Search This Blog

Friday, 29 October 2010

Day of the Dead

Offering for the 28th for 3 departed relatives

This week we are celebrating the "Day of the Dead", although it is really a week of Days of the Dead from the 28th October to the 2nd of November. During this period people have alters in their homes filled with food and flowers for their deceased relatives and friends to visit, enjoy and feast on. The way their loved ones died, dictates which day from October 28th and November 2nd that offerings are made. According to my fiance's Mum, Dona Rosa, these are the days that Los Muestos (the dead) visit:

  • 28th October - for those who died of accidents
  • 29th October - for those who drowned
  • 30th October - for babies who died before they were baptised
  • 31st October - those who died as children
  • 1st November - she's not sure
  • 2nd November - for those who died of old age or any other reason  

Rather than a period of mourning, it is more a celebration of the lives and memories of the deceased and another reason for families to get together to cook, eat and have a holiday. The 1st and the 2nd of November are public holidays in Mexico for this important festival.

Sugar Skulls
Shops, homes and cemeteries are covered in special things for the festival, which include Marigold flowers, special bread, some of which is sweet rather like a hot cross bun, some of which is plain like a crusty bread roll and some of which is made into shapes resembling skulls. Skulls also feature in chocolate and sugar varieties.

As the festival is around the time of Halloween, shops and houses are also adorned with Halloween decorations in black, orange and purple and there are lot of pumpkins and pumpkin heads.

A delicious pumpkin based dessert is prepared this time of year, presumably timed with Halloween and pumpkin season. A whole pumpkin is cut into large chunks and boiled/steamed (seeds, skin and all) with some water (about 1/3 of the pot of pumpkin), panella (which is like a hard form of brown sugar), anise and cinnamon sticks. Bring the water to the boil, simmer and stir until pumpkin is soft. It can be served hot, but people prefer to let is go cold and eat it that way. The liquid becomes a sweet syrup, the flesh is fruity and sweet, the pumpkins seeds are eaten once the husks are removed (although no-one explained that to me initially), but people don't eat the skin. Overall a really simple, tasty dish.

Special Day of the Dead food is also prepared based on what the deceased enjoyed eating and drinking. In our house we prepared Mole Poblano, rice and hot chocolate. We were able to eat and enjoy some of this delicious food, but about half of it was sat on the offertry table for the deceased to enjoy. This felt like a bit of a waste of good food to me, so I negotiated a little with Dona Rosa regarding how much food the 3 visiting deceased would need. When she explained that the food needed to nourish them for a year, my efforts to reduce the amount of food we needed seemed groundless.

In addition to the food we made, we also bought fruit, bread, marigold flowers, candles to guide the deceased to the offertry table and glasses of water to refresh them.
Our offertry table in the house

The biggest day during the week of the Day of the Dead festival seems to be on November 2nd and that is the day we'll make an offering for Dona Rosa's recently deceased husband. We will probably also visit the cemetery that day, which I am expecting will have rather a fiesta type atmosphere.  

For more information check out this website at

Friday, 15 October 2010

Making Molotes

Yesterday my future mother-in-law and resident Mexican cuisine teacher, Dona Rosa taught me how to make Molotes. Molotes are absolutely delicious, but fried in oil so probably not good to be eaten every day.  they are essentially a tortilla, made 1/2 on corn flour and 1/2 on wheat flour with a little baking powder to make them light and some water to make the dough. The uncooked tortilla is filled with whatever filling takes your fancy and then shallow fried.

Below is the simple recipe, plus some photos of our molotes, some of which were filled with cheese, sliced jalapenos and some epazote leaves and the others filled with Tinga, which is a tomato based salsa with onion, herbs and chipotles to add a bit of spice.


