Andreja Brulc's Blog

MEXICO Project: Typographic Mexican cuisine

Posted in Craft, MEXICO by andrejabrulc on 16/01/2013

This typographic stitching artwork titled Espagueti con chile poblano was inspired by one of my favourite dishes I had in Mexico. It comes from Angela’s kitchen at Arquetopia. The dish is called Spaghetti with creamy roasted chile poblano sauce (Espagueti con Salsa Cremosa de Chiles Poblano). Her recipe can be found below. Provecho!

Andreja Brulc_Espagueti con chile poblano

Ingredients
1 pack of spaghetti (250g per 2 servings if a main dish)
4 medium size fresh green chile poblano, without skin and seeded, roasted (picture below with 3 poblanos only)DSC_0258
1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil
1 Philadelphia cheese
1/2 cup of milk
3/4 cup of thick (double) cream
1 large onion, finely chopped after cooked with spaghetti
1 large garlic clove or 2 small ones
butter for onions
other herbs and spices to taste (pepper, salt)

Notes
– In Mexico, this dish is traditionally made with spaghetti, but other pasta can be used instead.
– The dish can be served with a grilled chicken breast and salad. In this case, the above ingredients are sufficient for 4 servings.
– Some recipes used chicken stock, while Angela’s recipe uses only salt to taste, added at the end.
– Instead of an ordinary thick cream (double) you can also use sour cream or cream cheese.


Instructions

1. Add spaghetti to a boiling water containing salt, onion and oil. When soft, remove from heat. Drain and set aside until the sauce is ready.
2. Roast the cleaned chillies in a flat pan (comal), so that the shell can be removed when rinsed in water. Remove the seeds. Alternatively, instead of roasting the chillies in the flat pan, place the cleaned peppers directly onto the flame of the burner on the cooker. Then let the skin char slightly making sure you turn them to have an evenly roasted skin. Then place the roasted pobalnos into a plastic bag or cover with a kitchen towel and let them sweat with their steam for about 15 minutes to loosen up their skin. Using a knife or your finger, remove the core of the pepper with the seeds and the veins. Clean under running water or with a paper towel.
3. Prepare the sauce by mixing the roasted chillies with milk, cream and Philadelphia cheese and blend until smooth.
4. Separately, fry the onion and garlic in butter in a larger sauce pan, and when gold, add the sauce to the pan.
5.Thicken the whole mixture by slowly simmering it for 10 minutes (low heat). Stir frequently.
6. Add the spaghetti to the thicken paste and salt to taste.
7. Served in a dish with cream if left over.

Advertisements

MEXICO Project: Things Found … By Accident / Mauricio Cervantes

Posted in MEXICO by andrejabrulc on 16/01/2013

DSC_0090While walking along one of the streets of Oaxaca in the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, I was captivated by this image I saw behind an opened ironmongery door of a Colonial house that led from the street first into a small room, behind of which the second opened door took viewer’s eye further into a perspective, into an overlit open space. The space displayed a skeletal arrangement of household furniture – ironmongery beds rusty from aging and chairs painted in orange-yellow, both of which were decorated with dried marigolds. The whole composition, heavily contrasted by a play of light and shadow, made me feel as if I was looking into a painting by Caravaggio. When speaking to the guard, the display turned out to be a site-specific project by Mauricio Certvantes, called El sueño de Elpis. The artist used the derelict town house to base his art installation as an intervention of space using local materials and colours. DSC_0091 DSC_0117DSC_0107

From the artist’s website, I can see that the marigolds (cempasúchil) were cut fresh at first for the display that opened last Nov. The flower is famously used in Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations, so it was quite obvious from the start that the whole installation had very much to do with the passage of time and the beauty of death and transmutation (derelict house, decaying walls, rusty beds, marigolds that change their state from fresh to dry). This ‘art therapeutic’ garden contains, according to one article, other themes too: fear and hope, community and alchemy. DSC_0099 DSC_0130 DSC_0136 DSC_0109 DSC_0105DSC_0132

I was particularly interested by the drama of the whole space in terms of the light and shadow, the use of typical Oaxacan colour scheme and how these colours were casted into the space by the late afternoon light. DSC_0101 DSC_0119DSC_0123 DSC_0152 DSC_0148

One display especially draw my attention – the collapse of a pile of wooden beams into the architectural space. To me, the way the beams are displayed in a pile suggest a destructive force omnipresent in Oaxaca – the earthquakes – they are constantly felt in the city. I felt three in three months!DSC_0142

 

