When the holiday season comes to its end on January 6, the person who was lucky to get the toy of baby Jesus in her piece of Rosca de Reyes (the traditional pastry served during Epiphany day in Mexico) is in charge of hosting a feast on February 2, when tamales and atole are served. It is a follow-up of Epiphany day (or Día de los Reyes Magos, how it is called in Mexico) and has mixed roots in pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs.
Where the celebration comes from?
February 2 is known as “Día de la Candelaria” or “Presentation of the Lord”. By the Jewish law, all the babies were supposed to be taken to the temple 40 days after they were born. So 40 days after Christmas, on the exact February 2, Mary took Jesus to the temple along with candles. Until these days, there is a tradition in Mexico to bring the images of baby Jesus and candles to the church to be blessed.
Pre-Hispanic Mexicans also had the tradition of paying a tribute to the rain god and clouds to pray for their agricultural activity. They dressed up the children and making them cry as an augury of water abundance. It is most likely the Spaniards linked those two traditions when they were spreading the catholicism in Mexico.
Why are tamales so important for Mexicans?
February 2 is also known as Tamales day among foodies. It is the day when you are allowed to eat as much as tamales as you can! Tamales were traditional meal among the Mexican natives which was often connected with agricultural celebrations. Tamales are made from corn and the corn was the most important ingredient in the pre-Hispanic Mexican cuisine. Its importance in the modern cuisine did not change much. Corn tortillas, bread, and tamales are the base of every Mexican person’s diet.
Traditionally, tamales are made by hand so you will need to work for them. They are not hard to prepare, you just need to get ready for some serious kneading because the corn-based dough requires it. Once you learn the technique, you will definitely agree they are worth the effort. There are many different types of tamales and most of them are salty. They can be filled ith spiced meat, cheese, vegetables or fruits and wrapped in fresh banana leaves or dried corn husks and steamed.
Oaxacan sweet tamales are easy to make!
I must admit most of the salty tamales I tried (better – I tried to try) were too spicy for me, but I did fell in love with sweet and yummy version. Yes, tamales can be whatever you want them to be! When we were coming from Mexico, we brought two packages of corn husks for tamales. Just in case, if we ever decide to make them. Luckily, they have no expiration date and year and a half later they were waiting for us.
We got a real Mexican masa harina (special corn dough they use for tamales and tortillas) in Pekinška patka store here in Zagreb. They also have corn husks if you need some. For the tasty Oaxacan sweet tamales, we also used homemade pork fat, red food coloring, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon powder and canned pineapple.
It takes around 30 minutes to make the dough and 30 minutes to roll the tamales. From 1/2 kg of flour, we got 10 tamales, which was more than enough to feed 4 persons. If you plan to serve it only as a snack or dessert, you can even serve one tamal per person. Once they are made, they need to steam for around an hour. We used the real steamer as well as improvised on the stove and both did an excellent job.
Traditional Oaxacan Sweet Tamales
- 1/2 kg / 1 lb corn flour (masa harina)
- 1 tea spoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup of pig fat
- 8 spoons of brown sugar
- 1 tea spoon of cinnamon
- 10 drops of red food colouring
- 1/2 can of pineapple, cut into small pieces
- Put the corn husks in the warm water, to soften so you could roll them. If you try to do it with dried ones, they would immediately break.
- To make the dough, combine the flour and the spoon by spoon warmed pig fat and knead it all the time. When the dough is not sticky anymore, you can add the baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. Add more sugar than you initially think, because the steaming process will reduce some.
- Divide the dough into pieces big enough to fit into corn husks and color each with some red food coloring. They should just be partially colored - that is how Mexicans marks the sweet tamales among all the others.
- Take the corn husks out of the water, dry them a bit and fill with the dough and cut pineapple pieces. Do not overstuff them because they need to be rolled in a nice bundle.
- Roll each tamal and close it well from each side. Wrap them as the little presents using the food thread or pieces of corn husks.
