One cannot make enough guacamole. Ever.
One cannot make enough guacamole. Ever. Photo: Supplied

Guacamole

If you are unsure about how much guacamole to make, it's better to do too much than too little. One in fact cannot make too much guacamole. It has never happened.

Chunky guacamole

<i>Tex-Mex from Scratch</i>, by Jonas Cramby.
Tex-Mex from Scratch, by Jonas Cramby.

Serves 4

This guacamole should be chunky, so you absolutely may not put the avocado in a blender, if you do you're just lazy and might just as well go out and buy a take-away.

8 avocados
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp salt
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small bunch of fresh coriander 
4 fresh red or green chillies, e.g. jalapeno or medium-hot chillies
150ml pico de gallo 

Prawn taquitos.
Prawn taquitos. Photo: Supplied

Mash the avocados using a pestle and mortar. Add the lime juice, salt, chopped garlic, coriander and chillies. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Then add a little bit of the pico de gallo and taste again, with the help of a tortilla crisp. If you are unsure about how much of each ingredient to use, note that the heat from the chilli should be balanced with the acidity of the lime and the saltiness of the salt.

Guacamole tipico

Serves 2

Michelada.
Michelada. Photo: Supplied

This Mexican everyday "guaca" is more similar to an avocado salad than to the green cream that we associate with the word "guacamole". The trick is to get the chilli paste to cover every little bit of the avocado so that it's hot and salty at first and then smooth and soft.

2 tsp finely chopped white onion 
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chilli, e.g. jalapeno or red/green chilli
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
½ tsp salt
200g fresh coriander
2 avocados
1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Mash the onion, chilli, garlic, salt and half of the coriander to a fine paste using a pestle and mortar. Dice the avocados, squeeze over some lime juice, and stir into the mashed dressing so that all pieces are covered. Garnish with the rest of the coriander.

Guacamole con pina y pepino

Serves 4

This fruity and crunchy "guaca" variation goes perfectly together with all types of barbecue.

1 cucumber
½ red onion
½-1 fresh habanero chilli
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp salt
4 avocados
½ fresh pineapple
1 small bunch of fresh coriander

Peel and dice the cucumber, finely chop the onion, mash the chilli and mix everything together with lime juice and salt. Dice the avocados and fold into the mixture. Dice the pineapple, chop the coriander and add just before serving.

Taco shop guacamole

Serves 4

The exception that proves the rule: now it's okay to put the avocado in a blender. The purpose is not to save time however, but to create a smooth sauce for tacos and barbecued meat that is made even creamier with a little creme fraiche.

3 green or yellow tomatoes (not red ones)
4 tomatillos
3 garlic cloves
3 fresh green chillies, e.g. medium-hot chillies or jalapeños 
1 tsp salt
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
3 avocados
200ml creme fraiche

Boil the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, chillies and salt without water (the tomatoes contribute with the liquid) for about 15 minutes. Leave to cool. Mix in a blender with coriander and avocados until you have a smooth sauce. Add the crème fraîche.

Guacamole con manzana

Serves 2

Over-18s-only "guaca" with apple, tequila and pecan nuts might sound a bit weird but it tastes great. Promise.

1 green apple
1 tbsp tequila
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 fresh green chilli, eg medium-hot chillies or jalapenos
1 tsp salt
½ white onion
100g pecan nuts
2 avocados
fresh coriander

Peel and dice the apple and mix together with tequila and lime juice. Toast the chillies in a dry pan and mash together with the salt and onion using a pestle and mortar. Toast the nuts in the same pan. Dice the avocados, stir in the coriander and mix everything together.

Salsa and stuff

To compare homemade salsa with a shop-bought version is like comparing a three-course dinner in a fancy restaurant with eating spaghetti hoops straight from the can while watching a reality show. The salsa is the hot, beating heart in Tex-Mex cooking, so take it seriously.

Salsa roja

The classic red salsa that, together with salsa verde, in some states is almost used in the same way as salt and pepper.

Serves 4

1 ordinary onion
4 tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
4 dried chillies, e.g. ancho or guajillo
100-200ml chicken stock
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
salt

Cut the onion and tomatoes into quarters and boil together with the garlic and the deseeded dried chillies in so much stock that they're just covered, for about 15 minutes. Leave to cool. Mix everything in a blender together with the coriander and strain through a sieve so that the skin and seeds disappear. Season to taste.

Salsa verde

This lovely salsa uses tomatillos to get its green colour and sweet-sour taste, but if you can't find it you can replace it with physalis or Cape gooseberries.

Serves 4

6 tomatillos
1 white onion
3 garlic cloves
1-2 fresh chillies, e.g. jalapenos
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
2 tbsp corn oil
salt

Roast the tomatillos, white onion, garlic and jalapenos in the oven on a high temperature until golden. Blend to a smooth salsa. Add the coriander and blend for a little longer. Heat the oil in a pan, add the salsa, and reduce until nice and thick. Season with salt. Leave to cool.