 ¼ cup corn flour (the one used for tortillas)
¼ cup plain flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
ingredients for Molote filling (see suggested fillings below)


  1. Combine flours with baking powder
  2. Add water and mix until all combined, then knead for 5-10 minutes until ready to make into tortillas for the molotes
  3.  Flatten into tortillas
  4. Add your desired filling to one side of the tortilla, then fold in half and press edges together
  5. Shallow fry in a little oil until golden brown
  6. Drain excess oil using a colander or kitchen paper
  7. Serve & enjoy!
Filling ideas:
Mashed potato
Cheese, with slices of jalapeno & epazote leaves
 Tinga (a thick tomato based salsa with chipotle)

One of our fillings (Cheese, chopped jalapenos and epazote leaves)
A tortilla being filled with Tinga 
Filled molote ready to be cooked. Note the molotes are made in a tortilla maker with plastic to allow easy removal

Cooking the Molotes

Draining the Molotes before serving

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Cholula Feria

I understand all Mexican villages hold annual ferias (shows/fiestas) and Cholula is no exception. Especially this year as it was the 60th anniversary of their annual feria. We attended its feria this year on the Sunday which was probably a good and a bad thing. Good because there was so much to see and so much food to enjoy, but not so good because it felt like half of Puebla decided to attend the feria on that same day.

Ferias, like shows in Australia, can sometimes seem the same with lots of the same handicrafts, food and rides being featured. However, Cholula's was a gem because it has so many interesting new things to see, buy and taste. Below are a few pics of what was available.

Local basketware
More baskets and cane mats
Gorgeous pots - some of my favourites. So cheap, but so expensive to transport home. Shame shame!
Frothed chocolate which you drink like a slurpy - yum!
Hand embroidered shirt
Pretty ponchos
Cactus and carne (meat)
Chalupas - small tortillas fried in pig fat, topped in salsa - delicious and so bad for you!!

Granadas - used in Chiles en Nogada

Mexico's 100th Anniversary of the Revolution and 200th Anniversary of Independence

The 15th of September in Mexico is a very important day each year in Mexico, however this year it was extra special due to it being the 100th anniversary of their revolution and the 200th anniversary of their independence. While the 15th of September was the big day and we celebrated with a fiesta at home with all the family, the entire month of September is a festival month here.

The streets are festooned with red, white and blue streamers, lights and all kinds of decorations and there are flags everywhere. Buildings and shops have flags flying high, while many homes and cars are also proudly displaying the flag.

Our fiesta was typical in that preparations began several days before and was a cooperative effort. We began by ordering the pig head for the pozole from the market and decorating the house for the fiesta. On the day of the 15th my fiance's Mum,  his Aunt and I began the pozole preparations in the morning by chopping up lots of ingredients and putting a huge pot of pozole (made of very large special corn kernels) on the stove for boil and simmer throughout the day. The pig head, pork bones and other pork meat was added midway through the day and other female relatives arrived later in the day to monitor the progress of the pozole and add other ingredients to ensure the taste was just right.

Guests began arriving from about 5pm, before party preparations were complete, however, that is not a problem here as people know if they arrive early they will probably be given a job, rather than any food or drink. More guests arrived before dinner, bringing with them more components of the meal which they had offered to supply. We served the first round of dinner, consisting of pozole and tostadas, at approximately 8pm and again and again as guests continued to arrive until about 10pm. After dinner, the family room was cleared of tables and chairs and we danced until the party ended.

As guests left they were given pozole to take home and invited to return the next day for more pozole. So the following day after rising late and cleaning up a little, most of our guests returned and we had more pozole and tostadas for lunch and partied on all afternoon and into the early evening. Our guests were packed off with more pozole and we have some in the freezer for another day. All in all an enjoyable fiesta which took place over days and fed many of us many times over.

Chiles en Nogada

Chile en Nogada - ready to enjoy!!
Chiles en Nogada is another famous Poblano (something from Puebla) dish, which like Mole Poblana was also invented by Nuns. It uses the fruit from granadas, in addition to lots of other fruit, so traditionally it is enjoyed in August and September when those fruits are at their best ... and cheapest. it is not difficult to make and doesn't contain really exotic ingredients, but because it is so labour intensive, it is still relatively expensive and considered quite a treat. It is also delicious.

