The fifth of May is a celebrated date in Mexican history, marking the victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, the last time a European army ever attempted to invade any part of the Americas. Since then, the Cinco De Mayo has become a popular date to celebrate Mexican culture from art to history to, of course, food.
While the date generally tends to be celebrated mostly in the USA (more so than in Mexico, actually) we’re in the middle of a lockdown here and any opportunity to do something a bit different is a welcome one in our book.
Before you get started, it’s worth reading Diana Henry’s primer on the basics of Mexican cuisine before diving in.
With that done, we’ve scoured the Telegraph recipe archives to find some inspiration for you to host your very own Mexican feast on Cinco De Mayo.
Prep time: 10 minutes
½ red onion, very finely chopped
1-2 serrano or other fresh green chillies, finely chopped
1-2 tsp sea salt
3 ripe Hass avocados
Juice of 1-2 limes
Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Put a quarter of the onion and half the chilli and salt in a pestle and mortar and mash to a rough paste.
Cut open the avocados, remove the stones and scoop out the flesh into the mortar (or into a large bowl if your mortar is small).
Roughly mash the flesh with a fork, adding half the lime juice as you go. When you have a rough guacamole, stir in the rest of the lime juice, red onion, chilli and coriander.
Season with plenty of black pepper and more salt if you think it needs it. If it doesn’t taste delicious by this stage, think whether it might need more lime juice or coriander.
Serve with tortilla chips.
For a tomato and garlic twist, mash in a small clove of garlic in the first step, then add one very ripe, deseeded and diced tomato at the end.
12 x 15cm tortillas
250g maize tortilla flour (masa harina, or maseca)
½ tsp salt
350–375ml lukewarm water
Put the flour in a bowl with the salt. Add water, starting with 350ml. If the dough is still too dry to come together add more water, a little at a time, until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Knead the dough for a minute or two until it is soft and pliable and forms a ball. Ideally, allow the dough to rest, covered, for 20–30 minutes for the best texture, but you can use it straight away if you need to.
Divide the mixture into golf ball-sized balls. Place one between two sheets of thin polythene. Then press it in a tortilla press or roll with a rolling pin to make a disc about 15cm in diameter. Repeat to use the rest of the dough and pile the tortillas up, separated with baking parchment to prevent them sticking together.
Heat an ungreased heavy-based frying pan. Cook the tortillas, one or two at a time, until they change colour and puff up slightly; this will take about two minutes. Flip them over and repeat on the other side. Keep the tortillas warm.
You can make this dough in advance and store it, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge for a few days.
4 chipotle chillies
1½ tbsp oil (groundnut or olive, whichever you prefer)
12 chicken thighs, skin on or off, as you like
2 onions, sliced
1kg tomatoes, skinned and chopped
½ tbsp soft dark-brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
250g chorizo, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
3 bay leaves
150ml chicken stock
Fresh coriander leaves
200ml sour cream
100g cheese such as Lancashire, Wensleydale or feta (a bit saltier), grated or crumbled
2 ripe avocados, chopped
Pour just enough boiling water over the chipotle chillies to cover them, and leave to soak for an hour.
Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the chicken thighs on both sides. Do this in batches so that you don’t crowd the pan, and season as you go. Transfer the browned thighs to a dish.
Add the onion to the fat in the pan and sauté it over a medium heat, until it becomes soft.
Add the tomato and fry, stirring frequently, until it is really soft and becoming a little scorched. Add the sugar, cumin and garlic with seasoning. Keep stirring and cooking until the mixture is completely soft.
Drain the chipotles. Remove the stems, chop the chillies finely and add them to the tomato mixture.
Cook the chorizo in a separate frying pan, using the oil that seeps out of it as it cooks. You just want to get a bit of colour on the outside.
Add the chorizo to the tomato mixture along with the chicken, oregano, bay leaves and stock. Bring the mixture up to a boil then immediately turn down the heat.
Cover and cook for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. The sauce, by the end, should be quite thick, so you may need to remove the lid in the last 10 minutes or so. Season.
Scatter with coriander. Serve with sour cream, cheese, avocado and lime, with rice or tortilla chips on the side.
