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It’s that time of year again when we at Wahaca call up our favourite face painters, bands and artists to celebrate Mexico’s most popular fiesta, the Day of the Dead. This annual holiday encompasses a day for adults on 1 November and a family day on the second, giving people the opportunity to remember deceased relatives and to celebrate the lives of those they respect or admire. In Mexico, it is basically an excuse to party, and great feasts are prepared to share with friends and family, taking place either at the graveyards of the relatives being remembered, or at home, in front of homemade altars decorated with sugar skulls and marigolds, poems and photographs. The idea is that the souls of the departed will find the smells and sights of the mouth-watering dishes and spirits so tempting that they will come back to Earth for two days, to hang out and be together once more.
It’s possibly our favourite time of year, and we’re celebrating this year in the Vaults, below London’s Waterloo station, with all profits being donated to funds to support the victims of last month’s earthquake.
Whether you celebrate this spiritual and moving celebration, or Halloween, a comforting, restorative plate of baked Mexican eggs should put a bit of vim back into your step the next day.
Serve with tortillas or crusty bread to mop up those glorious juices.
Aztec baked eggs
This incredibly simple dish uses classic Mexican spices, cinnamon and allspice to give it the deep, warming flavours that I associate with much of this country’s food. Serves two to four.
2 red peppers, halved and deseeded
7 vine tomatoes, halved
1 red chilli
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 large handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Warm tortillas (or fresh crusty bread)
1 small pot soured cream (optional)
Heat the grill to high and line a large oven tray with foil. Put the pepper and tomato halves cut-side up on the tray, add the chilli and spices, then drizzle over two tablespoons of the oil, a sprinkling of salt and a good grind of pepper. Grill on a high heat for 30 minutes, turning the pepper halves once, until everything is well blackened – you need a proper char.
Put the pepper halves and chilli in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to sweat. Put the tomatoes to one side to cool. Remove the skin and stem from the peppers, and put them in a food processor with the chilli (if you prefer things less spicy, deseed it first) and any juices in the bowl. Add the tomatoes and two tablespoons of oil, then blitz to a smooth puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and, if need be, a pinch of brown sugar to help the tomatoes along.
Thomasina Miers’ quick recipe for pork chops with figs and sherry
Heat a large frying pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high flame, then add the remaining two tablespoons of oil and the onion. Season, then sweat, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Stir in the pepper and tomato sauce, then crack the eggs into the pan, making sure they’re spaced well apart. When the whites start to turn opaque around the edges, cover the pan and leave to simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the whites are firm but the yolks are still runny. Season to taste, scatter coriander on top and serve with tortillas and dollops of soured cream.
And for the rest of the week…
The combination of coriander seed, cinnamon and allspice is intoxicating. Bash all three together with olive oil, a few cloves of garlic and the zest and juice of a lemon, rub this mix all over a chicken and/or tray of root vegetables (parsnips and carrots are a family favourite), then roast in a hot oven until golden and caramelised. All you need alongside is some yoghurt, fresh herbs and a bowl of steamed rice.