MEXICO Project: Christmas: The Three Kings and Rosca de Reyes

Posted in MEXICO by andrejabrulc on 06/01/2013

DSC_0401Traditionally Mexican children do not receive presents at Christmas but on 6 January – on the Feast of the Three Magi/Kings (Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or short, Día de los Reyes), which commemorates the visit of the Three Kings (Melchoir, Caspar, and Balthazar) to the Christ Jesus on the 12-day after his birth, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. During the days preceding the Kings, children write letters to them requesting their present. On the eve of 5 January, the figures of the Magi are placed in the Nativity scene. In some parts of Mexico, children traditionally leave their letter in their shoes by the doorway stuffed with a bit of hay to feed the animals (camels) on which the Kings arrive – when children wake up the following morning, their gifts appear in place of the hay. In other parts, children send the note in a helium balloon into the sky, in which they explain why they have been good or bad that year and the gifts they would like to receive if deemed worthy. Nowadays, like Santa Claus in the States (or Father Christmas in Europe) – a recent importation as some Mexican children receive presents from Santa Claus too – the Kings tend to leave their gifts under the Christmas tree. Also, for the Three King’s day, it is a tradition to eat a sweet cake (pan dulce) called Rosca de reyes.

Rosca de reyes

The cake is decorated with pineapple (piña) and figs (higo) (for recipe click here). Inside the cake a tiny plastic figure (el muñeco) of baby Jesus is hidden. The tradition of placing a trinket into the cake is very old. The baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus from King Herod’s evil plan to kill all the babies that could be the prophesied Messiah. The person who gets the baby Jesus is considered as the godparent of Jesus for that particular year! He or she must take the figurine to the nearest church on 2 Feb, Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria). In Mexican culture, this person also has to organise a party and provide tamales and atole de leche or milk chocolate (chocolate de leche) for the guests.

DSC_0542DSC_0549

I found my Rosca being made in one of the houses on the Calle de Porfirio Diáz in Oaxaca – I could not resist the lovely cinnamon and orange smell that came out of the house onto the street, fruit or not! I ‘must’ have it! I was especially amazed by the large Rosca the women of the house had made for the party that was seemingly about to take place. The courtyard smelt delicious. I cannot wait to share mine with my Mexican friends this afternoon – I only hope that I do not get the baby Jesus in my piece as it will cost me too much to stage the party in London!

DSC_0089DSC_0093

Sharing the Rosca

Sharing the Rosca with your family, friends, neighbours or colleagues is really a fun and exciting way of socialising.

Everyone ‘fears’ to cut a piece from the cake containing el muñeco, except very young kids who are happy to have a toy to play! We all had a go after la comida, the main meal in Mexico that normally takes place around 3 pm. I was honoured to have the first go – of course, my hands were shaking! But, phew, I was lucky on my first go but only for a centimeter as the next piece contained ‘the thing’.DSC_0554 DSC_0555DSC_0571

It turned out, as I was told, that a commercially made Rosca (in the box, above) contains more figures that the traditionally homemade one. Also, the larger the Rosca the more figures it contains. The homemade Rosca I bought did not excel in the supply of figures as there were none but it surely did outdo the commercial one on the smell and taste.

Of course, after a few muñecos found in the pieces shared by my friends, it was bound to be my next turn to get one! And sure it was!

DSC_0578

MEXICO Project: Christmas: Las Posadas and Christmas Eve

Posted in MEXICO by andrejabrulc on 06/01/2013

DSC_0224In Mexico Christmas festivities begin with Las Posadas (16-24 Dec) and end with Candelaria (2 Feb). While everyone can participate in Las Posadas in bigger towns such as Oaxaca (I witnessed the first posada of the Baslilica de la Soledad), in smaller towns they tend to be by an invitation only. I was lucky to have been invited to the 4th posada by the family of my Spanish teacher José in Tlacolula (a small town in the Oaxaca Valley), as his brother was chosen to host the posada for the night.DSC_0194

We arrived just before the night. The preparations for los posada have been going on for some days if not weeks! While most of the decoration was already swinging in the air projecting beautifully against the sky with a nearly full moon, I was lucky to able to see the making of the last, most vital, decoration – the construction of the wreath – for the front courtyard. Almost the entire family was engaged in the making of the wreath, which was incredibly entertaining and, for me, enriching at the same time. DSC_0201 DSC_0248 DSC_0247 DSC_0236DSC_0254

On the other hand, the rest of the family was busy in the kitchen preparing food and drinks as described below. José’s brother and sister-in-law run a family bakery (Panadería Columba), so many nice goodies were baked in a beautifully build adobe oven during the day for the party of at least 250 pilgrims.

