I am now the proud owner of four kinds of Mexican chillies - mulato, chipotle, ancho and pasilla chillies. Thomasina gives her tried and tested favourites in the first chapter in the book which is really useful, as is the supplier details at the back which is very comprehensive. I bought my chillies from http://www.casamexico.co.uk/ and they were posted really quickly. The smell was really nice as I opened the packet, almost chocolately. It boded well!
The book has a great introduction, how Thomasina came to love Mexican food and all about the basics of Mexican cooking. There are 5 pages about Mexican ingredients, most of which you can find in supermarkets now, bar maybe corn tortillas.
The chapters are really nicely set out and include Salsas, Sauces and Relishes, Soups, Street Food and Slow-Cooked Main Courses. For some recipes such as the Simple Roast Chilli Salsa and the Chipotles en Adobo (which seems to be the basis of a lot of dishes in the book) there are step-by-step photos so you know how things should be looking. I like this, especially with a whole new type of cooking. There is also a guide on how to fold a burrito and how to eat a taco. The photography is vibrant and attractive, there just isn't enough of it. I want to know what the Citrusy Chickpea Salad looks like, or the Mexican Sponge Cake with Strawberry Jam. I think it's even more important to have images of desserts to refer to. This is a shame. The titles all sound delicious though.
The first things I tried were the Ham and Cheese Empanadas. These were really simple to put together and the recipe was easy to follow. We had ham left over from a big roast ham we had cooked over the weekend so the leftovers were perfect. The mustard added a gorgeous background flavour and the cheese and mayonnaise made a gooey sauce. There was no photo of this dish but I think I got the look kind-of right! They made a really nice lunch with some salad. I'd be happy to make these again.
Next was the Barbacoa, a slow cooked meat dish. Lamb or mutton was suggested but I used pork as I don't eat lamb, I think beef would work just as well. This was made in 2 stages; first I had to make Diana's Delicious Meat Marinade with my newly obtained ancho chillies and some dark chocolate as well as various herbs. The dried chillies had to be soaked first but this was very straight forward and it was just a case of whizzing all the ingredients together into a paste and marinading the meat overnight. This marinade smelt gorgeous, a really rich scent. Stage 2 involved red wine and tomatoes and cooking the dish for 4 hours. After all that was it worth it? Disappointingly it was a little bitter, probably because of the chocolate. It wasn't inedible but it wasn't the amazing taste I was expecting. We had enough for 2 servings so the 2nd day I mixed in a little tomato ketchup to try and sweeten the sauce a little. This worked quite well and I enjoyed it a lot more. I would make it again but I'd put a lot less chocolate. Again, no photo of this dish - I'm guessing she couldn't make it look very attractive, neither could I!
I couldn't pass up making some churros, though I was terribly lazy and just put dollops of the mixture into the oil instead! It didn't results in the lightest of churros but they eased my churros cravings with some cinnamon and vanilla sugar. Flour, oil and water = deep fried goodness. Maybe I'll make some slightly more refined ones next time!
All in all I think I was happy with this book! It's a great shame about the lack of photos for an awful lot of the recipes and my Barbacoa wasn't brilliant after all that effort. But now I have such a variety of chillies I'll have to test out more recipes!