- Put them in the steamer and cook for approximately 1 hour. Take out one tamal and let it cool little bit. Try if it is already cooked - it cannot be chevy - and let them cook a bit more if not. Be careful not overcook them because they can easily become too dry.
As for all the other wonderful Mexican recipes, for this tasty Oaxacan sweet tamales recipe we can thank my mother in law, Jaime’s mom. Participating in Tamales day is an excellent and tasty way how to keep Mexican traditions alive. (more…)
Zagreb Burger Festival
The burger festival just came to its end in Zagreb, but burger lovers did not have enough. The festival was not really the one to remember – the quality of burgers was not like the one we are used to, the staff forgot they worked in the service industry and the waiting time was too long.
We stopped by to grab burgers from our all time favorite Submarine and Brko i Brko. Submarine was good but incomparable and much smaller than their standard burgers, so we decided to share another. Since Rougemarin did not start to work long after the opening and Plac was taking “half hour break”, we chose Brko i Brko.
After a long wait (15 to 20 minutes in the afternoon, when it was not so crowded), we finally got a burger. A burger which could not be cut in half upon a request nor they could remove any of the ingredients because “burgers are exactly like the menu says”. Really? Zero points for flexibility! Anyhow, the burger was fine, but the same like the festival – nothing to remember.
Making burgers at home
Honestly, I never ate a burger until last year. For the first time I decided to make it at home and, only after I loved it, I tried several burger places in Croatia, Mexico, Slovenia and other countries. But you know what, they are never like the ones you make at home! Do you really know what are you eating when you order a burger outside? Nowadays there is a trend to advertise burgers as “organic”, “local” or “pure meat” made, but who knows what’s really inside. And how about all those tasty, oily sauces?
Let me teach you one or two about making burgers at home.
To begin with, the absolutely best thing about the homemade burger is that you know exactly what are they made of! Pay a visit to your favorite butcher or supermarket, choose the best meat you can get (I would recommend beef shoulder or you can even mix it with some pork if you like – just make sure it has some fat. Meat without the fat would not make a good burger, so think about the diet some other day. 🙂 ) Ask the butcher to mince it for you and here you go – you have a wonderful basis for your perfect burger!
Secondly, prepare the mixture for burgers in advance, at least 4 – 5 hours before, or even a night before. Spices will make your burger even tastier so you want them to rest in the fridge for at least few hours.
To make your burger complete, you will also want to make homemade buns and BBQ sauce. Do not worry, it is simple and your taste buns will be grateful! Making buns is much easier than it seems so. All you need it a bit of patience and time.
Check out the recipe below.
The perfect burger recipe
The secret of making absolutely mind-blowing burgers at home.
- 600 g minced meat
- 0,5 dcl sparkling water
- 2 - 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
- spices: salt, pepper, sweet red paprika, garlic and onion powder
- 500 g all purpose flour
- 7 g salt
- 8 g dried yeast
- 1 tea spoon sugar
- 1 tea spoon baking powder
- 30 g softened butter
- 300 ml milk
- 1 egg yolk for coating the buns
- sesame or other seeds to sprinkle on the top
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tea spoon olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 5 - 6 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tea spoon vinegar
- salt if needed
- Start the preparations with burgers. As mentioned before, you want them to rest for a while in the fridge, in order for flavors to permeate. So, mix the meat with spices, sparkling water and breadcrumbs.
- After few hours in the fridge, shape the burgers. Each one should consists of 150 g meat and have a nice, rounded shape. Do not worry if it's not perfect - perfect is not real 🙂 Leave them in the fridge until your buns are ready.
- Now prepare the dough for buns. Mix flour with all dry ingredients: yeast, salt, sugar and baking powder. Slowly start adding milk and kneading the dough (add more or less milk if needed). When your dough becomes elastic and not sticky, cover it up and leave to rise for 45 minutes, or until it doubles the volume.
- Form the buns to correspond the size of burgers, keeping in mind they will grow a bit and burgers will shrink!
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the buns on a baking pan, leave them to rise for another 15 minutes, coat with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame or other seeds of your choice. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Once they are ready, take the buns out of the oven and let them cool down a bit before serving.