Chiles stuffed with filling
The chiles are Chile Poblana and I don't know if they are available outside Mexico. If not, perhaps you could substitute a green capsicum, although you wouldn't get the hint of spice that Chiles Poblana provide. While the Nogada is a nutty, milk based sauce which would be delicious on the filling alone if you can't find suitable Chiles.

 This year my fiance's sister decided to host her birthday party and to make her famous version of Chiles en Nogada. I helped her out, along with another sister, her Mum and a sister-in-law to prepare the dish. We started on Friday night and enjoyed them on Sunday at her birthday party. Below is the recipe for your enjoyment. We made 70 chiles to cater for a large group, so scale back this recipe as you need.

  •         2 heads garlic
  •         3-4 onions
  •         4kg tomatoes
  •         2 kg peaches
  •                 2 kg panochera (small red apples with smooth, firm, white flesh)
  •                 2 kg pears (milk pears)
  •         ¼ kg almonds
  •         200g sultanas
  •         200g bisnaga (looks like crystal sugar)
  •         2-3kg pork (boiled and shredded)

  •       ¼ kg Almendras (Almonds)
  •      1kg Nuez (Walnuts)
  •       2-3 litres Milk
  •       2-3 tblspns Sugar per blender (to taste)
  •        2-3 tblspns Vino Jeres (cooking sherry?) per blender to taste

·         Remaining Ingredients
Granada fruit
  •       70  Poblano (scale back recipes for the number of chiles you have)
  •       1 litre Olive Oil
  •       3-4 Granadas – use fruit as topping with chopped perejil (Italian parsley)
  •       2-3 dozen Eggs & plain flour (for chile batter)

      Filling Preparation
 a.     1. Heat approx ½ litre olive oil in large pot
      2. Add finely diced garlic and stir
      3. Add finely diced onion & cook on low heat until onions transparent
      4. Add diced tomato (seeds removed) and simmer for approx 1hr
      5. Add diced peaches and simmer until nearly soft
      6. Add diced apples & pears and simmer until soft
      7. Add sultanas, almonds and crystal sugar and simmer
      8. Let cool overnight and place in refrigerator for 1-2 days to ferment

3.      Nogada Preparation
      1. Puree all ingredients in blender lots adding sugar according to taste (this can be made last).
      2. Add sufficient milk to create a creamy (but not too runny) texture so the Nogada oozes, rather than   
          runs all over the plate.

Frying & draining chiles
      Chile Preparation
      1. Peel chiles (scorching on gas flame, sweat in plastic to peel).
      2. Slit an opening in one side to remove seeds and for an opening to insert filling
      3. Fill (not too full) with filling and close with a couple of toothpicks
      4. Whip eggs whites until fluffy, then add egg yolks and whip
      5. Coat Chiles in flour, then egg white mixture and fry in approx 2cm heated oil
Chiles ready to be garnished and served
      6. Cool and allow oil to drain from chiles in preparation for them being served
      1. Place a chile on a plate and spoon Nogada mixture over the chile
      2. Garnish with seeds of granada and shopped perejil and serve


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Flower Carpet Night in the Huamantla Annual Festival

Each year the village of Huamantla holds a festival in August which is attended by thousands of locals and visitors alike. We attended the opening earlier this month where we served atole hot drinks and pan de dulce sweet bread to people after the opening mass and saw the donkey races in the street the following day.

Last weekend we returned to Huamantla for the night when most of the streets in the centre of town are closed so beautiful floral carpets made of coloured saw dust decorate the streets. In addition the walls of the buildings lining the street are decorated with flowers and banners and streamers are strung across the street to create a beautiful, transformed street. The shop owners in each street work together to pay for and construct these amazing floral displays. They start decorating their street in the afternoon in order for them to be completed by midnight. Throughout the evening people wander along the streets appreciating the creations.

