Chef Juan Ramón Cárdenas, author of La Senda Del Cabrito, introduced guests at Sharjah International Book Fair to the simple delights of Mexican cuisine
“Minimal ingredients, maximum flavours” – that was how Chef Juan Ramón Cárdenas introduced his style of Mexican cooking originating from the north of the country where he hails from, as he proceeded to demonstrate how three different types of salsa could be prepared using just three readily available ingredients – tomato, onion, and jalapeno.
The Chef was showcasing the culinary traditions of his home country at the Cookery Corner at the 38th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair where Mexico is the Guest of Honour.
Even as he spoke, a pot containing a three-month-old baby goat, brought all the way from Mexico, had been simmering in canola oil for more than three hours at 90-degrees heat.
Roast, raw and cooked – these were the three techniques Chef Ramón used to prepare the salsa. The oven roasted and blackened jalapeno, two tomatoes and half an onion went into the blender. Just a dash of salt, and the dish was done.
The raw version saw him scrape the three ingredients with a grater and mix the pureed mixture with salt while the cooked salsa involved boiling the ingredients in a pot of water for 5 to 6 minutes before whisking it in the blender. “Make sure you make a slit on the base of the tomato so that it does not explode, as you do not want the delicate flavours to escape into the water,” he said.
Next up was the guacamole. Deftly and skillfully, he sliced through the fruit and with a twist, prised it open, removed the seed, and scooped out its soft flesh into a bowl. “There are many types of guacamole and I use neither lime nor cilantro,” he said, as he proceeded to add chopped tomatoes and three tablespoons of fresh cream to the bowl. A dash of salt, a quick whisk with a fork and voila, it was ready in a jiffy!
“Our cuisine is very simple,” Chef Juan told the audience. “Corn, tomato, chilli and beans form the base of our food. This is then combined with other ingredients that are grown or reared in and around our country. Add condiments to pop up the flavour, and play with textures that evoke different sensations as you eat.”
By now, the goat was cooked all the way through, and as he took it out, the meat was already falling off the bone. “Another essence of Mexican cooking is layering,” he said, as he proceeded to spread avocado on previously prepared corn-based tostadas, topped it with roughly chopped meat, and piled on some salsa to bind the flavours together. A hint of cilantro completed the layering.
“It is a great honour to be here at SIBF where my country is Guest of Honour, and I look forward to teaching visitors about the culinary culture of Mexico,” said Chef Ramón.Email This Post