- Prepare the BBQ sauce: Fry garlic on some olive oil, add ketchup, sugar and vinegar and mix it well together. Cook until thickens a bit.
- In the meantime start grilling the burgers - it will take around 5 minutes from each side to be perfectly grilled. Leave them aside for few minutes to rest.
- Now make your perfect burger! Cut buns in half, coat them with sauce and place the meat. Add cheese, onions, salad, fried bacon or anything that makes you happy in this world.
I have also tried to make mini burger buns from Just Cake Girl (Croatian only, but you can check mouthwatering photos) and they were spectacular! Excellent for a dinner party or just smaller snacks. We also use the similar recipe for the sauce!
It doesn’t matter the size of your burger – as long it is homemade! 🙂
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Hello, ice cream!
Hello, July! Hello, watermelons and hot weather! Hello, ice cream! Hello, my first homemade ice cream! There is nothing I like more than tasty ice cream in the hot summer day. I always wanted to make my own ice cream, but mom was always telling me how it is complicated, it takes long and then you need to mix it every few hours when you put it in the freezer… So I got discouraged and I never made it.
A couple of months back I was checking Facebook and I ran into a recipe for ice cream. Super simple, they said. I checked out the recipe and I made a screenshot, as I make thousands of them. I never really considered making it, but for some reason, I could not stop thinking about it. It took two months and summer already came when I finally decided to prepare it. I was scared to get disappointed, however, curiosity was stronger.
Homemade ice cream © Mexatia
Super easy homemade ice cream
As the recipe said, ice cream could not be more simple. There are only four basic ingredients – milk, whipped cream powder (like this in Croatia), icing sugar and sour cream with 20% fat. They said it is especially relevant to use whipped cream powder which is supposed to be mixed with milk (there is also the one which is prepared with water), but I used both. I prepared them with 100 or 125 ml of milk and as the result, both ice creams turned out excellent.
First of all, prepare whipped cream in the way you combine the powder with 125 ml of milk. Mix them in the mixer for 2-3 minutes at its top speed. Add 60 g of icing sugar and 180 g sour cream and combine it well, until it gets all fluffy.
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Homemade ice cream © Mexatia
It is that easy
Now the base for you ice cream is ready and you can add flavors. Any flavor you can think of! I was making the banana one while my dad was picking cherries in the garden. For great banana flavor, add two very ripe bananas and half lemon juice. To make nice cherry ice cream, use two handfuls of cherries, add half lemon juice and sugar to taste. Of course, if you are adding fruits, blend them first with the hand blender. Mix well base with fruits, put the ice cream into appropriate plastic containers and freeze.
Yes, it is that easy! Banana and cherry flavors were hit in our household so I made peach and raspberry as well. I got many ideas more – you can literally use anything to make a tasty ice cream. It is so simple, right?
Super easy homemade ice cream
Your very first homemade ice cream
- 1 whipped cream powder
- 125 ml milk
- 60 g icing sugar
- 180 g sour cream
- flavor of your choice
- First prepare whipped cream. Combine the powder with 125 ml of milk and mix them in the mixer for 2-3 minutes at its top speed. Add around 60 g of icing sugar and 180 g sour cream and combine it well, until it gets all fluffy.
- Now the base for you ice cream is ready and you can add flavors. Any flavor you can think of! For example, two bananas and some lemon juice for banana flavor. 125 g raspberries. 2 handfuls of cherries. 1 melted chocolate. 3 peaches... (if you are adding fruits, blend them first)
- Mix the base with fruits and put ice cream into appropriate plastic containers. Let them freeze well.
- Great tip: it is the best after 4 hours in the freezer. It is half frozen and crazy tasty.
Do you make your own ice cream or you prefer to buy one? If you have a good recipe, please share it! 🙂
Ps. Never be scared of something you did not even try. You might get surprised, as I did. Now I know homemade ice creams are not scary things. This recipe goes straight to the top of my list.
