Monday, December 27, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate "Chocolate Caliente"

We have to thank Mexico for giving the world lots of things used nowadays, but one of the best jewels Mexico gave to the world was Cacao, which later on was processed and turned into chocolate. During the pre-Hispanic period, chocolate was a drink reserved for nobles who only drank it on very special occasions. The plebeians were not allowed to have the drink of the Gods and they only drank atole and water, they were only allowed to drink chocolate if ordered by the nobles on particular feast days. After the Spanish conquest, chocolate became a more popular drink but it was very expensive. Cacao was one of the most demanded products by the Spaniards who accepted it as currency. Oaxaca was and still continues to be one of the principal markets for the commerce of Cacao, the Dominican friars desacralized the use of cacao and accepted it as a source of energy and a remedy for sunstroke, sores, kidney and stomach problems.

Although chocolate became very popular among the clergy, there were those who criticized the use of it outside a medicinal context. Some friars believed that the devil perverted this "medicine" by the sinful addition of sugar and by drinking it at all hours of day saying it will be one of the causes of an epidemic that decimated the population. Other Dominicans defended chocolate as it provided a source of energy and a consolation to the heart. Nevertheless, this succulent drink was never absent during the religious fiestas. In life outside the convent, chocolate was used until the seventeenth century when it was dissolved in hot water or milk and sweetened with raw sugar, vanilla or cinnamon.

The Spaniards introduced chocolate to the rest of Europe making it one of the most desired products amongst different cultures. Hot chocolate was born to satisfy Spaniards palates as an adaptation of the indigenous Oaxacan drink that was drunk cold. The cacao was mixed with ground corn, diluted with water and sweetened with honey, it was also flavoured with chiles or herbs. Even though around the world chocolate has been modified from the ancient ways it was drunk, many people in Oaxaca still continue to prepare it in their unique ways. Even now, some Oaxacan communities still believe drinking chocolate signifies honoring life, being at one with family and friends, God and the dead. This is probably why chocolate never misses an important celebration in Mexico. The thick and delicious foam on the chocolate means happiness, brotherhood and hope. There is No fiesta without Chocolate.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients and Directions:

It really depends on where you buy your chocolate to really know the quantity and measures. You will need to play with quantities to get the flavour that is right for you.
I bought artesanal Mexican chocolate from Puebla grounded to perfection with sugar and cinnamon made by the indigenous people. The result was a smooth, NOT GRAINY AT ALL, so full of flavour, HOT chocolate!!
Ingredients for this one was only 1 tablet per 2 cups of whole milk and it was simply perfect!!

But as I won't have Puebla so close to me now that I am back in Toronto, I bought fair trade chocolate from Chocosol which in fact comes from Oaxaca. From Chocosol's Chocolate I used 40g of Chocolate per 800ml of whole milk, then I added sugar to taste, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 whole clove and a bit of vanilla. It was perfect, just the way I like it!!!...

Remember to use your molinillo in the end, to make that fantastic foam which is the main characteristic of Mexican Hot Chocolate!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad!
I hope you have a great time with your family and friends on these holidays!
May all your wishes come true!

Friday, December 17, 2010

George Brown is over!..

So.... my first course of Baking Arts certificate is over, and the last couple of weeks pass by so quickly I didn't even have time to post all the incredible recipes I've learned. I really enjoyed it and can't wait for my next classes to begin in January!! I'll be taking "The Art of Breads" and "The Art of Cookies". It will be a tough 3 months as on top of everything I am starting my new job and I am sure I'll be pretty busy trying to bake delicious breads while at the same time learning lots of new things!.. I guess it will be pretty challenging, but life is full of that; once you find yourself too comfortable, Change has to happened and move your comfort zone just a little, to make it interesting again!..

Anyways, all of you who are really thinking of taking a good cooking course I would really tell you to go for it, I believe the cooking course I took at George Brown was really good, lots of great practice and also eye opening as you keep learning and learning. There were a couple of basic recipes but nevertheless the teacher always had tips for us that I didn't really know about. Anyways .. I am getting ready for the holidays and will be traveling to Mexico for a couple of days. I'll promise to take tons of pictures so you can really get to see the amazing food as well as all the interesting places you can find there!.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where does your Chocolate come from?

By desesperately searching for Cacao traders in Toronto as wanted to prepare an authentic mexican hot chocolate from my favourite "My Sweet Mexico" cookbook, I bumped into these AMAZING guys 'ChocoSol' who to me is a very inspiring community/social enterprise!.. They basically stand for fair trade, organic and artisanal Chocolate. They import Chocolate from communities in Oaxaca, Mexico where they have built relationships and support community growers. The more I read about industrialized cacao and the slavery created by the excessive demand and the unconcious exploitation of natural resources from both, consumers and multinational companies, the more I convince myself that we all need to support sustainable initiatives that ultimately come from people who are trying to make a difference. I found this interview with Chocosol & this chocolate slavery article online that really inspired me to question where my food is comming from and making sure that the integrity and soul of those involved is kept whole.

