Mexican Cookbooks (UK)



The usefulness of a given cookbook depends largely on whether you can actually find the ingredients the recipes call for.

 Even certain climate issues can affect things like how long it takes your tortilla dough dries out.

So I divide my reviews of the cookbooks I have used so far into UK- and US-based readership.

United Kingdom

 Wahaca - Mexican Food at Home by Thomasina Miers

Thomasina Miers is currently the main ambassador of Mexican food in the UK. This, her second Mexican cookbook, is quite a powerhouse. The Oaxacan chocolate recipe alone is worth the cover price.

Miers is a Masterchef winner, so you know her food has to be awesome. Also, she's lived in Mexico. Twice. And makes regular trips there to continue to expand her culinary knowledge and get new inspiration.

She must be one of three native Brits who can pronounce the name José.

And of course she runs the Wahaca chain of restaurants in London.

But what really makes Miers the essential chef for Mexican food in the UK is that she is a great interpreter of Mexican cuisine.

She knows what Mexicans eat, but she also knows what Brits can get their hands on, and most importantly she knows what our nearest equivalents of Mexican ingredients are.

We'll never have real Mexican cheeses here in the UK. But she can tell you which European cheeses are similar to Mexican ones.

We can't get hoja santa, but we can get things like tarragon and chervil.

We can't get fresh epazote...okay, we're fucked on that one.

But if there's a way of recreating authentic Mexican flavours with what we can get our hands on in the UK, Thomasina Miers has found it.

And she her book also has a list of Mexican suppliers in Britain.

Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers

This book is pushed into the number two spot by Miers' newer one, which improves upon everything MFMS has going for it.

This is still packed with amazing food and authentic Mexican flavours, all reproduceable in the UK.

What it lacks that Wahaca delivers is more information about Miers' time in Mexico, the real experience of eating (and food-shopping) in Mexico, and how that knowledge an experience shapes the food they cook at the Wahaca restaurants.

Mexican Food Made Simple is a great cookbook (and has my favourite recipe for arroz verde). Wahaca is a great read as well as a great cookbook.

While there is some minor overlap in the coverage, the two books do not tend to repeat recipes verbatim, so you might consider buying both.

Two Cooks and a Suitcase by Doug Bell and Rhoda Robertson

Quite apart from the fact that if it weren't for Lupe Pinto's Deli I wouldn't be able to live in Edinburgh, this is the book that started phase II of my experiences with Mexican food.

This is the book that took me from the beef-and-bean burritos into the world of mole verde, panuchos, and cebollas en escabeche.

This is the book that inspired me to make my own tortillas and tamales, which I never thought I'd do, and this is the book that still has my favourite recipe for Sopa de Lima.

In addition to all this, it has an amazing story.

Basically Doug and Rhoda lived in North America for a year: Boston, New Orleans, Oaxaca, and the Yucatán. The book incudes not only the recipes but story of their travels. It's like On the Road with food.

Half their time in North America was spent in the US, so the Mexican food has to share significant space with soul food and creole dishes.

Even so, the Mexican food coverage is impressive for a book size. Also this was the bookthat taught me real Mexican tacos are not those crappy U-shaped things.

All it really lacks is pictures, which is probably a cost-cutting measure, and Mexican kitchen Spanish (for instance, they give mole verde as "pumpkinseed sauce" (which is what it is) and cebollas en escabeche as "pickled onions" (which is what they are).

But those are minor points. This is the most rock n' roll cookbook I've ever read, and the food is phenomenal.