Mexican wave

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:00am

When I cook Mexican food, friends are often surprised the cuisine is so varied, and that, unlike the dishes served in many restaurants, it's not coated in grease and served with refried beans and melted cheese.

Fresh tomato salsa

6 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, chopped

4 large shallots, minced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Fresh hot chillies, to taste

Freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste

A small handful of fresh coriander

Fine flaked sea salt, to taste

Mix all the ingredients except the coriander. Refrigerate salsa for at least 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving.


It is difficult to find ripe avocadoes when you need them, so plan ahead. Wrap unripe avocadoes loosely in newspaper and leave them at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. It's a good idea to buy an extra one, because the flesh is often brown, mouldy or riddled with fibres.

2 ripe avocadoes

Half a cup or more of salsa, from above recipe

Fine flaked sea salt, to taste

Cut the unpeeled avocadoes in half, remove the pit then scoop out the flesh with a metal spoon. Mash it roughly with a fork, stir in the salsa, add salt to taste and serve.

Carne asada burritos (pictured)

To heat flour tortillas flip them frequently on a hot griddle or directly on the pan support above the open flame of a gas burner until they are slightly charred in places.

500 grams thin, well-marbled boneless steaks

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

Fine flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 flour tortillas

Salsa and guacamole

Massage the olive oil into the steaks and let them sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Heat a pan until it is very hot (do not use a non-stick pan). Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and sear in the hot pan for a few minutes on each side. Remove the meat from the pan and let it rest for about five minutes before chopping it roughly into small pieces.

Quickly heat the tortillas then add the meat, salsa and guacamole. Fold in the bottom edge and one side of the tortilla, and roll. Serve immediately.


Small corn tortillas should be dipped in hot oil, which makes them pliable and allows them to be rolled tightly around a scant amount of filling - just a couple of tablespoons. Do not try to skip the hot oil step because without it the tortillas will crumble and break when rolling. When rolled, taquitos should be about 2 centimetres in diameter. They are then fried, drained and served with guacamole and salsa.

This is a good recipe for using a small amount of leftovers, plainly cooked meat - chicken, pork or beef.


1 clove garlic, minced

2 shallots, diced

About 250 grams leftover cooked meat, finely shredded

8-10 corn tortillas

Fine flaked sea salt, to taste

Salsa and guacamole

Heat two teaspoons of oil in a pan and cook the garlic and shallots until soft. Add the meat, salt to taste and cook briefly. Set aside to cool. In another pan, pour oil to a depth of 5mm and heat over a medium-low flame. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle a tortilla around the edges, but not so hot that the tortilla immediately starts to brown. Dip a tortilla briefly in the hot oil then turn it over using tongs to coat the other side. This should make the tortilla soft and pliable. Work quickly and carefully because the oil makes the tortillas tear easily.

Stack three softened tortillas on a plate. Set the oil aside so it doesn't get too hot. Put a thin strip of meat on a tortilla, about 2cm from the edge. Roll it tightly, secure the seam with a toothpick and put it on a tray. Repeat with the remaining softened tortillas. Briefly reheat the oil then continue to dip the remaining tortillas and fill them.

Pour more oil into the pan to a depth of 2cm, then heat it to 200 degrees Celsius. Fry the taquitos, turning often, until they're medium brown and crisp - do this in batches if necessary. Remove the taquitos from the pan and tilt each one so the excess oil drips out of the interior, then drain on paper towels. Serve with guacamole and salsa.

Chiles rellenos

These can be stuffed with cheese, but a picadillo, or spiced meat mixture , is lighter. This is a short-cut version, using salsa from the first recipe, and purchased roast chicken.

4-6 fat chillies with thick flesh, about 4cm x 7cm

? roast chicken, preferably thighs and legs, shredded

? cup or more of salsa

? cup of raisins

A dash of ground cinnamon

A dash of dried chilli flakes

? cup pine nuts, toasted

2 large eggs

2 tbsp flour, plus more for dredging

Fine flaked sea salt


Roast the chillies directly over a gas flame until charred. Peel off the skin but leave stem intact. Cut a slit down the length of each one and pull out the seeds and fibres (wear rubber gloves to protect your hands). Dry the chillies with paper towels. Heat 30 ml (2 tbsp) of oil in a pan and saute the chicken with the salsa, raisins, cinnamon and chilli flakes. Cook until excess moisture is absorbed. Stir in pine nuts and cool the mixture slightly. Stuff loosely into the chillies, re-shape the chillies and refrigerate until cold.

Pour oil to a depth of at least 8cm in a large, wide pan and heat to 200 degrees Celsius. Separate the eggs and put the whites into a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip the whites with a dash of salt until medium peaks form. Working quickly before the mixture deflates, whip the egg yolks into the whites, then add two tablespoons of flour and mix until incorporated. Dredge each chilli in flour, shake off excess, then dip in the batter, covering the entire surface except the stem.

Fry in hot oil - do not crowd the pan because the batter will puff up. Ladle the hot oil over the tops of the chillies to 'set' the batter. When medium-brown, turn the chillies over and hold under the surface of the oil with tongs until fried evenly. Drain on paper towels. Serve with a dollop of salsa.

Styling Leonie van Hasselt