We purposely sought to rent a place in Mexico with a kitchen so that we could save money (and sanity) by cooking in on occasion. It's about as far from fancy as I've ever seen - a tiny little space with a fridge, a small stove and a sink - but everything is in working order and as long as we remember to wash the plates and cutlery before eating to get rid of the little ants everywhere, it's actually relatively clean.
The biggest challenge with cooking in is that it's hard to find most ingredients here and I don't know what to do with a lot of what is available. I also refuse to cook meat here because the butcher shops put me off. I suppose it's a good dose of reality to snap me out of my hypocrisy about eating meat - instead of the sterile aisles of Safeway, the butcher shops here are bloody in smell and appearance and there is a little more of the animal around than I can cope with. It actually surprises me how few vegetarian options there are on most menus here; fish is usually an option but often the choice is limited to chicken or beef and a lot of the meals don't actually come with beans or rice so there isn't a lot of filler if you forgo the meat.
Despite my culinary challenges, tonight we made dinner in and it was actually pretty delicious. It's a bit of a mishmash (or melting pot) of ingredients that I cobbled together into a hybrid vegetarian chili/stew. It was cheap to make, we had lots of leftovers and I actually think it might be something I make again - even when we are back in the land of Safeway and Waitrose.
Mexican Melting Pot Recipe
1 can of black beans
1 can of tomatos
1 medium onion (white, red, yellow - doesn't really matter)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 small hot pepper
1 medium green pepper
1 small carrot
1 small-medium size lime
Olive oil/butter (something to use to ensure things don't stick to your pan)
1 cube of chicken or vegetarian broth
1 cup of rice
A few slices of whatever cheese you have laying around
(We didn't have access to any other spices, but this would likely benefit from some cumin and freshly ground pepper. It doesn't need extra salt though - the canned good have more than enough.)
- Put about four cups of water on the stove to boil and add your cube of broth stock. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to simmer so that it stays hot but doesn't evaporate.
- While you're waiting for the water to boil, melt your butter or heat a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick large pan over medium heat. Once it's hot add nearly all of your roughly chopped onion and peeled roughly chopped carrot. Fine chop the remainder of the onion and set it aside.
- Once the onion and carrot have started cooking, add approximately 3/4 of your garlic. Fine chop the remainder of the garlic and set it aside with the onion.
- Let this stuff cook until it looks soft and the onion gets translucent, then add your finely chopped hot pepper. Depending on how sensitive you are to spiciness and how hot your pepper is, you may only want to add part of it. It's good to remove the seeds before chopping it up.
- While all of this is happening, if your vegetables start to burn or darken too much, add a few ladles of the simmering stock.
- After a few minutes, add the can of black beans and the can of tomatoes, the roughly chopped green pepper and a few dashes of the hot sauce. Bring this mixture to a boil and stir in a cup of rice. There should be a lot of extra liquid in the pot at this point from the beans and the tomatoes but if there isn't, add some of the chicken stock.
- Continue to stir and add in stock until the rice is cooked - the time will vary depending on the kind of rice you've used but it took me about 20 minutes. Make sure you babysit it or the rice will stick to the bottom and burn.
- While the rice is cooking, cut open a large avocado, take out the pit and add the 'meat' to the onion and garlic mixture you've set aside. Cut your lime in half and add the juice, add a dash of hot sauce. Smash up the avocado and mix it all around until you have a slightly chunky version of guacamole. Add the other half of the lime to your cooking rice/vegetable mixture.
- A few minutes before the rice is cooked, add some roughly chopped cilantro to the rice/vegetable mixture, keeping a bit aside for garnish.
- When the rice is cooked, dish the food up into bowls, put some cheese on top along with some chopped cilantro. Finish with a dollop of guacamole on top.
It was really very good and extremely filling.
PS: Thankfully the above is not a picture of our kitchen - it belongs to someone else in San Blas.