In addition to the carpets, all the shops are open and street stalls are set up selling lots of different types of food, Mexican textiles, pottery and a myriad of other curios so people can shop and eat all night. 

Outside the cathedral each day during the festival a new carpet made of flowers, fruit and the coloured saw dust is constructed. On this night the cathedral is filled with more new floral arrangements and a special mass is held at 11pm, in time for people to see the carpets being finished at midnight after the  service.

If you don't feel like eating, shopping, strolling by the carpets or going to mass, there is also a side show alley with plenty of rides and of course the Corona and Sol stands competing with one another to sell the most beer.

Sadly, this year there was a downpour just before midnight and all the carpets in the streets were washed away. I thought that would be the end of the evening, but no. Once the rain stopped at about midnight, bands started playing in the streets for people to listen and dance to and the debris from the old carpets swept away so new carpets could be made.

We had an early night and finished dancing about 2am before walking home.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

My First Quinceanos (15th Birthday) Celebration

Last night I attended my first fiesta for a 15th birthday and in spite of having an idea what to expect I was still quite blown away at the magnitude of the event. There would easily be as much planning (and cost) involved with a girl's 15th birthday party as with a wedding.

Of course, the event started with a mass to which the birthday girl, called a Quincenera arrived in a car decorated with flower - just like a wedding car. She looked just like a beautiful princess complete with glittering gown and tiara and was accompanied by her parents, brothers and sisters who were all carefully dressed to match her purple gown. Also with her were 4 boys, dressed in suits and purple waistcoats as her attendants. These boys later featured in the dances which she performed for her guests at the fiesta. Traditionally, these boys were relations or friends of hers, but in recent times they are hired especially for the event for their dancing ability.

After the mass in the church, the Quincenera moved to the front of the church to pose for photos and for people to line up to have their photo taken with her. The fiesta in the salon started at 8pm, an hour after the mass finished to allow no doubt for more photos and to allow guests to do their last minute present shopping.

Over 200 invited guests attended the mass and the fiesta in a salon afterwards. Unlike a lot of Mexican fiestas though, the invitees received invitations containing the exact start time and a pass with their name on it. Therefore, people were expected to arrive on time and not to bring any other friends or family along with them for the celebration. This way the family knows how many people they need to cater for at the salon. Even so, some people arrived late and I expect there were a few spare seats for last minute arrivals.

The salon was decorated as if for a wedding, complete with a magnificent cake and a high table for the Quincenera and her family at the front of the room and the Quincenera was officially announced as she entered the room with her parents, the Padrinos (or  Godparents) who paid for much of the fiesta and her 4 male dancing attendants.

Before and during the meal the Quincenera visited every table to thank people for coming and to receive their congratulations and presents.

Later in the night the mother of the Quincenera distributed small boxes of sweets as gifts to each guest and some larger gifts to selected guests.

After dinner she and her four attendants performed choreographed dances for us. The boys were quite good and confident and she looked lovely, but so very nervous and uncomfortable. She definitely appeared to enjoy herself at any other time of the night.

There were four or five dances performed, some featuring the Quincenera and the her four dancers, however some featured only her four dancers, presumably so she had time for the costume changes she required to perform the love songs in her princess dress, pop numbers in her modern gear and the grease number shown here.

After the dance presentation, her father was invited to the floor to waltz with his daughter. After her father, the Padrino was called, followed by Uncles, Nephews and friends until it seemed like almost every invited male guest had danced with her.

The dance floor opened with a light and music show at abt 11am, when everyone hit the floor. Other than a short break for the official cake cutting, the dancing didn't stop until 3.30am when the lights were turned on and the music off and we enjoyed a mixture of salsa, disco, Banda (a form of Mexican country) and danzon.  To complement the party mood, bottles of spirits were distributed for each table during and after the meal and very attendant waiters ensured peoples' glasses were never empty.

Oh what a night for a 15th birthday party!!