Hi everyone! As I write I am looking out on a Siberian scene, but I guess you probably are too! So let’s not dwell upon the foul weather. Instead, this month I am taking you away to sunny Mexico. Not in person, sadly, but our newsletter focusses on the home of the chilli. We have three delicious recipes, including the ultimate Chilli con Carne. And not one, but two spices of the month, both Spice Mountain blends which are a great way to have a taste of Mexico handy in the kitchen cupboard. Speaking of kitchen cupboards, this month’s feature has a look at a dozen products we offer which should be the foundation of any Mexican pantry. I hope you enjoy the trip! We’ll speak again next month, by which time the sun will be shining in a clear blue sky and we’ll all be wandering about in t-shirts – I hope! Take care and stay warm!

Magali

Spice of the Month

Holy Trinity blend/Fajita blend

We honestly couldn’t decide between two contenders for Spice of the Month in our Mexican special – so we decided to choose both!

Mexican Holy Trinity blend is a Spice Mountain original, which brings together the three most popular Mexican chillies (ancho, guajillo and pasilla) together with other herbs and spices, creating a blend which is perfect to give an authentic Mexican flavour to a variety of dishes. The flavour is deep and bold, toasty and chocolatey, and it has a medium heat with a lovely balance. Holy Trinity is particularly good in stews and mole sauces, as long, slow cooking brings out all the flavours in the blend to their best.

Our Fajita blend of course was created to make the dish in question, but it also works very well in any dish which needs little or quick cooking. It is zingy and fresh, with a medium heat. To make fajitas, marinade strips of chicken or steak in fajita blend and lime juice, then stir fry with sliced onion and green pepper, adding a bit more fajita blend and lime juice, and a good handful of chopped fresh coriander. Serve with warm tortillas, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Fajita blend can also be used as a rub for chicken, fish and prawns.

March Recipes

Huevos Rancheros

The Mexican way to get your eggs for breakfast, Huevos Rancheros is a spicy, tomatoey treat when served alongside some warm flour tortillas.

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Chilli con Carne

Despite the fact that it is as easy to find a terrible chilli con carne as it is to find a good one, when done properly this dish really is a prince amongst men.

Read Recipe

 

Pork Asado ‘Nuevo Leon’

This amazing pork stew comes from the state of Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico, the capital of which is Monterrey.

Read Recipe

This Month’s Feature –
The Mexican Spice Pantry

While authentic Mexican cooking is now fairly readily available, it isn’t so long since most Mexican restaurants were actually more Tex-Mex, which though an excellent cuisine, can be a bit ‘samey’. Mexican food however is quite a broad church, and Mexico is a big country, meaning there are many regional variations in dishes and ingredients. It is a fascinating cuisine to dive into, full of surprises, and nowadays pretty much all of the ingredients needed are available. Here we put together a dozen things to include in the Mexican section of your spice cupboard which will give you the basis for putting together pretty much anything Mexican. Bear in mind that while we have featured five of the most popular chillies, there are many more to explore – cascabel, pequin, anaheim, mulato and de arbol are all also common. The most commonly used everyday spices and herbs are ground coriander, coriander leaf, cumin and oregano while pimiento (allspice), cloves and cinnamon are popular aromatics. Most of our chillies are available whole and ground; using rehydrated whole dried chillies will give your dish a wonderful flavour and texture, so is highly recommended.

Ancho chilli – dried Poblano, ancho is one of the most commonly used chillies, as it is quite mild but still has bags of flavour and character. Notes of tobacco and a very mellow heat.

Guajillo chilli – a thin, red chilli, the guajillo has a fruity flavour with notes of tea and berry, and a lovely colour. It has a medium heat, warm rather than fiery.

Pasilla chilli – known as the little raisin, the pasilla has similar qualities to the ancho, but a somewhat fruitier flavour. A very mild chilli.

Chipotle chilli – the chipotle is a dried jalapeno, and it retains the heat of its fresh version while adding smoky, toasty notes which will warm up any dish.

Habanero chilli – the hottest of the Mexican chillies, habanero really packs a punch! Even in its dried version, just floating one in a stew will give it a distinct heat. Beneath the heat, habanero has a lovely fruity flavour.

Holy Trinity blend – this Spice Mountain original blend brings together the Holy Trinity of Mexican cooking (ancho, guajillo and pasilla chillies) and is great for using in any dish which needs long, slow cooking, with a medium heat and a deep, balanced spiciness.

Mexican Oregano – Mexican oregano has a more pungent, ‘wild’ flavour than its European cousin, and is probably the most widely used herb used in Mexican cooking as its flavour balances very well with chilli.

Epazoate – known as the ‘bean’ herb, epazoate is related to oregano but has a gentler flavour. Its colloquial name comes from the fact that the herb is meant to prevent flatulence, but it also brings a unique flavour to any bean dish.

Cacao nibs – the Mole sauce popular in Mexico will always contain a bit of chocolate as its silky and smooth flavour balances so well with the chillies used. A sprinkle of cacao nibs will also bring a touch of luxury to a chilli con carne, and chocolate commonly turns up in hot drinks and desserts too.

Vanilla – Mexico is the home of vanilla as well as chillies, and vanilla is commonly used in sweet dishes as well as certain Moles. It is also often added to hot chocolate drinks as a natural aromatic and sweetener.

Chipotle en adobo – Always handy to have in the cupboard is one of these tins of chipotle chillies cooked in ‘adobo’, a spicy sauce. They are great for making a quick chilli or chicken dish, and for using to garnish burgers or tacos.

Mole sauce – Making your own Mole sauce needs a lot of time and effort, so when neither are available this ready-made sauce is perfect. All you need to do is grill or bake some chicken or a pork chop, and heat the sauce through for a quick Mexican treat.

A Match Made in Heaven

In which we take a monthly look at which spices, herbs and blends match best with the fruit and vegetables in season.

CeleriacThe earthy yet slightly creamy flavour of celeriac matches well with warm, aromatic spices such as nutmeg, cumin (in moderation), and black pepper. A teaspoon of mild curry powder will liven up a celeriac soup.

Jerusalem Artichokethe nutty, slightly sweet flavour means this lovely vegetable matches well with rosemary, bay and parsley. Cardamom is an interesting partner, and also try seasoning simply with our Lemon Pyramid Salt.

Potatoes – we’d be here for weeks if we listed everything which matches with the humble spud, so we’ll stick to four of our blends which work wonderfully – Bombay Potato curry, Peruvian spice rub, Patatas Bravas and Burmese curry.

Chicory – the aniseed notes of chicory work wonderfully with citrus, notably Orange zest. Tarragon has similar flavours so matches well, and mild, fruity chillies such as Aleppo pepper are a winner.

BananaBananas love aromatic spices such as pimiento (allspice), cinnamon and nutmeg. Also if  you are cooking bananas either of cinnamon sugar and vanilla sugar will work wonders.