Rick Stein’s journey begins to draw to a close as he heads east from Oaxaca to the Yucatan Peninsula – a place once frequented by real pirates of the Caribbean, including our own Sir Francis Drake. Here, where the Europeans first landed over five hundred years ago, the local folk have lighter skins and bluey-green eyes.
They feast on the hottest chilli of them all, the habanero, and give slow food a new meaning as they bury and cook their Pibil dishes below ground on hot rocks. This was the playground of the ancient Mayans, their pyramids gleaming like gold above tree-lined canopies and where dishes like Papadzules and Sikil Pak are still enjoyed in small villages across the countryside.
Rick ends his journey feasting on grilled seafood in Tulum along the shores of the Caribbean Sea.
1. Sardines in tortillas with spicy tomato sauce and refried beans
Pan de cazon, literally translated as bread with dogfish, is a dish popular in Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico in Yucatan. I had it a few times and liked it but I was surprised to find that the dogfish tasted more like tinned sardines. So I tried making this with a couple of tins of sardines and it was really lovely. I can’t say too often how much I love the way the Mexicans combine something crisp with a sauce, so you get a satisfying textural complexity.
2. Deep-fried coconut prawns
If you have been anywhere by the sea in the Yucatan peninsula you will have had these deep-fried king prawns with a coconut batter. Curiously to me, they often come with an apple sauce, but less frequently they’re served with a papaya and habanero dipping sauce, which I like. The other problem is the batter is often too sweet, so this is my version with no sugar.