Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mexican recipes (2024)

I’ve never been to Mexico – a travesty to which I plan to give my speedy attention. In the meantime, I must rely on ingredients I can find in the UK to create my own fiestas.

Mexican dried chillies, the little engines behind the nation’s flaming gastronomy, are widely available, and here Iexperiment with three – ancho, cascabel and chipotle – each with its own fruity, nutty or smoky character.

With corn products, there is still a way to go in the UK. Despite the popularity of tacos, for example, no supermarket sells proper corn tortillas. I strongly advise making your own; otherwise, if you are strapped for time, seek them out online or in specialty shops. I like the aptly named Cool Chile Company brand.

Spicy chicken, corn and charred vegetable soup (pictured above)

This dish is inspired by pozole, a soup made with hominy (another type of dried corn rehydrated in slaked lime) and enriched with meat. I deviated from the original quite a bit, leaving out the hominy and pig’s ears, but it is still wonderfully rich and piquant.

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 6

40g pumpkin seeds
½ dried ancho chilli
1 onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
5-6 green tomatoes
2 medium green peppers (250g)
2 jalapeños (50g)
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tsp olive oil
40g coriander, roughly chopped plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tsp dried oregano
1 litre chicken stock
4-5 corn cobs, kernels shaved off (480g), cobs discarded
600g chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
Salt and black pepper
2-3 limes, juiced to get 3 tbsp
40g unsalted butter
½ tsp ground cinnamon
120ml buttermilk
40g red radishes, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 avocado, thinly sliced

Heat the oven grill to 220C/425F/gas 7. Put the pumpkin seeds and ancho chilli in a cold frying pan and toast over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the seeds begin to pop and take on some colour. Set aside to cool.

Toss the onion, tomatoes, pepper, jalapeños and garlic with the oil. Divide the vegetables between two trays lined with greaseproof paper and roast until soft and charred – 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then discard the garlic skins, and the pepper stems and seeds.

Put the veg in a blender with the coriander, oregano, the toasted seeds and chilli, and 300ml stock, and blend completely smooth – about four minutes. Pour this mixture into a large saucepan with a lid, add the remaining stock, two-thirds of the corn, the chicken and one and three-quarter teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil on a high heat, then turn to medium-low and cook, covered, for 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken, shred into large chunks, then stir back into the soup along with two tablespoons of lime juice. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Heat the butter in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat, then add the remaining corn, a pinch of salt and good grind of black pepper. Cook, stirring now and then, until brown – about seven minutes. Add the ground cinnamon and cook for two minutes more, until fragrant. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Combine the buttermilk with the remaining tablespoon of lime juice and a pinch of salt. To serve, divide the soup between six bowls, top each with sautéed corn, radishes, avocado, buttermilk and coriander leaves and serve.

Radish and cucumber salad with chipotle peanuts

Use jicama instead of radish, if you can find it. I’d also advise doubling up on the chipotle peanuts, because they are seriously addictive.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mexican recipes (1)

Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4 as a side

For the chilli-lime peanuts
1 dried chipotle chilli, stem discarded
90g unsalted blanched peanuts
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1¼ tbsp golden syrup
⅓ tsp flaked sea salt
3-4 limes, zest finely grated, to get 3 tsp, and juiced, to get 3½ tbsp
tbsp olive oil

For the salad
1 cucumber, cut into 2mm thick half- moons
1 daikon, peeled and cut into 2mm thick half-moons
50g breakfast radishes, thinly sliced on a mandoline
20g coriander, leaves picked with some of their stalks
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
Salt and black pepper

For the chilli-lime peanut, blitz the chipotle to a fine powder, measure out half a teaspoon, and set aside the rest for later. Put the chipotle in a small sauté pan with the peanuts, cayenne pepper, golden syrup, flaked sea salt, two teaspoons of lime zest, one-and-a-half teaspoons of lime juice and the same of oil. Put the pan on a medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, for about eight minutes, until the peanuts are sticky and well coated. Transfer to a paper-lined baking tray and leave to cool completely. Break apart into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the cucumber, daikon, radish and two-thirds of the coriander. Separately, combine the garlic, jalapeño, the remaining zest and juiceand remaining two tablespoons of oil in a small bowl and whisk. Pour over the vegetables, along with the cumin, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, then mix well to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter and top with the remaining coriander and half the peanuts, serving the remaining peanuts in a bowl alongside.

Slow-cooked hake in cascabel oil with corn tortillas

You need quite a lot of oil to slow-cook the fish in, but it results in an incredibly aromatic oil that you won’t want to stop mopping up with tortillas. Any leftover oil can be kept in the fridge for two days and tossed through pasta or rice.

Masa harina flour is made of dried corn that is rehydrated in slaked lime; it is not to be confused with cornflour. It is available online and in some specialty shops, but you can also use good commercial corn tortillas instead of making your own, such as the ones sold by the Cool Chile Company.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mexican recipes (2)

Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4 as a starter

600g skinless and boneless hake, cut into 5-6cm pieces
1½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp mild paprika
2 bay leaves
2 dried cascabel chillies, roughly chopped
1 dried ancho chilli, roughly chopped
1½ tbsp tomato paste
3 large garlic cloves, skin left on and crushed with the side of a knife
250ml olive oil
3 limes – 2 juiced, to get 3 tbsp, and 1 cut into wedges, to serve
Flaked sea salt

For the corn tortillas
125g masa harina flour
Vegetable oil
1½ tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped

Put the first nine ingredients, the lime juice and one and-a-half teaspoons of flaked salt in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Cover with a small plate to keep the fish below the surface of the oil. Once the oil starts to bubble, reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 45 minutes, until the fish is tender and flaky. If the oil bubbles at all, take the pan off the heat until it stops, then put it back – the heat throughout should be very gentle. Leave the fish to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, make the tortillas. Put the masa harina and a good pinch of salt in a medium bowl, slowly pour in 250ml boiling water, and stir to combine. Cover with a damp towel and leave the mixture to cool – it will be quite wet and loose to begin with, but the flour will absorb the water as it cools. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, knead it into a smooth, round ball – it should feel like playdough. If it feels at all dry, just wet your hands a little as you knead it.

Divide the dough into 12, pieces weighing about 30g each. Lightly grease a surface and your hands with a little vegetable oil and roll each piece into a smooth ball, adding a little more oil if the dough sticks to the surface. Keep any dough that you are not working with covered with a damp cloth.

Heat a large frying pan on a high heat until it is very hot. Have a folded, very slightly damp tea towel ready on the side to tuck tortillas in once cooked. Squash each ball between pieces of baking paper with a heavy pan, into 12cm discs. Take off the top piece of paper, flip into the pan, cook for 10 seconds, then take off the top piece of paper. Cook on the same side for another minute or two, until brown spots begin to form, then flip and cook for a minute more. Remove, cover with a tea towel and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Transfer the fish, aromatics and oil to a large, shallow bowl and sprinkle with the coriander and some flaked salt. Squeeze the lime wedges on top and serve with the tortillas.

The Guardian aims to publish recipes for sustainable fish. For ratings in your region, check: UK; Australia; US.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mexican recipes (2024)
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