Believe me when I tell you that the taste of Real Cacao and artisanal chocolate is highly superior than any other I've ever bought. From now on I'll make my own chocolate at home. This has really opened my eyes to do the right thing and strongly support those that also know change has to be made.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yucatecan Shredded Meat "Salpicon Yucateco"

In Yucatan, Mexico ..

..... the most common "salpicon" is made of shredded venison that has first been cooked in a pit barbecue called a pib. It is then mixed with orange juice, cilantro and radishes to make a fresh crisp filling on a hot day. In the Gulf of Mexico area, you can find "salpicon de jaiba" shredded crab meat cooked with onion, chiles and cilantro or shredded fish with olives, raisins and capers which it's called "saragalla". Yucatecan cuisine has its own unique style and is very different from what most people would consider "Mexican" food. It includes influences from the local Mayan culture, as well as Caribbean, Mexican, European (French) and Middle Eastern cultures. Chile Habanero and tortillas are found in a lot of different Yucatecan dishes. Some of the most common ingredients are pumpkin seeds, oregano, red onion, orange, sweet chile, lemon, achiote, chile xcat, chile habanero and cilantro. All these secret ingredients that are part of the Mayan heritage, are responsible for the distinct flavour of Yucatecan food. Mayan people had a very strong connection to corn which became the main pillar of their diet. In the Popol Vuh, a sacred Mayan book, they stated and believed that men originated from corn. If you want to try the real flavours of the Yucatecan cuisine you cannot pass this recipe and serve it with some nice warm corn tortillas ....

Salpicon Yucateco


1 cup of cooked and shredded meat
1/2 cup of Seville orange juice: (1 tsp finely grated lemon rind, 2 tbsp fresh orange juice, 2 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice, 4 tbsp fresh lime juice)
2/3 cup very finely chopped radishes
3 tbsp very finely chopped cilantro
salt to taste


Mix all ingredients and let them season for 30 mins before serving. Serve at room temperature with fresh hot tortillas! It's finger licken' good! I added my personal twist as I don't really enjoy radishes, so I swap them for chopped tomatoes and it tasted heavenly!...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Meat "Chiles Rellenos de Picadillo"

The challenge this weekend was to prepare Chiles Rellenos. I have never cooked them before and it seemed a bit overwhelming, but as I kept going, I achieved the perfect Chiles.
There is always anticipation when you eat them, because you never know how spicy the one you picked will be. 

The thing with spicy food is that we end up loving it so much in part because it releases endorphins in the body. When capsaicin, the element of chili peppers that cause the "spicy" sensation, comes into contact with the tongue, the body is tricked into believing that it is in pain and releases the pain-relieving endorphins. This explains why, like anything that releases endorphins, spicy food can become somewhat addictive, believe I know! Once you start getting into spicy food you will crave it and build tolerance levels so that what was extremely hot in the beginning will now become mild to you.

To me, spicy is one of the healthiest addictions anyone can develop. Research shows hot chili peppers actually protect the stomach lining and may prevent the gastric damage associated with anti-inflammatory painkillers. They are high in nutrients such as calcium plus vitamins A and C, and there’s some evidence that hot chilies can reduce cardiovascular disease risk, help prevent diabetes and boost metabolism. They may also have some ability to prevent cancer.

So next time you are thinking about avoiding chiles... THINK TWICE!

There are many variations of chiles rellenos, but, the most popular ones are Poblano Chiles stuffed with meat or cheese filling fried in an airy batter. The poblano is a mild chile pepper original from the State of Puebla, Mexico. Dried it is called an ancho chile. An immature poblano is dark purplish green in color but eventually turns a red so dark as to be nearly black.

"Chiles Rellenos de Picadillo"
Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Meat


Meat Filling "Picadillo"

2 lbs of ground pork
salt to taste
vegetable oil for frying
2/3 cup of finely chopped onions
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
8 pepper corns
5 whole cloves
1/2 inch of cinnamon stick
3 tbsp of raisins
2 tbsp of slivered almonds
2 tbsp of candied fruit (I personally don't enjoy the candied fruit so I left this ingredient out of my picadillo and it tasted great, but if you like it you might want to add it).
1 1/4 lbs tomatoes roughly chopped.