Origin and Meaning of Las Posadas

Las Posadas (Eng. lodging) are a 9-day celebration of candlelight processions with a series of parties in a local neighbourhood representing 9 months of pregnancy of Virgin Mary. The procession re-enacts the Nativity (Navidad), that is, Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus Christ.DSC_0231

The procession has been a tradition in Mexico since 16th century, when the Mexican Catholic church combined its tradition with the December celebration of the birth of Huitzilopochtli by the Aztecs.

Re-enactment of Las Posadas

The procession of pilgrims signs Para pedir posada often accompanied by musicians. DSC_0269

Pilgrims carry candles and are often dressed taking up the role of Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the angels. Four children, dressed up as angels, carry the Nativity scene. The procession sometimes brings along a donkey (burro) to represent the donkey that brought Mary into Bethlehem. The first posada starts from a church of the local neighbourhood. For the first 8 consecutive nights, a different family – chosen by the lay committee of the local church that rotates every year responsible for yearly religious festivities and feast days – would host a posada. The owner first responds by a song refusing lodging until the procession is finally let in, symbolising the place where Joseph and Mary were allowed to enter. The children thanks to the owner. DSC_0283 DSC_0288 DSC_0290

The participants kneel in front of the elaborately constructed Nativity scene (usually made in clay and handed down from generation to generation), pray the Rosary and sing Christmas carols. DSC_0301 DSC_0297 DSC_0306 DSC_0305

Afterwards, depending on the budget of the host, the pilgrims are indulged by the party FOOD (tortas o media tortas con pasta de frijol y queso, tamales de dulce, buñuelos, pan dulce) and DRINKS (ponche, atole con leche). DSC_0262 DSC_0259 DSC_0267

Children break a piñata (usually in the shape of a star) to obtain treats. For the making of my piñatas as a Mexican Christmas symbol click here. DSC_0313 DSC_0323 DSC_0336

Adults occasionally have a party, but in most cases they leave for home with a plate like mine. DSC_0339

The Final Posada on Christmas Eve

The last – the 9th – posada culminates on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), when a manger, along with figures of shepherds, is placed into the crib. Once the Posada house is found, baby Jesus is put into the manger after which the families go to midnight mass (Misa de Gallo). Fireworks follow the church service to mark the beginning of Christmas. Afterwards, families go home to have Christmas dinner. Adults open their presents, while children break their piñatas. If a family is not too religious, it feasts first, then go to the Misa de Gallo.

A Mexican Christmas dinner is abundant and varied, with foods that range from tamales to turkey and Mexican hawthorn (tejocote). Traditionally, a stuffed turkey with fruits, roasted and served with mole poblano, is popular. For a full list of dishes for Christmas dinner including Ensalada de Buena Noche and recipes click here.

The Three Kings and Rosca de Reyes

Traditionally Mexican children receive presents on 6 January, i.e. on the Feast of Epiphany, when gifts are given by the Three Kings (Dia de los Santos Reyes). It is a tradition to eat a sweet cake (pan dulce) on Epiphany called Rosca de Reyes. For more information on Dia de los Santos Reyes, click my other post.

Candelaria

Candelaria (2nd February) marks the end of Christmas celebrations in Mexico. It is believed that on this day, Jesus was taken to the temple as a baby and was officially named. Mexicans engage in parties on Candelaria.

===============================

Explanations of Food and Drinks

Tortas o media tortas con pasta de frijol y queso – Round or half-round buns (bolillos) or elongated buns (teleras) with re-fried bean paste and cheese.

• Tamales de dulce – A paste made from corn flour, lard of pork, carmine (red colour powder), nicuatole (a gelatinous dessert made from ground maize and sugar, traditional in Oaxaca) and raisins (pasas). It is wrapped in corn husk (totomozle) and then steam-cooked.

Buñuelos – A buñuelo is a kind of large flat tortilla or fritter, prepared with wheat flour and deep-fried in oil. It is sprinkled with icing suger and served with honey, sugar cane syrup, cinnamon or vanilla. It is a traditional Christmas dessert. In Oaxaca, it is a tradition that you break the clay plate making a wish after you finish eating the buñuelo. This tradition is said to spring from a Prehispanic festivity in which all the dishes were broken at the end of a calendar cycle.

Pan dulcePan dulce is a sweet bread. Recipe. On the history, and different varities, of pan dulce see my article.

• PoncheA non-alcoholic punch. You boil fruits in water and sugar and serve very hot. Fruits are Mexican hawthorn (tejacotes), sugar cane (caña), apples (manzanas), apricots (chabacanos), guavas (guayabas), raisins (pasas), sugar (azucar), cinnamon (canela).

Atole con leche – A non-alcoholic corn drink with milk and cinnamon. You first cook hard corn for a while, then take it to the mill, then sieve the paste through muslin, and finally cook it with milk and cinnamon. Delicious!

%d bloggers like this: