RED : RED PETAL MOLE WITH BRAISED SHORT RIB AND PICKLED ROSE PETALS

A friend recently recommended I watch Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), what turned out to be for me an incredibly inspiring visual set in Mexico around the time of 1910. Originally a popular novel by Laura Esquivel, the movie tells the story of a young Tita, a boy named Pedro and their forbidden love. With Tita's impeccable palate and wisdom in the kitchen, she is able to devise dishes that evoke emotions of passion, romance, lust and some other not so nice emotions to make her guests feel every frustration of longing her one true love.

There is a memorable scene in the film where Tita cooks a banquet in celebration of her sisters engagement to Pedro (I'm trying not to give too much away!). Using the roses Pedro had given her, she conjures up a concoction of quails in a rose petal sauce. Honey, rosewater, salt and anise were described in the scene also and with just one spoonful of the rose petal sauce, every guest was sent into heights of lust! If you don't want to watch the entire film even though I feel you should, you can watch Tita preparing the quails here. As soon as I saw this scene, I knew I wanted to cook with red.

This dish by far was the most testing for me to make. I tried a lot of different variations of rose petals and with the addition of a local favourite, dried hibiscus, I was able to get a really smooth balance of floral, sweet and sour. Quails were hard to find so I went with beef short ribs, adding a delicious savoury punch to the florals. I toasted almonds, sesame and peanuts to add to the gravy for creamy taste and texture. And then after 5 hours of simmering, I stirred in a slug of Malbec and 2 cubes of dark 90% chocolate. Finally, pickled rose petals were my choice to accent the rich gravy and keep that plump red in the petals.

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YELLOW : TURMERIC, HONEY & COCO ARROZ CON LECHE WITH CARAMEL PLANTAINS, BANANA PASSIONFRUIT & CRUSHED SESAME CORN TOSTADA

After many nights and afternoons (maybe even days?) of consuming mezcal in replacement of water, I needed a boost to the system and made myself some homemade golden rice milk from blending soaked rice, turmeric and honey. While watching the Vitamix turn, I started to think about this week and how I've been consumed by the colour yellow. Yellow, the colour of the hand woven bag I recently purchased from a lady at the craft market. Yellow, the healing of turmeric. Also, yellow, my new obsession with everything the Mexicans can do with corn and happiness! The brightness, joy and fun of noticing this colour more and more in my everyday, made me want to create a dish that evoked these very attributes for the person looking at and eating my arroz con leche.

Arroz con leche (rice with milk or rice pudding) is a traditional Mexican sweet dish made with condensed milk. And actually a common variation of this dessert can be found all over the world. Not the biggest fan of sweet sweets myself, it was natural to complete this dish with touches of sour and salty (and no added sugar!) to round out an otherwise rich and creamy dessert. 

On my shopping list : plantain, organic coconut milk, rice, honey, sesame, yellow corn tostadas and something I've never tried before. When I saw and tasted Banana Passionfruit, I knew it was going to be a great fresh, sour addition to this dessert. 

Muchas muchas comforting with a touch of sunshine on an overcast Tuesday in Mexico :)

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PINK : AGUACHILE WITH BEETS, VIBRANT PLUM, LIME AND PRAWNS

I've been seeing shades of pink all over the city. So when I tried an Aguachile at Coyoacan Market the other week (a traditionally green dish from the coast of Sinaloa) I wanted to make it pink. 

Similar to ceviche, Aguachile uses the process of curing seafood in a fresh liquid concoction of minced serrano chile, cilantro, cucumber and of course, lime! To make it pink, I found vibrant plums that were still very sour in the skin, juicy Mexican limes, dried chiles de arbol and a red beet to extract for that brilliant fuchsia intensity. I stuck with a few traditional elements (cucumber, cilantro and serrano) for the sake of nostalgia and blended a spiky and refreshing pink 'agua' to submerge the king prawns, plum slices and cucumber.

The result was a little different to what I intended but was tasty none the less! The flavour of the plums sweetened in the mix and the colour of the earthy beets bled into the plump prawns. Serve this pink Aguachile on a flame toasted corn tortilla with a sprinkle of white sesame seeds.

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ORANGE : SWEET POTATO MASA DUMPLINGS WITH MEXICAN CHORIZO

Although it is my favourite colour of all time, this post was inspired by a recent trip, one hour south of Mexico City, to Tepoztlan (or as the locals call it, Puebla Magico). A town where the walls are a rich terracotta and the mountains at sundown become saturated by the earthy hues in the sky. Everywhere I turned, there was Mexican chorizo, chapulines and the smell of fresh tortillas and Itacates grilling. Orange chorizo oil stained my white shirt, the white paper plates and the white paper napkins. Orange in the drink of the street, Micheladas (a new favourite past time of mine). Orange, the colour of harmony was even in the heat of the piercing afternoon sun, toasting my skin. I kept thinking to myself at every moment, 'don't forget this, don't forget this'... but when there was more to absorb, I had to drop my metaphorical souvenirs and see to the next amazing sight, sound and taste.

The dish I made for orange today was in every way an homage to the time I spent in this place of magic. Rich, warm, alive and always comforting with a little spice and forever a squeeze of fresh lime!

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GREEN : MOLE VERDE CON POLLO WITH CHARRED WHITE CORN TORTILLA

From my notes :

Boil one whole chicken in a large pot of water with a white onion and plenty of salt until tender. Cut into eight pieces. Toast pepitas, peanuts and sesame seeds until golden. Blend toasted nuts and seeds with one cup of chicken broth into a paste. Over high heat char and slightly soften garlic, onion, serrano chiles and tomatillos. Blend with one cup of chicken broth. Add spinach and cilantro. Blend. Add chicken pieces, seed paste and spinach mix to a saucepan, simmer for forty minutes until thick and rich.

Serve with flame charred white corn tortillas or poured over rice with a wedge of lime 

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