How to cook your own Mexican feast

How to cook your own Mexican feast: Seven dishes to spice up your suppers

Chicken Tinga 

This recipe is typically served each year on 16 September as part of the Mexican Independence Day celebrations, but it is also enjoyed as a daily meal. Some people use canned chillies, but I prefer to use dried ones for their smoky flavour. You can also use the chicken as the filling for quesadillas.


  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 2 white onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1.2kg tomatoes, blended and strained
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 60ml chipotle chilli paste
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 800g cooked and shredded chicken breast
  • 240ml chicken stock or water


  • tostadas (see recipe, below right)
  • cheese, such as feta
  • sour cream
  • finely chopped iceberg lettuce
  • any of your favourite spicy salsas and sauces

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until they start to take on some colour.

Add the strained tomatoes, salt, chipotle paste, allspice berries, black pepper and bay leaves. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, then lower the heat and add the shredded chicken and stock or water. 

Cook for another 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Serve the stewed chicken on top of tostadas with crumbled cheese, sour cream, lettuce and one or two spicy salsas and sauces.


Tostadas are a crunchy version of a tortilla and are basically an already cooked tortilla that is then fried in oil.


  • 1 litre vegetable oil
  • 10 small cooked tortillas

Heat the oil in a large frying pan with deep sides to 170C, using a cooking thermometer.

Fry the tortillas, one by one, to a golden colour. The trick is to flop each tortilla in the oil from one side to the other very quickly to avoid them puffing up. 

Note: You can also make tostadas in an oven preheated to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a large baking sheet with nonstick paper and spray or brush the paper with oil. 

Lie the tortillas on the oiled paper and space them apart so they are not touching, otherwise they will stick together. Add a bit more oil all over and put another sheet of paper over the top. 

Cover with another baking sheet to keep the tortillas flat. Cook for 25-30 minutes, depending on how thick they are, until they take on a bit of colour and are crunchy in texture.

Prawn tostadas

Seafood is an important part of Mexican cuisine, not only in the states with a coastline but also in major cities where you can find restaurants serving fresh seafood.


  • 15 large raw prawns, shelled and deveined
  • sea salt
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 75g diced cucumber, with seeds removed
  • 20g chopped fresh coriander
  • 160g diced tomato, with seeds removed
  • 120ml fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green Thai chilli, finely chopped


  • 8 tostadas (see recipe, opposite)
  • 480ml avocado salsa (see recipe, overleaf)
  • 40g chopped fresh coriander

Fill a saucepan with 1 litre water, add a pinch of sea salt and bring to the boil.

Prepare a bowl of iced water.

Drop the prawns into the boiling water and cook them for about 25 seconds. Quickly transfer them to the iced water, then immediately take them out of the iced water and drain as well as possible. Cut the prawns into cubes no larger than 1cm.

Put all the remaining ingredients for the prawns in a bowl along with the cooked prawns and mix together. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.

Place the tostadas on a serving plate, spoon some of the avocado salsa over each one, then top with the prawn mixture and add more sauce if you wish.

Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves and serve with your favourite spicy sauce, if preferred.

Green rice

There are many different ways to prepare rice in Mexico, but this is one of the simplest and the tastiest.

Serves 2-3

  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 180g basmati rice, rinsed and dried as well as possible
  • 30g fresh parsley
  • 20g fresh coriander
  • ¼ onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 360ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • 150g peas (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt

Put the oil and rice in a pan over a medium heat and cook, stirring continuously to prevent the rice sticking, for 5 minutes.

Blend the herbs, onion and garlic in a food processor. Measure out 480ml of this mixture, adding some of the stock or water to make up the difference if needed.

Once the rice starts to make some noise – or ‘sing’, as we say – add the herb mixture, remaining stock or water, peas, if using, and salt. Bring to the boil, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Mexican salsa

This is used all over Mexico, often as a snack with tostadas (see page 32).


  • 4 tomatoes, seeds removed and flesh finely diced 
  • ½ small onion, finely diced 
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeño chillies, 2 green Thai chillies or 2 fresh green chillies (any you can find), finely diced 
  • 20g roughly chopped fresh coriander 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • juice of 1½ limes 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Add more salt if needed. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 3 days. 

Note: This makes a good dip and can be used as the base for guacamole – just add the smashed flesh of 2 avocados and more lime juice and salt to taste.

Avocado salsa

This is one of the creamiest and tastiest salsas. It is so versatile and speedy to prepare, making it a perfect accompaniment for most dishes. 


  •  5 avocados, stoned and peeled 
  • bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped 
  • 5 jalapeño chillies, stems removed and cut into 3 pieces 
  • 120ml lime juice 
  • 1 tsp salt
  •  120ml olive oil 

Put all the ingredients in a blender with 120ml water and mix to a smooth texture. Alternatively, use a hand-held stick blender. 

Taste and add more salt if needed. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 3 days. Note: You can also pass the salsa through a fine-mesh sieve for an even smoother finish.

Tlalpeño-style broth

This restorative dish is perfect for when you are feeling run-down. It is strong, with lots of flavour, and you can adjust the chilli content to make it as spicy as you wish.


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces, cleaned and patted dry
  • ½ white onion
  • ½ garlic bulb
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 tsp rock salt, plus more to taste
  • 140g cooked chickpeas
  • 3 fresh corn-on-the-cob, each cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 x 200g can of chipotles in adobo (how much you add depends on how spicy you like your broth, see note)
  • 2 courgettes, cut into chunks


  • lime wedges
  • finely chopped onion
  • avocado slices
  • cheese (such as feta), crumbled

Fill a large saucepan with 2.5 litres water. Add the chicken pieces and bring to the boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface as it boils. Lower the heat, then add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and chickpeas.

After about 30 minutes, or once the chicken is almost cooked, add the fresh corn pieces, potato chunks, carrots, tomatoes and canned chipotles and cook for about 10 minutes.

Once the chicken is soft and the potatoes are tender, add the courgettes and bring to the boil again. Turn off the heat – I don’t like to let it boil for too long as the vegetables will be overcooked. 

Taste the broth before serving and adjust the seasoning if needed.

You can either serve the broth in bowls with the whole pieces of chicken, or you can remove the chicken, shred the meat then add it back in before serving.

Serve the broth with lime wedges on the side and some finely chopped onion, avocado slices and cheese for people to add their own toppings as liked.

Note: Chipotles in adobo are available from and Another option is to add 1 or 2 whole dried chipotles directly to the broth, to let the flavours infuse – just be careful if you try to eat them, as they will be spicy.

Mexican-style courgettes

This can be served as a main dish with tortillas and sour cream or as a side with grilled steak or chicken.


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • corn kernels, freshly removed from 1 corn-on-the-cob
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6 tomatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 2 pinches of dried oregano
  • 1kg courgettes, cut into
  • 1cm cubes
  • 20g finely chopped fresh coriander

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, cooking it for 5 minutes, followed by the garlic, then simmer for 3 minutes, stirring continuously.

Add the corn kernels, season with the salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, simmering for 10 minutes, then  the oregano and courgettes. Allow to bubble for a further 10 minutes.

Finally, sprinkle over the coriander. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and sour cream on the side.

  • Our recipes are from Cocina Mexicana by Adriana Cavita, with photographs by Clare Winfield, which is published by Ryland Peters & Small, £22. To order a copy for £18.70 until 24 September, go to or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £25

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