The incredible variety of Mexico’s cuisine reflects that it’s home to 12 per cent of global biodiversity and that’s why it’s perfect for finding inspiration for vegetarian cooking. This trio of vibrant and comforting plant-based recipes full of seasonal veg, pulses, herbs, and spices are sure to delight as well as impress.
Grilled corn on the cob, Mexican style
Make one of these per person and a few more for luck – they disappear as fast as you dress them up with their mouth-watering toppings. You can cook them inside on my griddle pan, but they are at their most tantalising when they are cooked over an open fire. They make a brilliant addition to any late-summer spread.
4 corn on the cobs
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chipotle chilli flakes
Peel back the sleeves of the corn and remove the strands of silk clinging to the husks. Cover the husks with the sleeves again and soak in cold water for 15 to 20 minutes or overnight.
Heat the barbecue, if using.
When the barbecue is hot, put the still-wrapped cobs straight onto the barbecue grills and turn them for 10 to 15 minutes until the husks blacken and become like tissue paper.
Alternatively, brush them with oil and cook them on a griddle pan, using the peeled-back leaves as handles, or bake them, peeled and oiled, in an oven preheated to 220 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, then dress with the topping below.
Mash up 2 tbsp chipotles with 100g butter and smear all over the corn once it has cooked. Crumble over some feta and squeeze over a lime. The smoky fieriness of the chillies and the sweet grilled corn are the definition of finger-licking.
Whole black beans
An ever-useful recipe for cooking beans from scratch. Substitute in any dried bean, whether pinto, flor de mayo or any other you might find.
250g dried black turtle beans
4 fat garlic cloves
A few bay leaves
1 star anise, a few avocado leaves
½ white onion, peeled
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 large tsp salt
Soak the beans overnight or use canned black beans.
After soaking, place the beans in a large pan and cover with at least 10cm (4 inches) of cold water. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and add to the beans with the herbs, aromatics, onion and bicarbonate of soda. Bring to the boil and cook until just soft, 1–2 hours depending on the age of the beans, skimming off any white foam that gathers on the surface. Season with the salt when the beans are starting to soften, about 1 hour into the cooking time.
Serve in cheesy brunch burritos, cauliflower tacos scatter over nachos, or use to fill quesadillas, or serve as a delicious side topped with a little sprinkled Lancashire cheese, or feta.
Twice cooked beans
Comfort food packed with protein and fibre. In Mexico they are called ‘refrito’, meaning ‘well fried’, when twice cooked like this and this is the key. Cook them slowly and you will taste their magic.
1 tbsp olive oil or 45g butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins black beans or 600g home-cooked beans (see above)
Pinch of ground star anise (optional)
Large knob of butter (optional)
Salt and pepper
Grated Lancashire cheese or hard sheep’s cheese
Heat the oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and, when gently foaming, add the onion, garlic and adobo, if using. Season well with salt and pepper and sweat gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the beans, star anise and 300ml water or the bean cooking liquid and cook for another 10 minutes.
Whizz into a smooth, thick purée, loosening with either the cooking liquid or some water, according to the consistency you are after. This will depend if you are using it to top nachos (loose) or as a dip for chilaquiles (not so loose for this Mexican breakfast dish). Taste and adjust the seasoning, stirring in a knob of butter if you would like them to shine.
Serve straight up or as a side, drizzled with sour cream and scattered with a little cheese.
Thomasina Miers is the co‐founder of Mexican‐inspired street food chain Wahaca, food writer and former MasterChef winner.
Meat-free Mexican by Thomasina Miers (£25 Hodder & Stoughton) is out now.