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ORIGINAL RECIPE FOR COCHINITA PIBIL
We are trying to keep some Mexican dishes in our regular menu so that Jaime can enjoy some tacos or gringas from time to time. But a week ago he wished to make something called cochinita pibil. I had no clue what should that be or even more, how to make it. He just said we need to get some achiote (Mexican spice) from the international market (in Zagreb you can find things like this in Pekinška patka in Vlaška ulica).
His mom is an excellent cook, so – rather than searching for it online – we turned to her for help. Jaime received detailed explanations what and how he needs to do and he was ready to start cooking. Is there anything better than mastering your family recipe?
To begin with, you can make your own tortillas – they are the best if they are homemade, of course. However, here in Croatia I am struggling with finding a good flour to make corn ones and they usually look and taste like nothing. Therefore, I buy tortillas. Our favorites are the ones from Interspar – they are the thinnest and the best value for money tortillas you can find in Croatia. If they would have smaller taco tortillas as well, I would probably stop thinking about making them at home.
Corn tortillas from Interspar, best value for money tortillas in Croatia © Mexatia
Day 1: MARINATING
Once we decided which tortillas we are going to use, the preparation could have started. Cochinita pibil is truly easy dish to make, but it takes time. Three days of time, to be more exact. The first day is all about marinating! You need to clean pork loins from fat, cut it into pieces, around 5 cm thick, and place into a bowl in which you are going to marinate. It would be the best if you had some glass bowl with a topper, so you could close it well and leave in the fridge overnight.
Chop the garlic cloves and put them together with meat, as well as spices like salt, pepper, and onion. Melt 1/3 of achiote in 0,5 dl of hot water and mixed with juice squeezed from oranges. That is your marinade. There is nothing more needed so do not add any water. If you need more liquid, add more orange juice only. Pour marinade into a bowl where you placed the meat and mix it through well. Close well the bowl – with a topper or plastic film and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Cochinita pibil garnish – onions and peppers marinated in lime juice © Mexatia
Day 2: COOKING
The second day is a cooking day. Your meat is nicely marinated and ready for cooking. Pour marinade and meat into a cooking pot and bring it to the boil. When it boils, lower the heat and cook for 45 minutes, or until meat softens. Once cooked, take the meat out, but do not throw marinade because you will still need it.
Let it cool a bit and separate your cooked meat using two forks, pushing the meat from the center outwards. Discard any fat and be careful not to over-shred it. Place shredded pork back into a bowl and pour in the marinade. Add spices to taste. Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge for another night.
Pulling pork © Mexatia
Day 3: FRYING
The final day has come! First of all, you need to take out the meat from the fridge and put it into a skillet together with marinade. You don’t need to add any oil, just cook it on low heat for approximately 30 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates.
While meat is frying, cut the onions and peppers and marinate them with lime juice and salt. Once meat is ready, heat up tortillas on a hot pan or in a microwave (make sure to put a glass of water next to tortillas – otherwise they would get dry). Serve warm tortillas filled with pork, onions and coriander leaves. Add some yummy guacamole for better taste.
Cochinita pibil © Mexatia
Original Mexican Recipe for Cochinita Pibil
Tasty Mexican dish you should definitely try.
- 800 g pork loin
- 1/3 of achiote package
- 0,5 dcl hot water
- 2 1/2 oranges
- 4 cloves garlic
- salt, pepper, onion powder
- 1 purple onion
- 1 lime
- 2 habanero peppers
- 8 corn tortillas
- Clean the meat from fat and cut into pieces 5 cm thick. Place the meat into a bowl, preferably the one made from glass and with the topper. Chop the garlic into small pieces and add it to the meat. Add some salt, pepper and powdered onion.
- Melt achiote into hot water. Squeeze the juice from oranges, mix it with achiote and pour in the bowl where the meat is. Make sure that everything is covered and mixed well. Close the bowl and leave it in the fridge to marinate overnight.
- Second day, pour marinade and meat into a pot and bring it to boil. When it boils, lower the heat and cook for 45 minutes, or until meat softens. Take the meat out, but do not throw marinade, you will still need it.
