Simple pleasures

The peanut vendor

The closest I’ve been to Tijuana is my possibly over enthusiastic collection of Herb Alpert and his brass band’s albums. But I’ve always fancied sitting in a dusty tavern, gently weeping, with a group of mariachi musicians slowly singing love songs in the corner.

We have tacos quite often in our house, mainly chicken, occasionally shredded beef or pork and sometimes fish or prawn. And there are bowls of guacamole, tomato salsa, grated cheese, coriander, pickled red onions and other bits and pieces as I see fit on the day.

I’ve made a peanut salsa this time. Called ‘salsa macha’ in Mexico, it’s a blend of onion, garlic, dried chillies which usually should be arbol and guajilla, but not here; I only had pasilla, birdseye and what are possibly arbol, but I’m not sure. It just says “dried red chillies” on the pack; sesame seeds —of which I had about four in the bottom of a packet so used a teaspoon of tahini instead— cider vinegar, water, salt and pepper, and of course, peanuts.

It’s pretty intense, a little like a very spicy peanut butter or satay, and quite rich too. I’m going to make sweet potato, black bean and feta tacos to put this on and instead of the usual tacos cooked on the griddle, I’m going to fry them in hot oil until crisp on the outside. I’ve also made a bottle of coriander oil to use up the last of the bunches I had in the fridge which, after a week and a half of miraculous long life have started to yellow and look suspicious in parts. And eating this kind of food, we can at least travel without leaving home.

10 dried arbol chillies (or dried red mild if you don’t have these)
5 dried hot chillies (birds-eye or similar)2 dried pasilla chillies – If you only have one type of dried chilli, that’s fine, just judge the amount according to how hot you like it
100g peanuts, preferably unsalted
1 small onion
3 cloves of garlic
1tbsp sesame seeds, or 1tsp tahini paste
100ml water
1tbsp cider vinegar
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper

Sauté the onions and garlic in oil until soft then add the chillies and cook for about three minutes. Add the peanuts and sesame seeds (add the tahini at the end if you’re using it) and cook for another minutes, stirring every so often
Add the water and vinegar and season well. (Add the tahini at this stage and stir well if using instead of the seeds)
Bring to the boil, turn off the heat and leave to cool
Blend until fairly smooth and add a little water if it’s too thick
You can store this for up to three days in a jar in the fridge, but take it out at least half an hour before you want to use it

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