El Día de los Muertos (Day of The Dead)

La muerte es un espejo que refleja las vanas gesticulaciones de la vida. Toda esa abigarrada confusión de actos, omisiones, arrepentimientos y tentativas —obras y sobras— que es cada vida, encuentran en la muerte, ya que no sentido o explicación, fin. Frente a ella nuestra vida se dibuja e inmoviliza. Antes de desmoronarse y hundirse en la nada, se esculpe y vuelve forma inmutable: ya no cambiaremos sino para desaparecer. Nuestra muerte ilumina nuestra vida. Octavio Paz

Flowers, lots of flowers here and there, people crying but laughing at the same time. Talking, lots of talking, voices that I recognise but I do not understand what they say, that is how I remember the day I buried my father. It was a commotion, a confusion and at the end we were alone, with no father.

In the evenings, after he was gone, we used to sit down around the living room at my mum’s house and talk about the way he was like when he was alive, we joked about it, we would repeat his typical expression “Ai la tenemos”, “Ay! Mamá”, “Que tanto es tantito”, we did this for days or maybe weeks, I don’t remember now, all I remember is that for me and my family the world stop spinning for a few days and with our father part of our souls were gone, but at the same time, as Mexicans, we knew that everything was going to be ok, because we would see him soon, in our dreams, in our thoughts and he would come and visit us during the special day, the day when all the dead come back to the world of the living, “The Day of the Dead”.

In Mexico every 1st and 2nd November is celebrated The Day of the Dead, it is a very special celebration full of traditions.

On those days we visit the cemeteries and bring flowers, food, music to our loved ones that have passed away to a better life, we remember everything about the person that we go and visit, sometimes in a funny way, because that is the way we, Mexicans, are, we joke about everything, even about death.

For Mexican people the cult to the Dead goes back to ancient times, for example, the Aztecs used to “Mictecacíhuatl”, La Señora de Mictlán, the lady of the dead.

 
Nowadays a lot of people relate the day of the dead with “La Catrina”, who was a character drew by “José Guadalupe Posada” and the name was given by “Diego Rivera”

If you want to know more about this click here for Spanish or click here for English 

TRADITIONS 

“El Altar de Muertos”

There are different traditions we all Mexicans do before and during The Day of The Dead, apart from visit our cemeteries, for me the most important one is “El Altar de Muertos”, the altar is usually placed at home and it has a very meaningful idea to remember the dead, because traditionally in the altar you place a picture of the person that has passed away and decorate the altar with flowers, candles and all those favourite things that person used to like when s/he was alive. If you would like to learn more about the meaning of the altar click here or in English

 

In my family my sister Cynthia sets an Altar for our father and grandparents in her house. I do the same in London, but in a small way and during that day I cook “Carne Asada” (bbq) which was my dad’s favourite food.

The picture of the altar I am showing here is not in my house or my sister’s house. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of mine, but this is the proper way an altar is set.

“Flor de Cempasúchil” or Mary Gold Flower

  

The Cempasúchil flower or Mary Gold flower is the traditional flower used during the festivities of the Day of the Dead, they are always present in the altars at home or on the graves in the cemetery, but everybody has its own traditions, for example, I always take sunflowers to my dad, as they remained me of the way he used to be, always shining!

“Pan de Muerto” or Bread of the Dead

Another wonderful tradition made during the Day of the Dead is an orangey flavour sweet bread. People in Mexico eat them and use them  as an “ofrenda” (offering) for the altar.

During the last weeks of October all the bakeries around Mexico start baking this bread and people take them home and eat them with some nice cozy hot chocolate.

The way this bread looks has a special meaning, the four long pieces mean the bones of the dead and the ball on top signifies the heart of the dead person and the orangey smell of “Azahar” remind us to the dead.

When I was younger, my mum used to work in a Mexican bakery, so we always used to have fresh sweet bread at home and during “el día de los muertos” we used to eat lots with a hot chocolate.

Now you can make “Pan de Muerto” at home, I share the recipe here

“Calaveras de Azúcar” Sugar Skulls

Just like pan de muerto, sugar skulls are very popular during this celebration. In Mexico all the markets have hundreds of them, nicely decorated. They are placed on the altar as part of the ofrendas (offerings) as well.

Other traditions during “The Day of The Dead”

Every family have their own way to celebrate the day of the dead, for example, in my family we tent to do a BBQ as that was my dad’s favourite thing. My whole family goes to visit his grave and have a little party until dawn.

Everybody brings flowers and something to eat and stay there talking about my dad. Then at night they turn candles to light my dad’s way  to the living world.

Other families tent to cook “Mole” (a chillie and chocolate sauce with chicken) which is consider a dish to have in special occasions. You can find a recipe for Mole Negro con Cuitlacoche here

 

Other traditional recipes for this festival are Tamales and Calabaza en Tacha.