- Let it cool a bit and separate your cooked meat using two forks, pushing the meat from the center outwards. Discard any fat and be careful not to over-shred it.
- Place shredded pork back into a bowl and pour in the marinade. Add spices to taste. Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge for another night.
- Take out the meat and put it into a skillet together with marinade. You don't need to add any oil, just cook it on low heat for approximately 30 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates.
- Cut the onions and peppers and marinate them with lime juice and salt.
- Heat up tortillas on hot pan. Serve warm tortillas filled with pork, onions and coriander leaves. Add some guacamole for better taste.
Cochinita pibil © Mexatia
Did you ever try cochinita pibil? If not, which Mexican dish is your favorite?
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We were in Motovun, checking out the local shops and products they offer. Unfortunately, we did not buy any truffles, homemade olive oil or regional wine, but I managed to grab one packing of Istrian traditional pasta – fuži and I am planning to show you what I made from it right now.
Fuži are specific in shape and ways of serving. The authentic ones are still produced by the hand, in the way that dough is cut into squares and two opposite corners are stuck together, leaving an empty space in the middle. To get a better shape, you can help yourself with a wooden cooking spoon or thick knitting needle. They are usually served with different goulashes or sauces with truffles, prosciutto and other specialties.
Traditional pasta, fuži © Mexatia
I had a half kilo of fuži and I decided to combine it with prosciutto, some homemade bacon, mozzarella cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes and rocket salad. It was super simple to make and ever tastier. So tasty I decided to repeat the same recipe with the remaining pasta!
To ensure everything will go smoothly while cooking, you should do a little bit of prep before. You should chop the garlic, cut bacon and prosciutto in small pieces and chop the tomatoes. You should pull mozzarella into smaller pieces, clean the salad and cut cherry tomatoes in halves. That’s all! You are ready to cook.
Traditional pasta, fuži with prosciutto © Mexatia
Istrian Fuzi Served with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Rocket Salad
Traditional Istrian fuži served with tasty Dalmatian prosciutto and vegetables.
- 250 g fuži pasta
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 clove of garlic
- 100 - 150 g bacon
- 500 g tomato sauce (with tomato pieces)
- salt, pepper, basil
- 80 g prosciutto
- 125 g fresh mozzarella cheese
- rocket salad
- 5 g Grana Padano cheese
- 125 g cherry tomatoes
- Put pasta to cook in boiling water, seasoned with some salt and oil. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes, until pasta is cooked as you like. Drain the pasta.
- Cut bacon into small pieces and fry it in the saucepan. When bacon is almost golden brown, add pieces of prosciutto and fry for another minute.
- Take out bacon and prosciutto and set them aside. Drain most of the fat from the pan, leave just as much you will use for cooking.
- Finely chop the garlic and fry it on the same fat, only until you can smell garlic in the air. Add tomatoes cut into pieces (if you wish you can peel them before) and tomato sauce. Cook for 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and basil to taste.
- Pull mozzarella into small pieces (do not cut). Wash cherry tomatoes and cut them into halves.
- Serve fuži into every plate, pour over with tomato sauce and add fried prosciutto, bacon and mozzarella. Sprinkle with Grana Padano and decorate with rocket salad and cherry tomatoes.
- Serve hot!
Do not worry if you do not have fuži or you are not in the mood to make them, for this recipe you can use any other kind of pasta.
Traditional pasta, fuži with prosciutto © Mexatia
Our Istrian series came to the end. If you liked this recipe, you should definitely read more about Istria in our previous posts:
36 hours in Istria: Our Small Guide to Croatia’s Most Visited Region
10 great ideas how to spend 3 days in Motovun, Croatia
Lovely little design Apartment Piazza in Rovinj, Croatia
6 fun things to do in Rovinj all year round
Arena of Pula: When in Rome… Wait, I’m in Croatia!
What to eat in Istria: 8 amazing products you MUST try
If you like Istria, you want to check out our Facebook album Discover Croatia – Region of Istria.
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