Thursday, 3 April 2014

Book review-Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers and Frida's Fiestas by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle

The closest I have been to Mexico is the Tijuana border (pictured above).  Mr Pickings and I took the trolley from downtown San Diego to the border.  It was fascinating to see how the border guards checked all the cars -some from top to toe-for drugs, illegal immigrants and who knows what else!  And along those ridges you can see on the left (the US side) there were lots of patrol cars and men with big guns!  We didn't have a visa to get back into the US if we left it, so sadly we just had to poke our noses through the wire fence.
I have long been fascinated by the life and art of Frida Kahlo, the famous and tragic Mexican artist.  I first became aware of her work many years ago.  Since then, I have read books about her, seen a couple of movie bios, and lusted after her paintings. Lucky Madonna for being able to afford a Frida collection!
Mr Pickings bought me a copy of Frida's Fiestas some years ago, a collection of recipes gathered together by her step-daughter Guadalupe Rivera to showcase the foods that Frida would cook in her kitchen.  (on my bucket-list- visiting The Blue House in Coyoacan where she lived and worked).
the courtyard of The Blue House 
 When I first owned this book, it was very difficult to obtain Mexican ingredients so I felt that her recipes were out of my reach.  I just enjoyed looking at the amazing photos and drooling over the exotic foods.
Fast forward-mmm-a number of years later and we have Mexican taquerias popping up like mushrooms, and everybody seems to have their own quesadilla and taco speciality.  So we come to my new Mexican fave-  Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers.  I have been a fan of hers since she made those TV shows Wild Gourmets, and A Cook's Tour of Spain.   She has recently opened a chain of Mexican restaurants in London called Wahaca (I guess she figured no-one would be able to pronounce it if spelt as it should be- Oaxaca). Her recipes seem to be much more than Tex-Mex which is great, and these days the ingredients are much easier to source.
Frida's recipe for hot chocolate uses milk, Mexican chocolate and sugar.  The milk and chocolate are heated together, sugar is added in and the mixture is beaten with a whisk till foamy.  That's it!  Sounds delicious!
Tommi's recipe is similarly easy with chocolate, milk or water and a cinnamon stick heated, then whisked till frothy.

I love black bean soup and both cooks have a recipe for it which has tomatoes, black beans, herbs and garlic cooked and pureed into a soup, and served with tortilla squares and cheese.  I actually like Tommi's recipe more as it has more herbs, onion and lime juice to liven it up.

Mole Poblano is of course the Mexican main that we all know of.  It is a complex recipe with lots of ingredients and steps, and is worth the extra bit of work to make it.  (Frida has recipes for Red and Yellow Mole too).  Mole Poblano is full of spices and flavours; it has 3 types of chillies, cinnamon, garlic, cloves, onions, peppercorns, pumpkin seeds, nuts, raisins, Mexican chocolate and so on.  (I have made a simplified version of this recipe that a friend gave me, with all the flavours but less work.)  Australians tend to love robust flavours; Thai and Vietnamese foods being very popular.  I think the complex tastes of Mexican food follow our quest for flavoursome food with a kick.

that is a lot of mole sauce!
Tommi's book covers starters, mains, desserts and drinks so all the bases are covered, and you get a great insight into the sorts of flavours that Mexican food will provide you.  Her recipes use (fairly) easily-obtained ingredients, and the methods are not beyond the average cook.  I am looking forward to getting stuck into a Mexican fiesta!

You can buy Frida's Fiestas from Amazon-here;  and Tommi's book-here.
(please note -apart from the photos of the books, all photos are from Wikimedia).


  1. I remember driving near the Mexican border in Texas and seeing how carefully they checked cars. We didn't get singled out but it was definitely something that was clearly patrolled.

  2. I know what you mean about Tijuana. Cross the border into Mexico and it's like landing on a another planet. I do love Mexican food. Nothing else is quite like it.


I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comment and I will reply as soon as I can. If you have problems commenting, please try without your WordPress profile. You can try Anonymous (add your name in the text) or your Google account if you have one.