New Delhi, June 22 (Calcutta Tube) Bringing the flavours of Mexico and Peru to the everyday Indian kitchen is not very difficult, for the food of these nations share striking similarities with Indian cuisine. The Mexican tortilla is like the Indian chapati and Indian spices like cumin, pepper, cinnamon and coriander are widely used in Peruvian dishes.
A simple Mexican or Peruvian table calls for pantry basics like flour, corn, chillies, bell-peppers, capsicums, tomatoes, onions, coriander, Indian rajma, green beans, lemons and cheese – ingredients that come off the neighbourhood vend.
‘Mexican and Indian cuisine have several bridges of similarity. In the Mexican gastronomy, tortilla made of corn flour is the equivalent of Indian ‘chapati’ (flat-bread) made of wheat or refined flour while the basis of all curries – that both the nations like spicy and hot – are onions, chillies and tomatoes. Rice is also common to both the cuisines,’ brand chef Victor Murguia of the Mexican eatery Sancho’s in Connaught Place told IANS at a Spanish fiesta at the Instituto Cervantes this week.
All one must have is a creative flair for culinary arts and the enterprise to experiment, the chef said.
For beginners, how about a simple Molletes (pronounced Moete) , or a kind of stuffed tortilla, for lunch?
‘It is not difficult to make,’ Murguia said. Spread Mozzarella cheese on French bread and bake it. Mash a bowl of boiled ‘rajmas’ or beans and keep aside.
‘Prepare a pico de gallo or a diced mix of finely chopped tomato, onions, coriander, lime juice and salt. Put it on the top of the bread with cheese. Fry the mashed rajma (beans) lightly and top the salad mix with it. Wait for the cheese to melt. Cut the bread with toppings into slices and it is ready to eat,’ Murguia, who has created a special menu for the ongoing FIFA World Cup in his eatery, said.
The process can be repeated with tortilla, the Mexican avatar of the ‘roti’, rolled thinner with an ordinary wooden rolling pin, the kind used at home.
‘Put the cheese and veggies in the tortilla and fold it loosely,’ Murguia said. The pico de gallo can be flavoured with a homemade sauce or chutney of crushed coriander and pumpkin seeds.
Quesadilla (pronounced Kesadiya in Spanish and English) is a Mexican dish- corn or wheat tortilla with cheese stuffing. It is cooked until the cheese melts.
While Oaxaca cheese is the most common filling, in some areas of northwestern Mexico, ‘the cheese is supplemented with mushrooms, onions, garlic and peppers’.
‘Oaxaca cheese can be replaced with the Italian mozzarella that is available in super stores across India,’ Murguia said. Two other variations of the dish are the ‘gringa (stuffed and cooked tortillas)’ and the ‘fritas’ – quesadilla fried in oil.
Indian, Spanish and Hispanic nations have a long gastronomic history that has been subjected to foreign influences.
‘Spain, Mexico and South American nations with large Hispanic and Spanish population use Indian spices to add texture to their food,’ Carlos A. Irigoyen Forno, the deputy chief of mission in the Embassy of Peru, told IANS at a live conference of Peruvian cuisine by chefs of the prestigious D’Gallia Culinary Institute at Lima in Peru, this week in the capital.
Chef Guido D’Gallia from the institute taught a packed house of Indian gourmet eaters and cooks three simple Peruvian dishes of Spanish origin. He said: ‘Indian spices like cumin, pepper, cinnamon and coriander are widely used to cook Hispanic dishes.’
He cooked Cebiche, a Peruvian delicacy of raw curvina fish marinated with lemon (lime juice), salt, chillies, onions, rock salt and chopped coriander and served with cold potatoes.
‘Blame the Indian-Spanish-Latino gastronomic links to the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who sailed to India to wrest the spice trade for western and the new world,’ chef Murguia said.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)