A Mexican Fiesta

Mexican food is colourfully diverse, with dishes from heuvos ranchos and zingy ceviche to tacos topped with pico de gallo. The cuisine varies by region, climate and history, with influences from Spanish to Aztec. Trade and colonisation meant ingredients such as garlic, onion, corn and tomatoes became integral to many dishes.

In Sheffield, newcomers include Taco Mex and Taco Loco, both on London Road, and Piña, a Mexican-themed cocktail bar in Kelham Island. Other favourites include Street Food Chef, Shy Boy Cantina at The Great Gatsby, and California Fresh on Glossop Road. We chatted to Abi Golland from Street Food Chef and Joe Cribley from Piña.

What do you love about Mexican food?

[Joe, Piña] Mexican food has influences from many cultures, from Lebanese, English, French and obviously from indigenous people. In regards to flavour, it often plays upon really simple combinations of sweet, sour and spice which hit the spot every time.

[Abi, Street Food Chef] Fresh, simple ingredients that taste fantastic. Pico de gallo is the simplest and most Mexican of recipes - onions, tomatoes, lime and coriander (add chillies if you want) - and this salsa transforms any dish. We love the fact that with a few different salsas and meats, you can have so many fantastic combinations.

There's more to chillies than the heat. How do we decide whether to use jalapeño or habanero?

[Joe] It’s very much a misconception that Mexican food is spicy. That’s rarely the case. It’s true chilli is everywhere in the food, but they’re used in ways to give flavour and depth to dishes, not just a mouthful of spice. They’re pretty easy to get hold of these days and my favourite is achiote.

[Abi] Did you know a chipotle is a dried and smoked jalapeno? The habanero chilli is sweet and peppery, as well as hot. We use dried mulato, pasilla and ancho in our mole sauce. None of these are very spicy, but all have distinctive flavours.

What tips would you give to make a proper burrito?

[Joe] Unlike tacos, burritos should use wheat-based tortilla wraps. Seasoning or flavouring your rice is really important and making sure there’s enough moisture, either with salsa or sour cream or avocado. I personally like to pan fry my burrito once finished.

[Abi] Whichever tortilla you use, you need to warm it first. This will help you to roll it without tearing. If you do like rice, use easy grain, not basmati. Beans are an essential. I love the way we do our black beans. Try mashing them up with some oil and salt and pepper to create refried beans.

If you were cooking a meal for friends, what would be on the menu and why?

[Joe] Tacos al pastor, probably the most famous taco from Mexico. Homemade corn tortillas, marinated pork, pineapple, coriander, white onion and fresh lime. Jackfruit can be used as a vegan alternative to pork. Drinks, I’d always go for a Tommy’s Margarita: two parts tequila or mezcal, one part fresh lime juice, one part agave syrup, shaken and served over ice. Maybe a few Pacifico Claras on the side too...

[Abi] I might make proper carnitas, which is essentially pulled pork, and I’d make sure there were bowls of chopped coriander, raw onions and slices of lime on the table. I’d serve guacamole with crackling, a very Mexican treat, as a starter. I’d serve chopped watermelon with chilli flakes, lime juice, feta cheese and red onion. Very refreshing. Drinks wise, I would start with margaritas and then lots of cold beer.

Ros Ayres

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Carnitas

Serves 4
Recipe by Street Food Chef

Enter any Mexican taquería in California and you'll find carnitas on the menu, usually pork butt (the shoulder roast) - braised first, pulled apart, then roasted on high heat to caramelise. We source our pork locally from Moss Valley Fine Meats. We serve it either in a burrito with black beans, rice and salsa, or in a taco for a lighter bite.

600g pork shoulder
1tsp cumin seeds (toasted)
1tsp paprika
Cider vinegar
Salt & pepper

Lightly oil and salt the pork rind to make sure you get great crackling, then roast the pork at 175°C. After four hours, take the meat out of the oven, drain the juices and set them to one side. Take the crackling off. If it hasn’t crackled enough, you can put it back in the oven at a higher heat (190°C), but keep an eye on it, because it can blacken quickly.

Pull the pork apart and cover it with a generous splash of cider vinegar, toasted cumin seeds, paprika, salt and pepper. Put it back in the oven for 20 minutes, then make a stock with the juices that you have set aside. Add some water and reduce it over the heat. Pour a little of the stock over it, so that the meat soaks it up, and serve it with salsa and rice for a delicious Mexican treat, or with wheat flour tacos, salsa, iceberg lettuce, sour cream, jalapeños and coriander.

Photo by Brendan Tyree


Drink Pairings From StarmoreBoss

The Italian grape Lacrima - meaning 'tears', as the skin is so thin that the juice comes out of the fruit like a teardrop when ripe - from the Marche region is a great match for pulled pork. Fresh, light and floral like freshly-cut violets when first opened. It will work well with meaty flavours and can take on the salsa and a bit of heat. Alternatively, a zesty verdicchio (white) from the same region will be snappily refreshing and bring any lime element of the dish into focus.


Food Events

Learn about energy-efficient cooking with Heeley City Farm’s Farm To Fork cooking course, 18 June to 23 July. Using a range of farm produce, get hands on and create simple, low-cost everyday dishes. See their website for details.

This month, Coco Cereal Bar is opening on Charles Street, offering cereals from around the world with choices of milks and toppings. They will have cakes, ice cream and milkshakes on the menu too.