Tomato Broth

1 1/4 lbs of tomatoes (briefly blended, you still want to see the pieces of tomato)
3 tbsp of white onion (roughly chopped)
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
4 whole cloves
6 pepper corns
2 bay leaves
2 springs of fresh thyme
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 cups of pork broth
salt to taste

The Chile

8 chiles poblanos (charred and peeled; you can see how to in this recipe)

The Batter

4 large eggs, separated
vegetable oil for frying
1/4 tsp of salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour (more if needed)


Over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil and fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the meat and let cook until it begins to brown (put the meat together doing a big patty as if making a huge burger, that way you'll get it to brown easier, if it's too big, do it in batches as by browning it you'll get amazing flavour). Crush the spices roughly and add them together with the rest of the "picadillo" ingredients except the tomatoes and add them to the meat. Cook everything for 5 more mins and then add the tomatoes. Continue cooking for about 10 mins over high heat. Should be moist but not juicy. Stir from time to time to avoid sticking.

To prepare the tomato broth blend tomatoes, onion and garlic until smooth. Over a high heat pan add the oil, once it is hot enough start adding all the ingredient except for the pork broth. Let the salsa fry for about 5 mins stirring occasionally. Then you are good to add the broth, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 mins. You are looking for a broth rather than a salsa so it should be still runny.

To prepare the chiles, Make a slit in the side of each of the chiles and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the Chile. Stuff each chile depends on the size, but approx 1/2 cup of the meat filling "picadillo" until they are well filled.

To prepare the batter heat the oil in a deep skillet. Meanwhile beat the egg whites until they are firm, but not too dry. Add the salt and egg yolks one by one, beating well after each addition. Prepare one chile at a time: Pat the chile completely dry and sprinkle them lightly with flour. Coat with the batter and Fry them in a hot oil. You are looking for a deep golden colour batter.

Place the chiles in the tomato broth and serve. I love all the Mexican favourites that go so well with every dish .. so I added sour cream, avocados and queso fresco.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Convent Cookies (Galletas de Convento)

This recipe was great for some afternoon tea cookies, and as I was enjoying the extremely rich and melt-in-your-mouth delights, I was thanking the ancient tradition that Mexican recipes have. You can actually taste that tradition and can only imagine with how much care these recipes were created. This one comes from the nuns, who found a way to escape from the rigors of religion by experimenting with new flavours in the Kitchen. In Mexico, it is very well known that nuns are great cooks and are big contributors to the immense sweet options we can find in Mexican Cuisine. In History of the Gastronomy in Mexico City, Salvador Novo wrote, "And when sugar arrived to this land, the fruits of this were absorbed through the delicate hands of the nuns". There is a vast selection of candies that nuns have been making for centuries, in the old days convents got additional income by selling their culinary creations as well as from teaching rich girls how to set a table and bake amongst other things. Nowadays you can still find some convents that prepare several of the sweets found in that time; especially in the state of Puebla, where every corner from the downtown area is full of Candy stores that only sell Authentic Mexican Candy.

The original recipes asks for Almonds but after getting all my ingredients ready I realized I only had pistachios, so I used them instead. OH! let me tell you it was a great substitute... absolutely amazing!!!

Convent Cookies (Galletas de Convento)


1 cup of whole almonds skin on (I used pistachios instead)
1 cup of sugar Plus extra for topping
1/4 cup water
7 oz unsalted butter softened
5 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
2 egg whites
sliced or slivered almonds, for topping (whole pistachios)


Toast the almonds until golden and let cool completely. Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pan, wipe the edges with a wet brush and cook until it turns golden. By wipping the edges you avoid the sugar to crystallize. Once golden, add the almonds, stir quickly and pour onto a baking sheet previously greased or with parchment paper. Let cool and then grind in a food processor until it looks like sugar rocks.

Cream the butter in a mixer until pale and fluffy, then add the egg yolks one at a time. In a separate bowl combine the flour with the salt and add gradually to the butter mixture. Finally add the caramelized almonds until combined. Roll the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness. If it is very sticky you can roll the dough to the size of your baking sheet between 2 parchment papers and then freeze it for 10 mins so it gets easier to handle. Once ready cut out 2 1/2 inch circles of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet (greased or with parchment paper).

Preheat oven to 350°F
Beat the egg whites and brush the top of the cookies. Decorate with a slice of almond and a bit of sugar. Bake until the edges begin to brown, for about 10 mins. Let cool for 5 mins and then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpkin Seed Salsa for Enchiladas

When I started this blog I really didn't know what was going to be my main focus. It wasn't until I came to Toronto that I started falling in love with cooking and becoming a real "foodie", I mean I have always appreciated food but never the way I have come to appreciate it here. When I first moved to Canada, I develop a passion for cooking as I had to cook for myself all the time, it turned out I really enjoy cooking.

I know some of you understand how hard it is to move and start your life in a whole different country, and finding something you love that opens your eyes to new and different possibilities is quite awesome. Cooking here has made me realize how much amazing flavours I had back home that I never quite appreciated before. So more and more as I really immerse myself into my ancestors traditions and food culture I know that this is what I was really trying to share with you.