For the fish
200g gram flour
2 tsp smoked paprika
4-6 large skinless fillets of white fish (I used cod), cut into thick strips
Neutral oil, for frying
For the toppings
1 red onion, very finely sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
200ml white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2 limes, juiced
3 tomatoes, finely diced
3 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
8 soft tortillas
150ml sour cream
First, make the batter. Sift the flour into a large bowl with the paprika. Add a good pinch of salt and mix well. Trickle in water, stirring as you go until you have a mixture which is the consistency of thick cream or American pancake batter.
I use a deep fat fryer, but if you don’t have one, bring a deep pan a third full of oil to about 180C/350F.
Dip the fish into the batter, coating thoroughly. Drop carefully into the oil and fry in batches for about two minutes, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and season. Keep warm in a low oven.
Meanwhile, make the onions. Bring a small saucepan with the vinegar and sugar to a simmer. Pour over the onions and leave to steep.
Mash the avocados with a good pinch of salt, the juice of one of the limes and as much hot sauce as you like.
Mix the tomatoes and coriander with the remaining lime juice and a pinch of salt.
When you’re ready to serve, set a large frying pan over a medium heat and warm the tortillas in the dry pan. Serve with sour cream and extra lime wedges.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes
1.5kg pork shoulder
Olive oil, for cooking
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
750ml beef or chicken stock
3 heads of sweetcorn, husks removed
1 bunch of coriander
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped with seeds discarded
Tortillas to serve
Cut the pork into 4cm chunks. Place in a wide casserole or saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil. Fry until browned, then add the bay leaves, oregano, cumin and chilli flakes.
Peel thick strips of the orange zest with a potato peeler and add these to the pan along with the juice of the orange. Season generously, pour over the stock and add extra water if needed, so that the meat is just covered.
Bring everything to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pan and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the lid for a further 30 minutes, so that the meat continues to cook slowly and the water slowly evaporates away.
While the pork is cooking, make the salsa. Place a griddle pan on a high heat and cook the corn on all sides until charred. Remove and leave on a chopping board to cool slightly. When they’re easier to handle, stand each cob upright and slice off the kernels. Transfer to a bowl. Finely chop the coriander, stalks and all, and add to the corn along with the juice of two of the limes. Add the onion and tomato to the bowl, stir together well and season to taste. Add the juice of the final lime, if you like.
When the pork is tender and water has cooked away, turn the heat up and fry the meat in its own fat. Cook for around 10-15 minutes, until golden and crisp. You can do all this in the oven but this method creates the most tender and crisp carnitas.
Warm the tortillas and serve straight to the table with the tender golden pork and zesty salsa.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 40 minutes
2 large red onions, very thinly sliced
Olive or vegetable oil, for frying
1-2 tbsp chipotle paste, to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon, or a whole cinnamon stick
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1.2kg (3 tins) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Juice of ½ lime, plus wedges to serve
25g good-quality dark chocolate, or 10g cocoa powder
300g sour cream
½ bunch of coriander, finely chopped
1 big bag of salted tortilla chips
1 large green chilli, finely sliced (optional)
In a saucepan set over a moderate heat, cook one of the onions in enough oil for about eight minutes until softened. Add the chipotle paste, spices and garlic, season, and cook for a further minute or two until fragrant.
Add the beans and tomatoes and bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a paste.
While the beans are cooking, pour enough boiling water to cover the remaining red onion in a small dish and leave for about a minute, then drain well and add the lime juice with a big pinch of salt. Mix well. The onion slices will turn very pink. Put them in a small container.
When the beans are thick and well flavoured, check the seasoning, adding extra salt and black pepper if necessary.
Remove from the heat, and then grate (or stir) in the chocolate or cocoa, mixing well to combine. Store the beans in a sealed container in the fridge.
To serve, heat the beans and serve with the sour cream, coriander, lime-pickled onions, lime wedges and tortilla chips. Some extra sliced green chilli on top is good if you like your beans hot.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time | Cooking time: 45 minutes
375g shortcrust pastry
flour, for dusting
250ml double cream
125ml whole milk
300g dark chocolate
good pinch of sea salt
50g soft light-brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of chilli powder
zest of 2 oranges
nutmeg, for grating
2 large eggs
cocoa powder, crème fraîche and oranges, to serve
Take the pastry out of the fridge 10 minutes before you need it; it will make it easier to roll. When ready, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a large circle, ½cm thick.
