something on the lines of I-did-not-know-you-would-like-it-so-much. A good answer…
I am *not* a food expert though and I haven’t done sufficient research on authentic Mexican grub but I like to think I make a good cornbread. It’s one of J’s favourite things and it’s really easy to prepare. We had a Mexican night at home very recently (minus Tequila, *sigh* ha!). It was so much fun – we really should do it more often. Here’s our take on cornbread. It’s great with guacamole or tomato salsa, or both!
Just a note before we start: preferably you would need a cast iron tin for this recipe, but don’t fret if you don’t have one. A good thing to try is to put a non-stick loaf tin in the oven while it is preheating.* When the oven preheats and the batter ready, take the pan out of the oven and tip the mixture in it. Be careful how to do this – the tin will obviously be very hot. You will need:
- 190g sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 230g plain flour
- 95g yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 200ml milk
- 120ml corn oil or vegetable oil
- 10ml orange juice (with the pulp removed)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.*
- Place the sugar,salt, flour, cornmeal and baking powder in a large bowl and mix them well together using a whisk.
- In another mixing bowl or a large measuring jug tip in the beaten egg, milk, oil and orange juice.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well. You need some elbow grease for this one but I use a whisk. There’s no need for any electric mixers.
- Take the loaf tin out of the preheated oven and spray the very hot tin with non-stick baking spray. Tip the cornbread mixture into the cake tin and bake for around 1hour. As always, keep an eye on it and when it turns golden insert a knife or skewer in the middle. Let it cool slightly in the tin, then take it out and serve warm.
It will keep for two days in foil, but you could also freeze it for up to a month.
For more Mexican recipes (or Mexican-inspired) there’s a list for you here. There will be more recipes from my Mexican fiesta to come. Enjoy!