During the recent Thames Valley Women’s British American Bunco Night in Marlow, we were all treated to a fabulous Mexican feast by the mutli-talented Chef Alejandra Cerrillo. I was honored to lend a hand in the kitchen to prepare the meal, and to serve the incredible food to delighted guests.
During cooking time, to say that the aroma in the kitchen was staggeringly delicious is an understatement. With mounds of diced chorizo, bacon, chipotle, sweet peppers, onions and garlic waiting to be incorporated into slow-simmered tomatoes and seasoned ground meats, I knew the evening’s meal was to be a culinary treat.
Alejandra, a native of Mexico City and a lifelong lover of fine food, brought her masterful skills to life in a dinner for 80 guests. After 10 years in the UK, she has learned to “Mexicanise” many traditional British dishes with distinctive Mexican flavors. While obtaining certain favored ingredients locally can be a challenge, Alejandra has also learned to appreciate the depth of Thai and Indian food flavors. She adds, “If I hadn’t decided to create my silver jewelry business, I’d have studied to be a chef here in the UK.” (FYI for those who don’t know: Alejandra is both a jewelry designer and manufacturer for her Maidenhead-based business (You Are) More Precious Than Silver.” Visit www.morepreciousthansilver.co.uk for more information.)
With plenty of good fun and laughter in the kitchen, the menu featured fresh tomato salsa with corn chips, creamy corn chowder and chili con carne. Though she’s taken a few cooking lessons, Alejandra “learnt from my mum, my mother-in-law and everybody who cooks well. I love to observe people cooking and then to invent/create my own versions.”
“I created the soup especially for Bunco night,” she recalls, “At home we might add more peppers or spice to kick up the heat, but for such a large group I wanted the subtler flavors to come through.” Using corn as a thickener for a vegetable stock base, Alejandra finished off the soup with a generous portion of single cream.
Perhaps the greatest gift to our palates was the complexity of flavor notes in the chili con carne – zesty at first, then seriously bold, then mellowing with a subtle spicy kick on the tongue as an aftertaste. The chili drew its inspiration from the traditional Mexican dish frijoles charros, in which boiled beans are mixed with bacon and pieces of pork (not minced), pork scratchings, cilantro, fresh tomatoes, avocado, onion and chilli peppers. “Mexican cuisine is regionalised, and every area has its own version,” she explains, noting that the frijoles are often served as a side dish to steaks or barbecue – and even for breakfast. Served over white rice, the dish was a fantastic success. In fact – there wasn’t a drop left!
Best of all, Alejandra generously shared her recipes for me to post here on the blog.
With all this chilly winter weather England seems to be handing us, why not find these fresh ingredients and make a pot of belly-warming chili or soup this weekend?
And the Recipes: