As many of my regular readers will know, Mexican food is hands down my favourite cuisine and as a result, you will already find a plethora of Mexican recipes on my website. My love for Mexican cuisine is just one of the reasons I was super excited for my recent trip to the country itself. I couldn’t wait to get there and experience ‘real’ Mexican food (and eat guacamole until I turned green) and so one of the first things I tried to arrange when we arrived was an authentic Mexican cooking class.
The hotel we were staying at, the Royalton Riviera Maya for anyone whose interested, really pulled out the stops and arranged a private cooking class for my husband and I in the hotels dedicated Mexican restaurant.
The day of the class we (me with a rather large hangover as you can probably tell from the pics and my OH who was fresh as a daisy) headed down to the restaurant, which as you can see from the picture has the most beautiful open kitchen sat right in the middle of the dining area. This was where our class was to take place.
We were greeted by chefs Daniel and Luciano and informed we were going to be making a three course meal, the recipes for which I have the pleasure of being able to share with you now. I’ve had to make a few tweaks to chef Daniels original recipe here to make it both Smart Points friendly and so that the ingredients would be readily available but it tastes almost exactly as it did on the day. Freddie, the Executive Chef who runs all 9 restaurants at the hotel even stopped by to say hello and have a quick chat about food and cooking.
Chef Daniel and Executive Chef Frederico
I have to say a massive thanks to the guys in the hotel who arranged this fabulous afternoon for us. It was a real pleasure learning more about the cuisine which I love and having the opportunity to cook up and sample all of the amazing food.
Not only did I get lots of ideas for new dishes whilst I was away, I also learnt a lot about the cuisine itself.
Firstly before we visited the place itself I don’t think that I fully appreciated the difference between ‘Mexican’ and ‘Tex Mex’ cuisine. I had always assumed things like fajitas, chilli and BBQ sauce were Mexican but none of these things were on the menu in the Mexican restaurant.
Secondly, I’ve always been a fan of Mexican food for the delicious salsas, guacamoles and sauces however again I don’t think I fully appreciated the way that these elements are used to ‘build’ a dish and add different flavours too it. A lot of the time, the meat wasn’t actually spicy in itself, rather the salsas were used to add the level of heat you preferred. This is definitely something I will be taking into account more as lots of my recipes are rather spicy!
So without further ado below is the first recipe we made on the day, a starter dish titled ‘Wahaca Salad’. It one of the nicest salad dishes I’ve ever tasted and although I couldn’t get my hands on a few of the ingredients, the recipe below is as close to the original as I could get! It’s not as low in points as some of my other recipes but I was keen to retain the amazing flavours Daniel created. Its the perfect starter for any meal and a lovely weekend lunch. It may seem a little complicated to make but it really is worth it.
If you don’t want to include the pistachios (I know some people are allergic) just omit them. The points stay the same.
The salad we made on the day
My version of ‘Wacaha Salad’
Serves 2 = 11sp per person (Flex)
100g soft goat’s cheese
1/4 tsp olive oil
20g pumpkin seeds
1/2 tbsp sugar
5 pistachios, blended into a crumb (optional) (I did this in a spice grinder but you could do it in a blender or in a pestle and mortar)
2 smoked bacon medallions
Handful of salad leaves
1 carrot, peeled into strips with a julienne peeler
1 courgette, peeled into strips with a julienne peeler
Handful of tomatoes, halved
1 level tsp honey
1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
Pop the goats cheese into a bowl, add the olive oil and mix through so the cheese is soft and pliable. Pop the bowl to one side.
Take a small non stick frying pan, add the pumpkin seeds and toast for a few minutes. Remove the pumpkin seeds from the pan and pop to one side. In the same pan, add the sugar and heat until it melts and begins to brown. Don’t stir the pan at all, just let the sugar do its thing from a distance. The caramelisation of the sugar happens quickly so get ready to take it off the heat. One the sugar has browned, remove from the heat and add the pumpkin seeds, tossing them in the caramel. Leave to cool. Once cooled, tip the caramelised seeds onto a chopping board and chop until you have a fine crumb.
Add half of the pistachio crumb to the pumpkin mix and combine.
Next take a 1/4 tsp sized ball of goats cheese, roll into a rough ball with a teaspoon and roll in the crumb. Pop onto a plate and repeat until you have 10 small balls. Pop in the fridge.
If you are having the bacon, grill or griddle and then roughly chop.
Take two bowls and add a handful of salad leaves to each. Add the carrot and courgette and tomatoes, squeeze over the juice of 1/2 the lemon and then toss together. Top the salad with the goats cheese balls and bacon.
In a small bowl, mix the honey, the rest of the lemon and wholegrain mustard. Drizzle over the salad. Finish by sprinkling over the remaining pistachio crumb.