For Mexicans, their most revered dishes come from the south and their Mecca is undeniably Oaxaca, where locals still dress in traditional costume, bringing to life the enduring descriptions of writers like D H Lawrence, who fell in love with the area.
This is the land that coined the phrase ‘people of the corn’, the former site of the desert empire of the Zapotecs, and the home of Mexico’s national cheese queso oaxacana. Totally off the beaten track and across the Chinantla Mountains, the muggy breezes of the Mexican Gulf transform eastern Oaxaca from desert to a tropical paradise.
Rick delights in exploring this hidden land where you can smell the tropical fruit from roadside stalls long before they come into sight, where vanilla still grows wild and cacao orchards are harvested to make superb chocolate.
1. Chilli chocolate truffles (Trufas de chocolate y chile pasilla)
These are addictive. Pasilla chillies are dried and have a gorgeous fruitiness about them, so this combination of chocolate, a hint of fruit and not too hot chilli makes for a great treat. The recipe calls for the truffles to be dipped in batter and fried just long enough to make them crisp on the outside but still slightly gooey inside. Alternatively, if you just refrigerate them and don’t add the batter, you have petits fours to go with coffee.
2. Hot red chilli sauce
Some like it hot and some like it hotter! This is a very hot sauce and good for splashing over anything from chilaquiles to chips.