Sometimes I feel really bad that even though I grew up eating Mexican food, I never learned how to prepare all those flavourful recipes, that is why from now on as I am trying to tackle one of my most beloved cookbooks of all times "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico", you will see all types of Mexican recipes posted from now on in this blog. The best part of all is that most of the ingredients are available here, and even though it takes me a good hour to get there, I really enjoy the smells of that little store in the core of Kensington Market.

So... anywhooooooo..
Here it goes

Pumpkin Seed Salsa for Enchiladas


1 cup of hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of unhulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 to 2 chiles serranos
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
340g of green tomatoes broiled (tomatillos asados)
1/2 cup of water, or more if needed
2 heaped tbsp of cilantro
2 heaped tbsp of white onions


In a frying pan toast the unhulled pumpkin seeds until browned and crispy, stir continuously. Then, add the hulled pumpkin seeds and toast for another minute or so. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Meanwhile toast the chile until blistered and black brown in spots. Using a food processor, grind the toasted seeds together with the salt to a coarse powder, then add the tomatoes, chile, cilantro, water & onions and process until it has the consistency of salsa. If it is too thick add more water. Note: Add water little by little to get the desired consistency, your salsa might not need the full 1/2 cup, it depends on how thick or runny you like it.
Serve it at room temperature on top of "Taquitos Dorados de Pollo" Chicken tacos, or use as a salsa for quesadillas, etc..

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Week 7 & 8 @ George Brown

Weeks keep passing by so quickly I can't believe I have only 4 more weeks to go before my first course is finished.

In Week 7 we made Choux paste. The secret to make perfect hollow balls is to melt the butter or shortening completely in the water before adding the flour, also make sure you stir constantly to prevent any lumps. Oh! and when adding eggs you have to do it one by and make sure it is well incorporated before adding the next one. Just keep in mind this and it will really help you bake the perfect Eclaires or profiteroles.

Last Saturday we made Piped Spritz Cookies, I have to say I do need a lot of practice with my pipping technique as honestly it is not the best! Anywhoooo.. The important thing to remember when doing these cookies is that in order for them to be buttery you really need to beat the butter for at least 4 - 5 mins before starting adding the rest of the ingredients. By beating it for a while it will become super light and will help you get the right consistency which is "buttery melt in your mouth" cookies. If you want to test the butter to know if it has the right consistency, once beaten, you can put a tiny piece of butter in a glass filled with cold water, if it floats, you've got it!

You can pair these buttery soft cookies with an "Aromatic Sweet Coffee" or "Café de Olla" to keep warm in these cold winter days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pork in Prune Sauce

I have been adapting to Canadian festivities and this year's thanksgiving wasn't the exception. I know I am coming with this post somewhat late, but nevertheless wanted to share this delicious recipe with all of you because it was pretty amazing. I didn't go the traditional route this year, which all of you know is TURKEY, but instead I prepared this very special meal as the flavours are just out of this world. It is a very well known recipe in Mexico and sometimes used for fancy special dinners, at my sister's house we have had it for Christmas. This is the type of recipe you probably would stay away from any regular day, as it takes a long time to prepare, but as I wanted to cook something special for Thanksgiving.. and this was the perfect opportunity to try something fancy and laborious other than Turkey..... well I ended up prepping and cooking for 2 days, and it was WORTH IT!..

Some of you would prefer having Turkey for Thanksgiving but if you want to try something new once in a while and surprise your guests.. please try this one!! I don't even know what else to say to persuade you into cooking this recipe, but please do!!.. it is so good you will just want to eat the entire thing by yourself!.. And before you hesitate saying something like .. ohhh I would try it but I don't like prunes.. let me tell you .. I don't like them either .. but all the flavours melt together in this recipe, so .. don't be afraid to try it!

Pork in Prune Sauce


750g Pork
The juice of 2 limes
5 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of Chile ancho (grounded)
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 white onion (chopped)
250 ml of chicken stock
12 tomatoes (chopped)
12 prunes
1 tsp sugar
a pinch of grind cinnamon
a pinch of pepper
a pinch of cumin


Combine the pork, lime juice, garlic, chile powder, salt and half the oil and let marinate for a whole night. You can do this using a plastic bag such as ziploc bags. Preheat the oven at 350°F, meanwhile remove the pork from the sauce, dry it with a paper towel and sear it on both sides in a high heat oven proof pot, reserve the sauce. Once the meat is evenly fried on both sides, add the sauce, chicken stock and onion. Put the lid on the pot and place in the oven for 2 to 3 hours or until the pork is tender. Remove the pot from the oven, with a spoon try to remove as much fat as possible, then add the tomatoes and bake for 20 mins more. Then add the prunes, sugar, cinnamon, cumin and pepper, rise the temperature to 400°F and bake for 20 more mins or until the pork is super super tender and the sauce has thickened. Serve with hot tortillas or serve as is with some veggies.