 
 

Calaveras Escritas or Literary Calaveras

Literary Calaveras is a tradition that goes back to vice-royalty times. José Luis Posada a cartoonist and printmaker was the main person to influence this movement, as he used to draw satiric skeletons cartoons of politicians witting comments criticising  the government of those times. Literary Calaveras were banned for some time in Mexico by the government.

Nowadays, literary Calaveras are rhymes usually written in a funny, satiric and ironic tone, pointing to defects and criticizing the vices of a selected person.

Best places in Mexico to experience The Day of The Dead

  • San Andrés Mixquic, Mexico City
  • Xico, Veracruz
  • Páztcuaro and Janitzio, Michoacan
  • Huaquechula, Puebla
  • Xoxo, Oaxaca
  • La Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosí

 

Where to celebrate The Day of The Dead in London

I’m very lucky to live in a country where every year the Mexican community and the English people make a big effort to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

This year there are different events taking place in London, the most important ones are these ones:

 

Wherever or however you are celebrating the Day of the Dead this year, I hope you enjoy it a lot and may the souls of those love ones that have left come back to life!

ENJOY THE DAY OF THE DEAD



In memory of my lovely father who loved food, family, traditions and life to the most!

 

 

Note: Some of the pictures I used here weren’t taken by me.

Bistec Ranchero (Ranch Style Bistec)

Today I decided to cook my dad’s favourite breakfast because I am celebrating that my Instagram account had reached 2000 followers, so that means a lot to me. There are two thousand people follow me in this Mexican food adventure, so that for me is so cool and the best way to celebrate is by cooking on of father’s favourite dishes.

My dad used to order this breakfast every time we used to go to “Leonardos” a restaurant in San Antonio de las Minas. There the do this dish that they have called “Querendon” (love one) and it has two eggs, refried beans and this special stew dish made with meat “Bistec Ranchero”, so you can imagine how filling and comforting this dish is.

For my Bistec Ranchero I always buy  the best cut I can find in my local butcher, I ask them to slice it very thinly and cut it is strips, in this occasion I bought Sirloin steak.

So if you ever have people staying at home and you want to impress them with a nice Mexican breakfast this is the right recipe.

Serves 2

Prep 15 min

Cook 20 min

Ingredients 

  • 250 gr Sirloin steak, thinly cut and cut again in strips
  • 2 tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion julienne
  • 1/2 green pepper julienne
  • 1 fresh jalapeño whole
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Method

 

Heat a casserole dish to medium heat, once is hot add the oil then add the meat and cook for 5 min, stirring continuously, add the salt and pepper and then all the vegetables including the whole jalapeño and garlic, cook for 15 min, stirring the ingredients from time to time and making sure that the meat doesn’t get dry, if it does, add a little bit of water.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the eggs, here you can cook them the way you like them, I like mine fried. Have the refried beans ready and once the Bistec ranchero is cooked, serve it with the eggs and refried beans. Don’t forget to heat some corn tortillas and a nice cup of coffee!

Listo!

Provecho!

Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Chillies)

 
Chiles Rellenos originated in the city of Puebla, Mexico, in the traditional recipe the pepper is coated in egg and fried, but I made them the way my family makes them and it is a more healthier option, no frying involved.

Traditionally the recipe is made with Poblano peppers but this dish has become so popular that nowadays people stuffed almost all type of chillies, even dry chillies like “pasilla” or “ancho”, it is normally serve in a tomato consommé.

They are not difficult to make and the taste is out of this world and when you serve them the way I do (all together in a nice serving plate) it becomes a very elegant dish that can impress even to all the fussy eaters.

Try it and you’ll see you will be cooking “Chiles Rellenos” all the time.

Serves 4

Prep 30 min

Cook 30 min

Ingredients 

  • 8 fresh poblano or green pepper.
  • 300 gr grated Mozarella cheese or any type of cheese that can melt.
  • Tomato consommé

For the tomato consommé

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • Half a raw onion
  • 1 clove of garlic peeled and raw
  • 2 cups of water
  • Half a tbsp of dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste

Method

Roast the poblano or green peppers on the stove top burners until completely blistered and charred all over. Wrap the peppers with a tea towel and place them in a plastic and let sit for around 15 min, this will make the peppers sweat, making the skin peeling easier. Peel the charred skin and make an incision from top to bottom and remove the seed, but leave the stem and set aside.

Make the tomato consommé. Cover the tomatoes with water and leave them to boil for 30 min or until very tender then put them in a blender and add raw onion, garlic, tomato paste, marjoram, salt and a bit of the water where you cook the tomatoes, blend for 2 min, taste and if it needs salt or more marjoram add some, put it back on the heat and continue cooking, leave it on very low heat simmering.

