The Little Mexican Cooking School
The school is owned by a fellow Aussie, Catroina Brown. She first came to Puerto Morelos 15 years ago on holiday, fell in love. She hasn't looked back and now builds and sells homes along with hosting this fun cooking school and BnB. Our creative chef was Cristobal or just Cris. He was awesome and has worked all over the world. First we started with the culinary regions of Mexico there are seven: #1. The North #2. The North Pacific Coast #3. The Bajio #4. South Pacific Coast #5. The South #6. The Gulf #7. Central Mexico. All are very different with diverse climates for growing all kinds of foods; in the North it's more dry and the land is desert so not many vegetables but very good meat and also no corn which means they have flour tortillas. This is the only place in Mexico where burritos are a traditional dish and made from flour tortillas. The North Pacific is of course full with seafood; tuna, marlin, lobster and blue crab to name a few. The Bajio region is filled with - pork, rice, spices and also cajeta, a goats milk caramel. The South Pacific is usually considered as Oaxacan cuisine the home of the seven moles: 1. negro (black) 2. rojo (red) 3. coloradito (little red) 4. amarillo (yellow) 5. mancha manteles (table cloth) 6. verde (green) 7. chichilo (smokey) and also home to the famous Oaxacan cheese. The South, referred to as Yucatecan, has influences from Cuba and the Caribbean. Corn is a staple here, the main spice is achiote which they mix with pork to make there famous cochinita pibil. Habaneros are everywhere here and a lot of honey in this region also. The gulf, due to its position in the Gulf of Mexico, have lots of seafood, especially crab and cray fish. Most of Mexico's vanilla and cacao is grown here. Central Mexico; many ingredients used in this region are not actually grown here but imported from all over the country. Street food such as tacos and tortas are big here and of course mole as Puebla is in this region too. Ok so with that little bit of a lesson behind us we enter the kitchen. First we are making tamales with seafood filling - octopus, fish and mussels with a red salsa. First we have to mix the masa dough it was a lot more runny than I thought it had to be and all you needed to do was spoon it onto the banana leaf which Cristobal cut fresh from his garden.
We just put the leaf over the flame of the gas stove top until softened and moist and the cut them to size. We cut all the seafood up in small pieces and made the salsa, it is a fresh salsa so it's a bit runny from the juice of the tomatoe which is the main ingredient. With that all done now we spoon on the masa to the banana leaf put the seafood on and a generous amount of the salsa and fold. Then they go into a steamer for 1-1.30 hrs. This is the end result.....
Tamales can sometimes be a bit doughy but the thin masa batter we used made sure these were not and the seafood cooked perfectly mixed in with the salsa flavour, they were great! While we waited for the tamales to cook we made a fish ceviche. The key to a great ceviche is first of course good quality fish but also that you cut it up quite small as its not cooked with heat but acid from lime juice. We cut all the seafood up covered it with lime juice and refrigerate for 20 mins. I have always been a bit funny with ceviche but I found that if you cut the pieces small it cooks through really well and that's the key. Once cooked add onion, coriander, olive oil, tomato, avocado and chiles, salt and pepper to taste. We fried up some tostadas for the ceviche and we made three different salsas #1. guacamole #2. salsa verde #3. smokey red salsa. I have to say this was by far the best ceviche I've ever had so fresh and well put together. We also had some horchata prepared for us by one of the ladies in the kitchen sooooo good especially with spicey food.
Now we moved onto a shrimp soup with masa as the thickener, chiles, epazote and salt, simple yet so tasty.
Our dessert was a pineapple coconut treat called dulce de coco - fresh grated coconut, finely chopped pineapple with a caramel. Made with piloncillo a packed brown sugar served with ice cream yum yum yum.
We had a really great day at The Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos and highly recommend taking a class when you are visiting the area.
Gracias Amigos, Col + Jen