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it’s true that my computer is decorated with, (vintage tattoo artist, sunny buick’s), sugar skulls all year ‘round, but today i am posting the top photo of my beloved mac, in honour of the arrival of los dias de los muertos…
the festival of the days of the dead actually occur from november first through the second, the celebrations traditionally start on halloween, & sometimes on all hallow’s eve, extending to november first, all saints day, & on to the second, all souls day, resulting in a three day/four night festival.
dia de los muertos is celebrated by making sugar skulls & other traditional, skeleton based mexican folk arts, lighting candles & making a decorative picnic offering in the cemetery, to honour your dead ancestors with a feast of all of their favourite foods. there is also usually a festive procession to celebrate the souls of all of our dearly departed in every mexican town, village & city, proceeding to the cemetery where everyone attends to the decorated graves of their loved ones.
it is a refreshing approach to remembering lost loved ones & one that is celebrated in more english & non spanish speaking cultures as time goes on. in london, we recently had the dance of the dead in shoreditch & san francisco has a huge parade every year now, as well as other major processions & celebrations that go on in many countries annually.
i have already prepared our mexican fiesta meal, got the candles & always have the skully art… but although we’ll just be staying in, watching spooky movies & dining well, we will be toasting our loved & lost & celebrating them in spirit, big-time this year. in case you, too, would like to make a fiesta of your own, here are some of my recipes to make your own day of the dead feast:
pork carnitas or beef carnitas style:
- 1.5 kilos pork shoulder, beef brisket or beef stewing meat
- zest & juice from 5 limes
- 1 tablespoon ground or crushed coriander seeds
- 5 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons dried jalapenos or 4 chopped fresh jalapenos with seeds
- 4 tablespoons groundnut oil
- water to cover
cut the pork or beef into one inch cubes & put into your largest pot over half the oil, coriander seeds & salt. cover with the juice & grated zest of the limes, the bay leaves & the rest of the salt & coriander seed. cover with water so that it is just covering all the meat, by half an inch or so, & then cover & bring to a boil. skim any foam off the top & reduce to a simmer, leave the pot half covered & simmer for one and a half hours. at this point, stir the mixture to see if the meat is tender, (it should be so tender it breaks apart easily), & check to see if how much water is left. if the meat is tender, remove the lid & continue to simmer until all fat is rendered & no liquid but fat is left, then turn the heat up slightly to finish of the meat so that the edges are crispy fried in the fat. if there is not enough fat left to do this, add the rest of the oil & stir to coat all the meat before turning up to finish off. if the meat is not tender after one & a half hours, but the water is gone, add an inch more & simmer half covered until tender, up to an hour & a half more, (depending on the cut of meat you choose), then finish off, as before. remove the meat with a slotted spoon & drain in a paper towel lined bowl so that the meat is tender, crispy, but not greasy. keep in a covered container until ready to use.
homemade refried frijoles (pinto or rose coco beans):
- medium packet of dried pinto beans, AKA rose coco beans
- 5 bay leaves
- 5 fresh, chili peppers, chopped with seeds, or 4 teaspoons dried chopped jalapenos or dried chili flakes
- 3 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 3 chopped onions
- salt to taste
- juice of one lime
- a few tablespoons of olive or groundnut oil
go over the beans in a colander & remove any stones or broken beans, then rinse thoroughly. soak the beans overnight or up to one day prior, changing the water a couple times if you remember to. put the beans in a pot with the bay leaves & bring to a boil & boil for five minutes, then drain & rinse beans & repeat, (this eradicates all scum & grit & makes it unnecessary to continuously skim surface). drain & rinse once more & then return to the pot with the chiles & plenty of water to generously cover the beans & bring to a boil again, reducing to low & simmer, covered & stirring occasionally until very tender, (anywhere from one hour to three, as every batch of beans is different), adding more more water if necessary. once tender, drain beans & then heat oil in the same pan. once oil is hot, add cumin seeds & cook until toasted & then add onions & fry for a few minutes. add drained beans to the pan & mash with a potato masher while continuously frying. once the mixture is well mashed, salt to taste, stir in lime juice, take off heat & cover until ready to use.
- one and a half cups long grained rice
- one small can of chopped tomatoes
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups chopped mild onions
- salt to taste
rinse rice several times well. (i like to soak the rice, drain & refill several times to make sure the rice is really free from excess starch.) put in a medium pot with the tomatoes, onions & water & bring to a boil. reduce to the lowest simmer & then cover rice & cook according to packet instructions, around 15-20 minutes, until all water is absorbed & rice is tender. fluff up with a fork & season with salt, if desired. keep covered until ready to use.
- 4 ripe haas avocados, skinned, pitted & chopped
- one small chopped red onion
- one small chopped ripe tomato
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, AKA coriander, chopped
- juice of one lime
- salt & cracked black pepper or chili flakes to taste
- 1/2 a fresh jalapeno or garlic, chopped, or hot sauce to taste (if you like it spicy)
put chopped avocado into bowl & mash with the back of a fork, until roughly mashed. (to easily chop avocado, i halve each fruit, remove the pit with a knife, & the finely slice each avocado half in the shell with the tip of the knife, so that it slices the flesh only & doesn’t break through to the skin. i then scoop out the flesh with a spoon.) add the tomato, onion, cilantro, (& jalapeno or garlic), & half the lime juice & mix until well combined. add hot sauce if you wish & then salt & pepper to taste. cover with the rest of the lime juice to help prevent browning & then press plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole to cover & refrigerate until ready to use. (the plastic wrap really helps prevent a brown skin from forming if you make it in advance.
- 4 very ripe tomatoes, squeezed of seeds & juice, then finely chopped
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
- the juice of two limes
- 1 to 2 fresh jalapenos, chopped (without seeds & ribs if you want it mild)
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced (if desired)
- one small bunch of fresh cilantro, AKA coriander, roughly chopped
- salt & fresh cracked pepper or red chili flakes to taste
- dashes of your favourite hot sauce, if desired
really, you just combine this all together a day in advance and store in the fridge until ready to use, but can also be done just an hour ahead or just combined in a food processor set to rough chop. (you don’t want it to turn to a fine sauce…should always be chunky!)
now, you can make your own tortillas, but good store bought ones are really fine, as long as they have absolutely no sugar in them. you can steam or microwave them, if you like, but i prefer to do mine on a stove top burner or or a grill pan. you can keep them warm by wrapping them in a clean tea towel & keeping in a covered container. you should also have sour cream, hot sauce, lime wedges & a big bowl of shredded iceberg lettuce on the table & everyone should just serve themselves, family style. add a few sugar skulls, candles & fresh flowers & you have yourself a genuine mexican day of the day feast with enough leftovers to last the rest of the week….don’t forget the cervezas, sangria or agua fresca (watermelon, strawberry or assorted fruit pulps + iced water & sugar & spice to taste).
traiga en los dias de los muertos!