Latin larder

Latin larder

Paul Wilson
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant
Chris Middleton

In the Latin larder, there are so many exciting ingredients to discover. As a travelling cook I have learnt that it’s worth investing the time tracking down these ingredients, particularly the condiments and storecupboard essentials, as they often define the charm of a dish. All these products can typically be found at any Mexican, Spanish or gourmet foodstore, though if you are having trouble sourcing any of them, try mail-order online. Do try to find them, as they will change the way you think about Mexican food.

Achiote paste

Also known as recada rojo, this is a blend of achiote (annatto) seeds, Mexican oregano, cumin, allspice, black pepper, salt and garlic, which is used in Mexican food, particularly from the Yucatán region. Th e paste is available from Mexican grocery stores.

Adobo sauce

A dark red, piquant sauce, made from ground chillies, herbs and vinegar, used in numerous Mexican and Latin dishes. The sauce is available from Mexican grocery stores. See also chipotle in adobo.

Agave syrup

Also known as honey water, this sweet syrup is extracted from the same succulent plant that mescal and tequila come from, which grows in the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. It is available from supermarkets, gourmet suppliers and Mexican grocery stores.

Black beans

Also known as turtle beans, these are prized by Mexican cooks for their colour and stable texture and are used to make silky-textured soups and purées. They carry flavour well (so don’t hold back on the spices) and are an extremely healthy legume, good for lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Black garlic

This is a type of caramelised garlic prepared through a process of fermentation that takes about three weeks. The end result is garlic with a flavour reminiscent of caramelised balsamic vinegar. It is often used in Asian cuisine and is available from Asian grocery stores and gourmet greengrocers.

Chipotle in adobo

Dried smoked jalapeños in adobo sauce. These are available tinned from Mexican grocery stores. See also chillies and peppers.


A type of grain that is composed from the grains of members of the wheat family. It has a nutty flavour and chewy texture and is available from health food stores and gourmet delis.

Finger lime

The finger lime is a gourmet bush food native to Australia and is sometimes known as lime caviar due to its caviar-like flesh. It has a citrus flavour similar to lime. Available from bush food specialists and some gourmet grocery stores.


Sometimes called the ‘Mexican potato’, this tuber has crispy white flesh with a nutty flavour, somewhat like a water chestnut. It can be eaten raw or cooked. It is available from some supermarkets and gourmet greengrocers.


This is the dough that is made from masa harina flour, used for making tortillas. See also masa harina and masa pan flour.

Masa harina

A finely ground flour made from hominy (nixtamalised corn, see page 99). It is used for making masa dough. It is available from some supermarkets, health food stores and gourmet or Mexican grocery stores. See also masa and masa pan flour.

Masa pan flour

Also known as harina pan, this is a type of masa harina flour from Venezuela. It is available from South American grocery stores. See also masa and masa harina.


Mescal is an alcoholic liquor distilled from the agave plant, a succulent native to the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. Mescal, or mezcal, has a smoky flavour and is one of Mexico’s most traditional beverages. It is often sold in bottles containing an agave worm. See also tequila.

Pinto beans

Known as the ‘strawberry bean’ to the Spanish and the ‘speckled bean’ to Mexicans, these beans are much loved in Latin cookery.

In Mexico they are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner in various forms, including in burritos as a popular meat substitute or as the key ingredient in the famous refried beans.


A milky white alcoholic beverage made from fermented agave sap. It is available from some bottle shops and Spanish or Mexican grocery stores.


Popular and extremely versatile, this ancient Andean seed with a subtle, nutty flavour is now also grown in Australia. It comes in various colours and can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. It also has many health benefits, being low in calories, high in protein, iron and fibre, and gluten free.


Also known as lilly pilly, this is the berry of a tropical plant often used for jam. It is available fresh or frozen from gourmet suppliers.


Also known as the wild hibiscus or flor de Jamaica, in Mexico this flower is used to make sweet-and-sour drinks and preserves. The flowers are available in syrup, frozen or dried from Mexican grocery stores and spice shops.


Tequila is an alcoholic liquor distilled from the agave plant, and it is actually a type of mescal. There are various types of tequila, and the ones I have called for in this book are: tequila añejo (an amber-coloured tequila, aged for at least 1 year); tequila blanco (unaged tequila from the blue agave where you can really taste the sweet flavour of the plant) and tequila reposado (tequila at its first stage of resting and ageing, usually between 2 and 11 months old).


Also known as Mexican green tomato, this small, green tomato-like fruit is a staple in Mexican cooking and can be found at some supermarkets and greengrocers.

Chillies and peppers

There are more than 200 varieties of chillies and peppers and, amazingly, more than 100 of them are native to Mexico. Chillies and peppers vary from mild to scorchingly hot, and the heat is measured on the ‘Scoville Scale’. In this book I have used or mentioned the following types:

Amarillo or aji amarillo

A medium–hot chilli very popular in Peru. It starts off green but matures to a yellowish-orange and has a fruity flavour. The amarillo is sold either fresh, pickled and tinned, or ground into a paste, and is available from Mexican and South American grocery stores.


This is a poblano chilli that has been dried to form a large, flat, reddish-brown chilli with a sweet and medium–hot flavour. It is used regularly in Mexican cooking, especially in tamales. It is often sold ground and is available from gourmet suppliers and at Mexican grocers.


A small, potent Mexican chilli also known as bird’s beak chilli or rat’s tail chilli. Make your own arbol chilli powder by roasting dried arbol chillies over a natural fuel barbecue, adding hickory, apple or oak wood chips to the charcoal. Once the fire is low, place the chillies in a sieve or colander over the smouldering timbers, spray them with a little water and roast, shaking and stirring occasionally, until dry and brittle. Transfer to a coffee grinder with a pinch of sea salt and grind to a powder.


Also known as chile de agua, this is a long, narrow green chilli with a fairly mild and sweet flavour. It is often used in salsas. It is sold fresh, dried or tinned at Mexican grocery stores and some supermarkets.


A dried, smoked jalapeño often used in Mexican cooking. It is dark brown and wrinkled in appearance and has a sweet and smoky, almost chocolatey, flavour. It is available both dried and tinned from Mexican grocery stores. See also chipotle in adobo.


This long dried mirasol chilli is a shiny dark red and has a green tea-like flavour with berry notes. It must be soaked for longer than other dried chillies. Look for it in Mexican grocery stores.


These very hot chillies, used in Mexican, Caribbean and South American cooking, are small and lantern-shaped and range from green to bright orange. They are available fresh and dried from Mexican grocery stores and gourmet greengrocers.


This type of dried poblano chilli is mild to medium–hot with a fruity, smoky flavour with chocolate and licorice notes. The mulato is part of the famous Mexican ‘holy trinity’ of chillies, along with ancho and pasilla, used in mole as well as other Mexican sauces and stews. It is available from Mexican grocery stores.

Padrón pepper

A small fiery green or yellowish green pepper from Spain, typically fried and served sprinkled with salt as a snack.


This is a dried chilaca chilli, blackish-brown in colour and raisinlike in flavour. It is very popular in Oaxaca in Mexico. Look for it both whole and ground in Mexican grocery stores.


A large chilli with a mild to medium–hot flavour that is often stuffed, such as in the classic dish chillies rellenos. When roasted the flavour intensifies. Look for it in Mexican grocery stores.


A small hot chilli that starts off green but matures to red. It is available fresh, pickled or dried (chile seco). It is often used in hot sauces and is available in Mexican grocery stores.

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