Drape it into a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin and gently press it into the base and sides, leaving any excess pastry hanging over the edge. Prick all over with a fork and return the tin to the fridge, or even freezer, to firm up for around 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. When the pastry is ready, place the tin on a baking sheet, line with baking paper and fill with rice or baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. Pour the cream and milk into a large saucepan and gently heat, until the mixture is almost boiling. Finely chop the chocolate and stir it into the cream until it is fully melted. Add the sea salt, sugar, cinnamon, chilli powder and zest of one orange, and a few scratchings of nutmeg. Whisk together the eggs and stir them in.
When the tart case is ready, pour in the chocolate mixture and return to the oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the filling has just set around the edge but the middle is still a little wobbly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least an hour before serving. Serve dusted with cocoa powder, some orange zest, a dollop of crème fraîche, and orange segments, if you like.
10 ice lollies
You will need a 10-hole ice-lolly mould and 10 wooden lolly sticks
25g edible dried hibiscus flowers
130g caster sugar
450ml boiling water
500ml vanilla ice cream
100g frozen raspberries
Place the hibiscus flowers and sugar in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and leave the hibiscus to infuse in the water until completely cooled, then strain through a sieve set over a jug.
Spoon the vanilla ice cream into a large bowl and crumble in the frozen raspberries, pressing down with the back of the spoon to crush them.
Pour enough of the strained hibiscus liquid into each section of the lolly mould to fill it halfway, then top with a spoonful or two of ice cream, leaving a small gap at the top of each mould. Tap the ice lolly mould on a kitchen worktop to gently remove any air bubbles. Push in the lolly sticks and freeze overnight.
The Original Margarita
The Original Margarita was created when Dallas socialite Margarita Sames mixed her two favorite spirits, Cointreau and tequila, together with lime juice while on vacation in Acapulco back in 1948. This original recipe has stood the test of over 70 years’ time.
50ml Blanco Tequila
20ml Fresh Lime Juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Add ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass.
Garnish with a lime slice and salt rim
For the highball:
40ml Blanco or Reposado Tequila
10ml Mezcal (optional to float on the top)
10ml freshly squeezed lime
Top up with homemade Tepache
For the Tepache:
450g brown sugar
2 large handfuls of cloves
Large piece of ginger (peeled)
2 cinnamon sticks
Peel the skin of your pineapple and cut into cubes. Don't throw away the skin.
Place the skin in a large container spiky side down and add a small handful of the cubes. Cover the skin and cubes with brown sugar (approx half a bag of sugar).
Add two large handfuls of cloves, a large piece of peeled ginger and 2 cinnamon sticks.
Add two litres of water.
Cover the container with a lid and leave a little gap to allow a small amount of airflow. Leave for a minimum of 24 hours (48 hours for best results) - waiting until you see some small foam on top of the liquid - this signals the fermentation process.
Strain and discard the skins and debris and decant into a two litre jug and keep in the fridge.
The Tepache can last for at least two-three weeks if kept in the fridge and makes a refreshing non alcoholic drink, very traditional for Mexico.
To make a Mexican highball, fill a highball glass with cubed ice and add ingredients in the order above. Stir well and serve
35ml of Quiquiriqui Mezcal
15ml of Citrus liqueur
25ml of fresh lime juice
10ml agave syrup
Prepare glass by moistening the rim and rolling in smoked sea salt.
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake and strain in the glass over cubed ice. Enjoy!
Lemon Margharita by Two Keys
35ml Don Julio Reposado
Two Keys Lemon mixer
Juice of half a lemon
Salt the rim of glass if desired.
Pour Don Julio Reposado over ice.
Squeeze the juice of half a fresh lemon into the glass.
Top up with Two Keys lemon mixer and stir.
Garnish with a wedge of fresh lemon.
40ml El Rayo Tequila
Fill a highball glass with ice, and add the El Rayo tequila. Top with tonic water and garnish with a slice of fresh grapefruit.