Once the consommé is done fill the peppers with the cheese and carefully place them into the hot consommé, leave the consommé to simmer for 5 more min and once the cheese is melted, turn the heat off.

Serve 2 peppers for person with some Mexican rice.

Tips 

  • I mentioned in other recipes that is very difficult to find fresh Poblano recipes, so you can use green peppers, but the flavour is not going to be the same.
  • Sometimes cool chile sells Poblano peppers when they in season.
  • You can filled the peppers with “Beef Picadillo” as well.

Listo!

Provecho!

Nopales con Huevo (Cactus with Scrambled Eggs)

  
I have so many nice food memories of my childhood while living in Mexico. One of them is my dad bringing a big bag of cactus and he would sit outside to take the pricklely bit off, then patiently he would chopped them one by one, then they were cooked and taraaaa! We would had cactus to eat for a week!!!  

My dad would do different dishes with them, there would always be a cactus salad in the fridge for the whole week and for breakfast we would always eat cactus with eggs.

Serves 2

Prep 10 min

Cook 15 min approx

Ingredients

  • 200 gr fresh cooked cactus or cactus from a jar chopped
  • 1/2 small onion finely chopped
  • 4 medium beaten eggs 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Method

Heat a skillet or a frying pan to medium heat and add the oil, once the oil is hot add the onion and cook for around 5 min or until the onion looks transparent.

  

Then add the cactus and cook for 3 more minutes.

  

After add the beaten eggs, cook for 5 mininutes.
   
 
Serve them with some refried beans, warm corn tortillas and a fresh salsa, I was some of my Puya chilli salsa I did yesterday, find the recipe here 

Tips

  • It is almost impossible to find fresh cactus here in the UK, it is more likely to find cactus in a jar, they do not taste the same as the fresh ones, but they tates good. If you get them in a jar, wash them very well to get rid of the taste of vinegar.

  

  • You can get “La Costeña” cactus jars at www.lacostena.co.uk 

Listo!

Provecho!

Macarela con Pipían Verde (Mackerel with Green Pipian)

  

Pipían or Pepian, as some people call it, is a type of Mexican sauce which the main ingredient are pumpkin seeds, in Spanish these are call “pepitas” that is where the word “Pipian” comes from.

The sauce has a similar consistency to mole, you can get Pipian sauce already made, but nothing beats the fresh homemade one, it is not a difficult recipe to make and the flavour is amazing.

Usually pipian is eaten with chicken, but I used mackerel and had a salad with it to make it a bit lighter, traditionally chicken Pipian is served with Mexican rice and refried beans.

Serves 4 

Prep 15 min

Cook 20 min

Ingredients 

  • 4 mackerel fillets
  • 30 gr green pumpkin seeds toasted 
  • 10 gr roasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp maseca flour
  • 2 poblano peppers or green peppers deseeded and roasted 
  • 1/2 small onion 
  • 1 or 2 Serrano peppers
  • 3 fresh or tin green tomatillos 
  • 1 peeled garlic clove 
  • 50 gr fresh coriander
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • A bag of watercress salad

Method

First roast the pumpkin and sesame seeds on a frying pan on medium heat for 5 min.

Then roast the poblano or green peppers on the stove top burners  until completely blistered and charred all over. Wrap the peppers with a tea towel and place them in a plastic oand let sit for around 8 min, this will make the peppers sweat, making the skin peeling easier. Peel the charred skin and remove the seed and stem.

In the meantime cook the tomatillos and serrano chillies in a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover them (if you are using tin tomatillos, only cook the Serrano chillies). Then place the peeled roasted poblano peppers, tomatillos, Serrano chillies, onion, garlic, cilantro, green pumpkin seeds, maseca flour, sesame seed, and chicken stock into a blender and puree until smooth.

Then heat a frying pan on medium heat and add 2 tbsp of oil, pour in the sauce, add salt to taste stir from time to time and cook for around 15 mjn until the sauce has a consistency of heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add more chicken broth until you get the desire consistency,  turn the heat off and set aside, ready to be serve with the mackerel fillets.

While the sauce is cooking, fry your mackerel fillets. Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add the oil, once the oil is hot, place 2 mackerel fillets at a time, skin down, push the fillets down with a spatula (this will avoid the fillet to curl up), fry them 3 to 5 min on each side.

Serve some watercress salad on a dinner plate, place one mackerel fillet on top of the salad and pour some green Pipian on top of the fish.

Tips

  • You can get fresh tomatillos and poblano peppers from cool chile, they sell them when the tomatillos and poblano peppers are in season.
  • If you can’t find these ingredients fresh then get the tomatillos in a tin, you can find them in www.mexgrocer.co.uk and use green peppers instead of poblanos.

