Nature played a trick on me. I often catch myself in a maraca sound tracked daydream where I believe I could easily have been Mexican. I’m passionate about food, I cherish family and I talk very fast – traits both the Welsh and the Mexicans have in common. But in real terms, their culture is so rich in both heritage and family values that I always feel such a close connection to Mexican tradition. Family and food are always the ties that bind, and I feel that one thing Mexicans hold near and dear to their heart, exactly like I – and this is that they know how to throw a party in the kitchen.
Mexico holds in my opinion, one of the easiest party cuisines. However I often feel as though Mexican is an ‘easy dinner party’ route for somebody who lacks confidence in the Kitchen and is therefore often shunned or perhaps, watered down. I blame brands who have managed to squeeze the entire Mexican culinary experience into a yellow box whereby you fry mince and add some seasoning and put it in between a hard shell of some description. But here is a recipe I devised that is just as easy to make as a ‘boxed up’ Mexican supper, takes just as little time and is a lot more fun to make.
Enter fajitas. The fusion of brassy, gutsy Mexican notes presented in a well-known Mexican corn vehicle will truly transport you to the Mexican border for dinner – or a cena as the Mexicans call it. Fajitas are always so deconstructed and lend themselves to such beautiful DIY style dinner parties. I was lucky enough to go the opening of Wahaca in Cardiff where I ate fajitas and the family based atmosphere that this style of cuisine is really unparalleled by any other culture, in my opinion. And an absolute breeze to cook.
In a wide but shallow pan, heat a little olive oil before snipping in some spring onions and grating in a garlic clove. Finely chop a red chili and add to the pan – my eyes always water at this point, but that’s the fun. I like my fajitas fiery but if you’re a little fire shy, remove the seeds before adding to the pan. Finely chop up a bell pepper and add to the pan, cooking until slightly softening. Tip in some ground beef mince and start breaking it up with a wooden spoon, cooking until it’s browning.
Combine a little cumin, paprika and a little pinch of coco for smoky sweetness before dusting over the browning mince, turning everything with a spoon to create a dark meaty combination. Roughly chop some coriander for some leafy coolness and stir in, reserving some for final sprinkling later. I always allow this to cook on a lower heat while I assemble my accompaniments. In this case, it was a jar of mango salsa (yes, a jar) whilst gently microwaving some wholemeal pitas.
At this point I recommend you commence to just putting everything in separate bowls and throwing them on the table encouraging any guests – or yourself, if you’re dining solo, no judgement – to just dive in. It’s the kind of food you kind of want running down your elbow as you chit chat about nonsense with your friends.
I also quite love this little recipe of mine as it almost salutes an 18 year old Mikey who once attempted a dinner party in University for his friends Alex and Jenn, where 18 year old Mikey made fajitas from a yellow and red Mexican box because 18 year old Mikey was afraid of cooking.
If that dinner party was the sin; this dinner party was the redemption.
Thank you Mexico.