I first make a menu plan, decide which dishes to make ahead and what must prepared on the day, create a shopping list, a guest list and then get started. Of course, there are many variations on this theme, but my favourite is the following:
Corn chips with Guacamole to start with chilled Corona beer
For the meal, set out on a long table:
Slow-cooked Beef with Smokin Mango Chilli Sauce
Pinto Beans seasoned with Smoky Red Bean Salsa
Mexican Rice cooked with Salsa Picante
A layered salad of greens, sliced oranges, cucumber and avocado with a citrus-coriander dressing
Condiments of sour cream, shredded cheese, Jalapeno, Cayenne and Habanero Chilli Sauces
Baskets of flour and corn tortillas
Pitchers of Margaritas
Non-Alcoholic Watermelon juice with lime and mineral water
For dessert, chocolate almond brownies or lemongrass brulee with spice grilled mangoes
The fun thing about this menu is the buffet-style serving: our guests can grab a plate, help themselves to all the dishes to make their tacos or burritos and season from mild to hot. Meat-eaters love the shredded beef, but there are also plenty of options for vegetarians as well.
Let’s talk recipes.
Everyone has a favourite recipe for Guacamole, but we like to coarsely mash an avocado, add finely sliced spring onions, chopped coriander, season with salt and lemon pepper and a good splash of Jalapeno Chilli Sauce as this is a last-minute dish to keep it fresh and looking bright green.
If you have a slow-cooker, making the meat is easy.
Boneless beef, pork or chicken can be covered with Smokin’ Mango Chilli Sauce and cooked on low for 6 hours or until easy to shred. A favourite!
It can be prepared and shredded in advance and reheated in the slow cooker on the day.
I serve the meat right out of the cooker.
Tinned pinto beans (or borlotti beans) are fine to use for a pot of beans and require draining and then seasoning with salt, cumin and a jar of Red Bean Salsa. A tin of diced tomatoes is also an excellent addition. If you have a second slow cooker, it’s easy to cook the beans then turn on low to serve.
Mexican rice is made unique by first sautéing long-grain white rice in a small amount of oil with chopped onion until rice is golden brown. Then remove to a rice cooker and add a jar of Salsa Picante (mild or medium) with some minced garlic and chicken or vegetable stock. Prepare a couple of hours before guests arrive and keep warm in the cooker.
I like to compose the salad on a shallow platter, making layers of the ingredients and drizzling with the dressing just before serving.
There are a few ways to heat tortillas, but the method I like best is to lightly char flour or corn tortillas over the flame of a gas stove, (tongs are handy for this) wrap in foil and keep warm in the oven.
Alternately, you can microwave tortillas in Ziploc bags and keep warm in a basket lined with tea towels.
There are many recipes for margaritas, but a must is fresh lime juice. John likes to make a simple syrup to slightly sweeten his but not necessary if you prefer it tart. Watermelon juice is made by putting chunks of melon in a blender and adding lime juice.
Pour into a pitcher and stir in mineral water and ice.
For dessert, I always like to serve chocolate after a Mexican meal and brownies are very easy and can be made a day ahead.
To your favourite brownie recipe, you can add some of the following: ground almonds and almond essence to replace some of the flour, espresso granules dissolved in a small amount of hot water for a coffee flavour, cinnamon or chilli powder for a little punch. I finish the brownies with a dark chocolate ganache and cut into squares. If you want to go over the top, brownies, served with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream for the ultimate dessert.
Now all that’s needed is a hammock or a comfy lawn chair.