Mexico of course lies next door to the United States of America. This means the people frequently cross the border and so, all over the states, even as far north as Washington State, one can find 'Mexican 'food. But this isn't quite the same food that is eaten south of the border. The Conquest of Mexico early in the 16th century gave rise to one of the richest ever culinary mixes in history. Cortez and his followers came to the new world in search of gold. They found rather a great wealth of culinary specialties such as chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, beans, squash, avocados, coconuts, corn and tomatoes. In return turn the Spanish brought to the Americas products pork, beef, lamb, citrus fruits, garlic, cheese, milk, wheat, vinegar, spices and wine. The result was Mexican cuisine as we now have it, and explains why it is difficult to decide what is authentically Mexican and what is not. Basically it is the food of the poor - meat is there, but vegetables and maize flour predominate. Roast Pepper Dip 1tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil 1 head of garlic, peel intact 3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded ½ teaspoon of ground cumin 4oz, 100 grams, cream cheese, room temperature 2 tbsp sour cream or crème fraiche Salt & freshly ground pepper You need to preheat the oven to 350 F., 180 C, Gas 4. Separate the cloves of garlic, place then on a square of foil. Sprinkle with the oil and make up into a parcel. Cook this for about 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle squeeze the soft garlic into your food processor. Add all except the sour cream/crème fraiche and blend. Turn out into a bowl and fold in the sour cream. Place in a screw top jar. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. Although meant as dip you can go totally non-Mexican and serve it on pasta or baked potatoes. Crusty Bean Pie For 6 helpings 1 large tablespoon vegetable oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1 small green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained 4 oz, 80 ml salsa 1/4 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped ¼ teaspoon chili powder ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 2 unbaked 9 inch pie crusts 6 oz, 170 g shredded mature cheese - don't use processed cheese as it turns to glue. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F ,165 degrees C, Gas 3 Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Use this to saute the onion and chopped green pepper until soft. Stir in the beans, salsa, red bell pepper, chili powder and cayenne . Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Spoon half of the mixture into one of the pie crusts and cover with half of the cheese. Repeat with remaining beans and cheese. Top with remaining crust. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. This is the kind of pie you can wrap in foil and take on a picnic. You could replace the black beans with whatever sort you have or even sweet corn. I f you use one of those really stretchy cheeses you can hold a stretching contest i.e. how high can you pull up a forkful of pie before it breaks contact with the food still on the plate. Sausage Wrap Use whatever sausages you want. 8 flour tortillas, 200g/7oz guacamole 1 crisp lettuce, shredded 200g/7oz sour cream 200g/7oz salsa Just cook your sausages. Place on each tortilla some lettuce and guacamole. Place sausage on top and then top this with salsa and sour cream. Roll up and place one end between your teeth. Bite!
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