Cook From the Book: Rick Stein's The Road to Mexico

Rick Stein's latest cookbook, The Road to Mexico, is out now and is brimming with colourful and vibrant dishes from Mexico via California. Having already established himself as a brilliant authority on some of the world's most exciting cuisines, Rick has set about crossing the breadth of California and Mexico to bring us a selection of authentic recipes to help us master classics from this fascinating part of the world. From tacos to burritos, and everything you could want a recipe for in between, this is an essential guidebook for anyone interested in Mexican food. 

As big Rick Stein fans, Happy Foodie HQ couldn't wait to road test The Road to Mexico. Here's how we did...

Who: Lottie Huckle, Marketing Manager, Ebury

What I made: Quesadillas with Sweet Potatoes, Chorizo & Sweetcorn

What I thought: It’s happened! Rick Stein has done Mexico and the resulting cookbook could not be more mouth-watering. As soon as I got my hands on a copy of this book, I wanted to run home and cook from it straight away.

So run home I did. I marked the slow cooked stews (Beef Barbecoa with Chipotle, Garlic & Oregano, I’m coming for you) and myriad of feasting recipes for a later date and flipped straight to the Street Food chapter, for speedy craving satisfaction.

The choice is vast and exciting, ranging from Ensenada Fish Tacos to Chicken Tinga Tamales, but I settled on a recipe that complemented my store cupboard: Quesadillas with Sweet Potatoes, Chorizo & Sweetcorn.

These quesadillas were a breeze to throw together. The filling is cooked quickly in a pan and then you’re onto the assembly, loading tortillas with the smoky sweet potatoes and finishing with dots of mozzarella.

I quickly assembled the pico de gallo salsa Rick suggests to serve too. It was as simple as chopping the few ingredients, mixing together and resisting the temptation to eat it as I finished up the quesadillas.

And then they were ready! It had taken me no longer than 25 minutes and the result was a delight. Soft, flour tortillas turned crisp from the heat of a pan, paprika-rich chorizo, soft sweet potato, chilli and mild, melting mozzarella filling – perfect! They were irresistible, especially when served alongside Rick’s sweet, sharp and sour pico de gallo salsa that provided the perfect balance of flavour.

The kind of food in The Road to Mexico is so versatile. These quesadillas made an excellent lunch, but I can also imagine serving them as a brunch or part of a colourful Mexican evening feast. A+, I say. Would recommend to a friend.

Who: Zainab Juma, Creative Manager, Penguin

What I made: Stuffed Ancho Chillies with Goat’s Cheese and Tomato Sauce

What I thought: Whether by accident or design I find myself near a cheese shop every day, so it was nice to finally have an excuse to pop in and buy an usually large quantity of something sharp and goaty. I was concerned that this dish would be a bit strong, but the end result was surprisingly balanced. The tomato sauce is deep and rich, the heat from the chillies provides a pleasantly warm, smokey buzz, and the goat’s cheese rounds it off with a hit of tangy saltiness. We ate this solo with a little bread to soak up the sauce, but it would work nicely as a side to some roast chicken. Or just drink the sauce straight out of a jug. You’ll be tempted to.

Who: Tess Henderson, Senior Publicity Manager, Ebury Press

What I made: Clementine, Almond and Olive Oil Cake

What I thought: I love citrus flavours and I love baking so this recipe choice seemed a winner, plus I felt like I definitely needed some Californian sunshine to counteract this grey Autumn! Unfortunately my local supermarket did not have a good supply of clementines, but Rick says that any citrus fruit could be used so I went for oranges instead. It was a really simple recipe to follow and took no time at all. I wondered about the flavour I would get from blending the whole orange, peel and all, but it worked and really helped with the texture of the cake. Almonds and olive oil made a great substitute for flour and butter, so the end result was very moist and tasty. I baked it in a tray in the end, for easy slicing, and whipped up some cream to go alongside. Only needed about 45 minutes so I am glad I checked on it a little early.Thumbs up, definitely one I would try again!

Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Marketing Executive, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Chicken Tinga (pulled chicken in a smoky tomato sauce)

What I thought: Both Mexican food and Rick Stein are very big hits in my family. So many of his recipes have become classics in our household, so you can imagine how much we've been looking forward to this book. After much deliberation and whittling the endless recipes I wanted to cook for my family down to a shortlist, I finally settled on the Chicken Tinga because I can never resist a dish that promises to be 'pulled'. The recipe involves poaching the chicken first so that you can easily pull it once is it cooked and then coat it in the sauce which you create seperately, the effect of which is incredibly moist and tender chicken. The sauce is also a triumph; it was incredibly easy to make using chipotles an adobo, which you can either create from scratch or buy tinned (with Rick's permission, of course), and with the kind of smoky flavour that all of the best Mexican dishes boast. We used the Chicken Tinga as a filling for tacos, topped with pickled red onions, guacamole and a sprinkling of feta, and as Rick suggests, any leftovers can also be used for empanadas or tamales (if there is any left over!). This is an easy-to-follow recipe with great results that brings a true flavour of Mexico. I will be returning to that shortlist to try many more recipes!

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