Listo!

Provecho!

 

Salsa de Chile Puya (Puya Chilli Salsa)

 

Puya is a chilli similar to guajillo, but a bit more spicy. I would say that is a combination of guajillo and arbol chilli, in fact, a lot people get confused between these two, as Puya looks very similar to arbol chilli, but Puya is a bit thicker than arbol. Puya or Pulla, as some people call it, has more fruity and intense flavour than guajillo.

It goes very well with chicken, pork or beef. It is a good chilli to make salsas.
This recipe was given to me by my sister Sonia, who kindly share it with me, she told me that is a salsa from Acapulco, Guerrero, it was given to her by her sister-in-law. My sister Sonia is an excellent cook just like my other siblings. The ingredients are very simple and similar to other salsas, but you use oil to fry it. The combination of the ingredients with the oil make a more silky salsa.

Makes around 150 ml Puya salsa

Prep 10 min

Cook 15 min 

Ingredients 

  • 5 dried, clean and deseeded Puya chillis. 
  • 2 medium tomatoes cut in chunks 
  • 1/2 white onion cut in chunks 
  • 1 medium garlic clove peeled 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Method

Put the chillies on a hot frying pan to toast for 3 min making sure to turn them around to avoid burning them.

Then put the chillies, onion, tomatoes and garlic in a blender and blend very well, in the meantime, heat the oil, with low heat, in the same frying pan where you toasted the chillies and add the salsa you just blended. Add salt to taste and cook for 15 min. 

Have it with your breakfast, tacos or any other Mexican dish! 

Tips

  • If you can’t find Puya chillies in the UK, you can use arbol chillies, which are widely available in the Mexican online shops.

Listo!

Provecho!

Dulce de Calabaza (Pumpkin in Syrup)

  
One of the dishes that I will always have in my heart is”dulce de calabaza” or “Calabaza en tacha” as some people call it. For me, this recipe totally takes me back to my childhood, I remember going to visit my grandma in Sinaloa and she and my aunties would cook this dish, sometimes specially for me, as I was and still am number one fan of “Calabaza en dulce”. They are the experts to make this recipe, specially my auntie Laura and Ana. 

In Mexico this recipe is cook during the autumn and specially during “The Day of the Dead” as an offering to our loved ones that had past away. Whatever the ocassion the truth is this recipe is cozy, delicious and once you try it, you will definitely love it and would, like me, eat the whole pot! 

I made a medium pumpkin because it is only for my family and me, but you can make as much as you want, it is an easy recipe and I promise you will love it.

For a medium pumpkin

Prep 15 min 

Cook 1 hr approx 

Ingredients

  • Cheese or Queensland pumpkin washed and cut in chunks
  • 100 gr Dark Brown Mascovado Sugar or dark piloncillo.
  • 2 medium cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 100 ml water

Method

In a large casserole dish add some of the sugar on the bottom and place the pumpkin skin up, add the cloves and cinnamon sticks.

  

 And put another layer of pumpkins and add more sugar, do this until all the pieces are in the casserole dish. Add the water and cook in low heat. Make sure when it is cooking all the pumpkin pieces are covered with the syrup. Cook until the pumpkin is cook and tender. 

Enjoy it just by itself or with some milk.

Tips

  • This recipe traditionally is made with dark “Piloncillo” or “Panela” as some people call it.
  • For this recipe I used dark brown Mascovado sugar as I couldn’t find dark piloncillo. The results are very similar.

Listo!

Provecho!

Puerco en Salsa Verde (Pork in Green Sauce)

  
Things always tastes better with a salsa and this is the case of pork shoulder! I bought pork shoulder in chunks and cook it in this amazing tomatillo salsa.

It is Friday, Fridays for me are for relaxing and that means cooking something quick and easy, but today I fancy that plus the wow factor on it, so I decided to cook this pork stew, in my family my mum loves this dish, she says that “pork just go with tomatillo salsa”.

Anyway, let’s start with the recipe!

Serves 4

Prep 20 min

Cook 30 min

Ingredients

  • 500 gr pork shoulder in chunks
  • 500 ml Salsa verde 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil 

To garnish 

  • 1 roasted green pepper chopped into little cubes
  • 1 avocado cut in slices

Method

Prepare your  salsa verde according to the recipe that is in the blog.

After you have the salsa ready, heat a casserole dish and add the oil, then add the pork shoulder chunks, add salt and cook for 10 min, add the salsa verde and cook for around 20 more min or until the meet is tender.

Server it with some roasted green pepper cubes and slices of avocado and as a side dish you can have some red rice

Listo!

Enjoy!