Belfast Telegraph

Oaxaca: Spice up your mealtimes with this tasty Mexican cookbook

A new collection of Mexican recipes will take you far beyond the familiar. Ella Walker delivers her verdict

Sunshine state: an Oaxaca church in Mexico
Sunshine state: an Oaxaca church in Mexico

You're likely au fait with mainstream Mexican dishes, from tacos and fajitas, to enchiladas and burritos, but they are not the gamut of Mexican food - not even close.

The new cookbook, Oaxaca, by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral, sets out to instruct us in the ways of Oaxacan cuisine. Its pages are filled with ingredients and techniques that help define home cooking in the southwestern Mexican state, as well as the food on the menu at Guelaguetza - the restaurant Lopez's father set up in the early Nineties, now a pillar of LA's Oaxacan community.

Lopez champions mezcal and mole, and has deftly and welcomingly wedged open a door on a world of food that speaks of comfort, history and culture...

The book: Oaxaca by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral.

Who will love it?

Home cooks looking to step outside the Tex-Mex style Mexican food most often cooked in Western kitchens; taco devotees, chilli aficionados, and those looking to seriously mix up and widen their repertoire and investigate a cuisine little touched upon outside of Mexico and the States.

What is it trying to get us cooking?

The food eaten every day by families in Oaxaca, and the kinds of dishes you could previously only get if you went to LA and ate at Guelaguetza. Lopez shares recipes passed down through her family ("I come from a long lineage of Oaxacan mezcaleros," she writes, "craftsmen and cooks who specialise in making our famous liquor") meaning myriad mole sauces, fried tortillas, soups and stews, and salsa galore.

How easy is it to use?

If you're brand new to Mexican cooking, and even more fresh to Oaxacan cuisine, you'll want to read the recipes thoroughly, and get to grips with the basics and terms before embarking on a serious dinner party for 12.

Lopez has you covered though, outlining key ingredients you may not have previously encountered, from avocado leaves and nopale (cactus paddles), to totopos (aka tortilla chips), and there are comprehensive images, which will help you achieve the right consistency and colour of black bean paste, or Lopez's beloved family recipe for mole.

The best recipe is...

Either the goat neck barbacoa or silky smooth chicken in a creamy chipotle sauce, which looks like it was designed for cold winter evenings.

The recipe we're most likely to post pictures of on Instagram is...

The tender cactus and guajillo chilli salad - it's just looks so grass-green, vibrant and zingy.

The dish we're least likely to try is...

The sauteed grasshoppers with pork crackling tacos - but only because, where do you actually buy grasshoppers from? Give us a stash of them and we'll definitely try the crunchy critters.

Overall rating: 7/10

A really important and insightful read, but tracking down all the ingredients may take quite a bit of time (or a good deal of internet shopping).

Oaxaca: Home Cooking From The Heart Of Mexico by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral is published by Abrams, priced £30. Photography (c) 2019 Quentin Bacon

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