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.