Salsa cocida

A fresher, little less hot, smooth, everyday salsa that is quick to prepare.

Serves 4

200g cherry tomatoes
1 ordinary onion
6 garlic cloves
2-3 fresh red chillies
1 small bunch of fresh coriander 
salt

Preheat the oven to maximum. Cut the tomatoes and onion into quarters and roast together with the garlic and the deseeded chillies in the oven until charred. Leave to cool. Mix in a blender together with the coriander. Season to taste.

Pico de gallo

Serves 4

"Pico de gallo" means the beak of the rooster and that's how a perfect pico should taste – like little chilli-hot rooster pecks on the tongue.

200g cherry tomatoes
1 white onion
1 small bunch of fresh coriander1-2 fresh chillies
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp salt

Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Chop together with the onion, coriander and chillies, the finer the better. And if you don't like coriander, use it anyway. It's time you  gave up such silliness. Squeeze over the lime and season with salt. The flavour combination of lime and salt is the linchpin of Mexican cuisine, and it's crucial you get it right. It should be acidic enough to get your mouth watering but salty enough to balance this.

Mango salsa

Serves 4

This sweet-spicy, fruity salsa goes well with fish, shellfish and pork – and is perfect for carnitas. Habanero is awfully hot, so be careful, especially if you're a bloke and you all of a sudden need to go for a wee…

2 mangoes
½ red onion
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
½-1 fresh habanero chilli
½ tsp salt

Finely chop the ingredients and mix together in a bowl. Serve cold.

Salsa para mariscos

Serves 4

This classic, green salsa is perfect for shellfish and fish. Fresh.

1 cucumber
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 white onion
2 fresh chillies, e.g. medium-hot chillies or jalapeno
fresh coriander to taste
2 tsp salt (which might sound like a lot but that's that)

Peel and deseed the cucumber. Finely chop the cucumber and tomatoes and place in a bowl. Then finely chop the onion, chillies and coriander, and add to the cucumber. Add the salt and stir together a little.

Green herby salsa

Serves 4

Beautifully green and fruity from the olive oil. Not a salsa for dipping but perfect for ceviche.

2 garlic cloves, skin left on
1-2 fresh green chillies, e.g. medium-hot chillies or jalapeno
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large bunch of fresh coriander 1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 cucumber
2 avocados
salt

Toast the garlic and chillies in a dry frying pan. When they've turned a nice colour, peel the garlic, deseed the chillies and mix together with the oil and the herbs in a blender. Peel and deseed the cucumber and chop into neat quarters. Do the same for the avocado. Season to taste.

Prawn taquitos

Serves 6

Prawn taquitos are small, crispy, corn tortilla wraps that are the perfect finger food and extremely dip friendly. Just make sure you use very thin corn tortillas, preferably bought from a Latin American shop or specialist deli. Or else they can break.

½ white onion
2 garlic cloves
1-2 fresh red or green chillies, e.g. medium-hot chillies
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tomatoes
200-300g fresh peeled prawns
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
oil, for deep-frying
12 thin, small, corn tortillas
200g mozzarella, grated
salt

Finely chop and fry the onion, garlic and chillies in the oil until soft. Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin as well as the seeds. Chop and fry together with the onion mix until you get a consistency similar to ketchup.

Chop the prawns and add to the mixture. Add finely chopped coriander. Heat the oil for deep-frying to about 185C. Dip the corn tortilla into the oil for about 1 second to soften. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the prawn mixture on each tortilla, sprinkle over the mozzarella, roll together into a cigar-like wrap and skewer in pairs on a soaked bamboo skewer so that you've got something to hold on to.

Deep-fry until crispy, for about 2 minutes, and season with salt. Get dipping. Serve with salsa of your choice and perhaps a guacamole.

Drinks

Michelada

Makes 1 drink

A michelada is a refreshing Mexican beer cocktail that's drunk either when it's very hot outside or as hair of the dog. The latter is of course not recommended. There are plenty of versions of this drink but it always contains lime, ice and chilli – sometimes tomato juice or even clamato (tomato and clam juice). Yuck. Well-cooled glasses are ideal for serving, with or without a salt rim.

1 lime wedge
salt
ice
330ml Mexican beer
50ml freshly squeezed lime juice
½ tsp (or however much you'd like) Tabasco sauce
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

Rub the lime wedge around the edge of a beer glass and dip it in salt. Fill with ice and pour over beer and lime, and drip in as much Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce as you dare.

Lagerita

Makes 1 drink

Since we're at mixing beer cocktails, perhaps we should try this one too? The name lets on how it tastes. Margarita + lager = Lagerita. Ingenious.

ice
50ml agave tequila
1 tbsp simple syrup
juice from ½ a lime
330ml Mexican lager

Fill the glass with ice. Pour in the rest of the ingredients. Drink.

An edited extract from Tex-Mex from Scratch, by Jonas Cramby, published by Pavilion, $34.99.